The cyber-version of my homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent
I shared this homily first during Lent of 2011. It was at Mass for the 5th Sunday of Lent. Our community was together in faith. After the Liturgy of the Word we shared in the Body and Blood of Christ so Present in His Eucharist. None of us would anticipate that just a few years later we would be called, together, to grow, separately, in our senses, our knowing of God in ways that we would never imagine. Yet GOD knew. And today, during this very unique Lent, Jesus calls us to acknowledge the real sorrows and fears of the pandemic and economic crises. Jesus calls us to grow, closer to Him in ways we never would have planned. Today Jesus calls us to sit, share with Him, to LISTEN to His Words. He then calls us to grow…
Healing of the Man Born Blind (Reflections from the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent ~ 2008)
From birth his eyes had never seen his Mama’s face as she held him in her arms with tears for the blind mistake.
Or his Papa’s worried love as he came through the door, those sights his eyes never did behold.
He had never seen the sun shining gold through the trees.
Never saw the birds In Spring’s green joy to wing.
He never saw the grapes at violet harvest crush. Nor see the red of wine, to cheeks bring a blush.
He never Saw, but felt, those who at him long would stare.
He heard, but never saw those who at his faults, would glare.
He never saw a smile, for a job that he had done. He never saw a dog that with a child did run.
No color he liked best. For black was all he knew. The thought of red or green, he could not even construe.
He never saw a friend, with him together sit. Never saw a laugh, a smile, or a loving kiss.
The awe of holy places, in beauty white and gold, his blinded eyes had never to behold.
The orange and red of sunrise, awakening in him hope, his eyes had never seen. Darkness only spoke.
So that day in darkness, he sat along the way, begging for the alms that might his hunger stay.
The commotion he did hear. A crowd was coming near. He hoped some coins might come. But better did he fear. Alms of pride and arrogance, more likely would be flung.
The crowd he heard go quiet. A man he felt nearby. And in the blinding darkness The sound of spit did fly.
He never saw the hands, fingers, he only felt. The mud upon his eyes, a strange, but holy help.
The Voice, The Man, did say, with words of love and hope. the pool of Siloam go, for there to wash and pray.
He stumbled to the pool, to the waters edge he went. The mud he washed away, in faith’s blind assent.
His eyes, he then did open. And looking he then saw. The light, The day and Hope, in wonder and in awe.
What followed happened quickly. he saw, and he was seen.
The people were amazed. To many it seemed but a dream.
But others were unhappy. They did not understand. They judged this man so sinful his seeing they could not stand.
His critics now, he saw, their righteous arrogance.
The man born blind, he saw. In humble truth, he spoke.
“The Man who made the mud, and to my eyes did place. His Word I did obey. And now before you face.
I do not understand. But blind, yes once, I truly was.
But now I know that Man, a Prophet is to all.”
So out they did him throw. And hatred, he did see. Out into the streets, from blindness did he flee.
Outcast once again, alone he did go. But streets no longer dark, he walked, alive in hope.
A Man, he then did see, who smiling, toward him came.
The Voice he recognized t’was He the mud had made.
And looking in His eyes, of He who saw him blind, he heard His Words and saw the Son of Man and and Love.
Lord come to us blind also.
So clearly we think, we see, the sins, the faults of others, then whispers spread, with glee.
But blind we proudly see , ourselves so better for to be, in holiness and deed, in loving charity.
But. truth be told and heard, we’re really in a mess. So please Lord, Please do come, Bring light to our darkness.
My eyes do cover all, with mud’s humility, that at repentance’s pool your mercy may then free and open wide our eyes to truly love and see each other in Your Light but most importantly, You, Your eyes Your smile, Your Love, eternally.
As the world faces the difficult realities of the Covid 19 virus we are also encountering some very difficult lessons of human nature. There is much uncertainty in the clinical matters of the virus but the clinicians are working hard to work through the crises.
But the uncertainty is also causing many people to be fearFUL and panic and for others to fuel the fears and panic, for either financial or political profit. The irrational epidemic of panic buying is sad evidence of how people respond to a threat without sound information. It is a reminder of the old panic equation :
PANIC = IGNORANCE + FEAR
As the media and social media flood the minds and hearts of people the virus of panic becomes evident. That fear is a very popular and profitable part of the news media is a well known but an often ignored fact. Fear sells. And fear can generate intense sales in business and votes in politics, however irrational the fear may be. In the current health crises panic buying of toilet paper and bottled water is rampant. Yet this virus has no evidence of causing bowel problems or of affecting the drinking water.
To be informed, objectively, to take precautions, to exercise common sense is clearly needed. To listen to realities beyong the virus is also very important. To invest and exercise truth and courage is also very essential. To choose faith in God over faith in the media of the moment or feelings of fear is also paramount.
We need to remember: “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a disciplines mind.” We need to dwell in the truth that WITH GOD: “All things work together for God for those who love Him (Romans 8:28-38). It is a hard reality that sometimes that life can bring us uncertainty and fear. But it is a greater reality that courage is a choice and virture God would share as we realize: “There is no fear in love but perfect (complete) love casts out all fear, (I John 4:16-19).
Finally, as we encounter the virus of panic and fear may we respond in the promise and power of our Lord and Savior: “Peace be with, my peace I give unto, not as the world gives...”(John 14)
Pope Francis, in his encyclical on the environment, LAUDATO SI’, has prophetically called Catholics and the entire world to wake up to the reality of waste and destruction that has spanned climate change, social upheaval and strife. Greed-based values battle for the cheapest resources at the lowest cost with profits for a very small select few. Meanwhile weather and climate are frought with unprecented changes. Millions of refugees seek refuge from war, gang violence or simply a place to live while they struggle to work and maintain a family. So much of this is rooted in a culture of waste based upon a gospel of what is cost effective. What follows are just a few illustrations of that wast and those deadly, greed -based values.
We gather this Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the blessed time of Lent.We would, commonly, be pondering a traditional question for this time. What am I giving up for Lent??The question is well worth our consideration if we want to better experience the holy graces God longs to share during this time.But let’s take to heart the Word of God this Sunday as we seek to renew our hearts in God. Let us realize God longs for us not to just “give up” but… to be..to become far more.
The true Christian life is infinitely more than learning and just heedinga series of…DON’TS.Indeed there are clearly things, sins that we are NOT to be in our life, if we are sincere in our longing for God.But, sadly, sometimes our focus on the negative has led to a neglect and loss of the greater positive truth that is Jesus.This season of Lent can bring us a power-filled awakening in that which God has created, called and redeemed us …TO BE.
BE PERFECT!Our Gospel reading today from the Sermon on the Mount brings us these extraordinary Words of Jesus.“BE PERFECT…AS YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT”! Is God setting us up for failure?Is Jesus calling us to the impossible?The temptation can be very strong to explain, minimize or simply read on to something perhaps more realistic.But, as always, IF we are but willing to humbly listen to Jesus we would realize He is simply calling us to BE…to BECOME that person, in God we are redeemed to be.PERFECT!Impossible?No, not if we listen to the word used in the Greek, ”telios”..BE PERFECT…BE COMPLETE..BE OF FULL AGE..MATURE!In other words Jesus is calling his disciples, calling us to “GROW UP” in the fullness of the Father!Let’s now explore two ways, from our readings, as God would help us realize where we should be GROWING this season of Lent, and eternally.
BE HOLY! The Holy Spirit, through Moses, in our Old Testament reading shares in a concise eloquence the words…BE HOLY!Again we can look to the ancient language, the Hebrew, to better experience this essential word.“Be sacred,, set part, clean, wholly..”.This essential grace for the true Christian is eternally more than a set sort of attire, Mass attendance or prayers.Those each may partially express aspects of an holy life.But true holiness is a matter of HEART and LIFE. To BE HOLY is to be encountering and sharing the infinite majestic power, beauty and power that are all expressions of God.Words, alone, can never proclaim the beauty of God’s holiness.And true holiness can be hidden by misunderstanding, ignorance, by sin.But it is as we allow our hearts to grow with God that Jesus will reveal to us the beauty and joy of true holiness. To grow in true holiness is to grow in God…who is LOVE.
BE LOVING! Both the first reading and the Gospel emphasize the eternal necessity that we are to be growing in LOVE..In God.Moses stated clearly that we are not to hate but to love our neighbor.But Jesus on this new mountain commands us to be even more..LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS AND ENEMIES!It would have been priceless to see the faces of His disciples as Jesus proclaimed these words.Jesus calls, commands,us simply, clearly to love as He does.It is inevitable that if we continue to follow Jesus the exposure to He who is Love will reveal to us our sins, failures that would damage, destroy that beauty of holiness and the completeness He has created us to be.Jesus will bring us to GROW UP in the perfect completeness..maturity we are made for.
This Sunday we are preparing for the holy opportunities of Lent.Yes there may be that which God would lead us to “give up”.But more importantly let us, together GROW UP to into the PERFECT COMPLETENESS, of His HOLINESS AND LOVE.✠
The deep darkness and hunger that we encounter in our world cannot be ignored.Humanity is locked in struggle of eternal results.Human souls hunger for security, a sense of control, of power, of belonging, of being loved.This hunger is seen in the conflicts infecting the politics and culture of our nation and world.It is seen in the desperate hunger of appetites feeding on materialism, and appetites of the body that rule instead of serve the human soul.Strong is the temptation to fear..to believe that the forces of darkness are in control and will prevail.Even in the Church the dark forces of strife, division scandal and doubt are felt.It has been this way ever since the battle of lies began in a garden long ago.
While our times are truly intense and challenging they are part of the conflict for which or Lord, our Savior came to redeem and call us to follow Him.This call, this new covenant of promise and mercy is especially proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount our Gospel focuses upon for the next several Sundays.This personal, power-filled call was shared by our Lord early in His earthly ministry as He encountered the intense hunger, conflicts and needs of the human soul.It is in that context Jesus would speak to each of us today. “YOU are the salt of the earth….YOU are the light of the world.”Now for many of us these words of Jesus can be heard with concern.We know we aren’t always light and besides Jesus said said HE was the Light of the world..so we are off the hook….or are we??
SALT…YOU are the salt of the earth. What a statement!I mean come on, we need to live low salt or salt free!Right?Actually salt is one of the most essential minerals for health.Modern medicine makes extensive use of saline solutions both for IV fluids and for cleansing of wounds.Many of us remember it was common place in our jobs to have salt pills available on those pre-Gatorade/sports drink hot summer days.Those pills were essential to replace the salt lost in hard sweaty work.Now in our modern culture where the reality of hard physical work is often replaced by desks and computers, along with high sodium infused processed foods we suffer from excess.. salt.But we need to remember as it was in ancient times we need to live and be..”worth our salt”.The Old Testament reading explains what this means.We are urgently needed to live our faith responding to and meeting the urgent needs of the hungry, homeless, the naked, the refugee. We cannot afford to be so heavenly minded we are no earthly good! This clearly applies to the physical world as we see these souls more and more.But it also applies especially to the spiritually starving, the soul robbed of garments of worth and dignity, of the soul-sick and afflicted.We are called by Christ to be the cleansing agent the flavor of true hope through souls and “TASTE AND SEE THE GOODNESS OF THE LORD.”
LIGHT..YOU are the light of the world. We live in a world beaming with endless radiance of ARTIFICIALLIGHT.People work long hours in environments empty of real sunlight to go home and focus on the light of HD television, video games or computer screens.IF..WHEN we go outside we smear on the sun screen block what is considered harmful..then wonder why we need vitamin supplements for ur well-being!Spiritually this is even more visible.The false light of artificial glare and pretend gospels blind the human soul to the radiant simplicity and hoe we have in Christ.These distracting lights cause us to focus on feelings, external practices and our human perceptions.When what is needed is to be able to see the exquisiteclarity of Jesus and His mercy, love and hope. And many struggle with the blinding lights of the world that long to see..the beauty of holiness and love of God in their darkness.
So it is that Jesus calls..command..commends each of us that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.He would go with us, empower us to help others to taste His goodness..to see His truth..in and through..us. May we each taste ..see the goodness of the Lord and then live our faith and love for God that others may see know God’s grace in their lives.
So, are you ready for Christmas?Advent is complete for another year and the Christmas season now begins in fullness.We hope that as you gather with family and friends there will be many reasons for happiness and peace.But we are also mindful that the holiday season is, for many very difficult and painful.Those who a struggle with ill health, poverty or broken homes knowdeeper struggles in this season.Those places where persecution, violence and environmentalcrises prevail will struggle to find cause to celebrate at this time. The many clouds of conflict and sorrow in our nation and world would easily hide the hope we gather to celebrate this night.All these realities, these truths from our world would cause many to ask…. IS CHRISTMAS TRUE?
Before we explore that very valid question lets us first, briefly, look at the immense wealth of Christmas traditions.The date of Christmas, the Christmas lights and sharing of gifts, Santa Claus and the Christmas tree and many other traditions have become part of this season.Increasingly there are those who complain that Christians robbed the various pagan religions to make up this holiday.True or false?To explore and understand these many practices is good.But to do so would take far more time than we have tonight.But for this who truly want to understand let me know and we will explore these things.To answer those wonderings we need first to resolve the more basic questions asked earlier.IS CHRISTMAS TRUE?Is the story of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, in a manger in Bethlehem true?If it isn’t..Why Are You Here?If it is..Why aren’t you here?
IS CHRISTMAS TRUE?I cannot answer that question, as you deserve.I can give many theological, intellectual reasons why it can be understood to be true.But to know the answer you deserve it must be an answer for the heart.The answer is not something we understand but Someone we can come to know.For that to occur let us journey, in our hearts to Bethlehem, over 2000 years ago and join the shepherds, join Joseph and Mary and…
LISTEN to GOD~ Turn OFF the noise of the world and listen to The Living WORD, God’s angels and servants.Letbe alert to the place where we can hear God, the fields, the stillness of the night, the place of humbleness.It is often in our brokenness, our woundedness, our fears that God will speak most clearly…IF we will listen.
COME to GOD ~The shepherds heard the angel and then the choir of the heavenly host.REALLY?After this celestial proclamation they must have wondered..was that real?There was only one way to find out.COME to God.We need to let go and turn away from ego, pride, sin and come, if faith to God. They chose to obey and go to Bethlehem.Uncertain.Afraid.Unable to understand.But they came to God and discovered Jesus, as the angel promised.I am sure there were, among the shepherds those who thought, this is NUTS.It is only when we step out in faith that we will come to God and know, in our hearts that Christmas is true.This applies in throughout or lives, in our relationships, in our hopes and even in our failures.Each are invitations to Come to God.
COME andSEE.When the shepherds saw Joseph and Mary and the baby in the manger WHO did they see?A poor carpenter and his young bride with a newborn?These simple field hardened men saw something far more.They saw the glory of God come to earth.For when we get even a tiny glimpse of His Holy Presence that Truth cannot be hidden.Sacred art struggles to illustrate this with the proverbial halo just as this simple preacher struggles to express that holy glory with these simple words.Let us look past the futile images and words that cannot contain Christ born this night.Let us, Listen, Come, See and Grow in the Light and Truth that is the Christ.To see Christ in each other, this wounded world, and in creation we must be willing to look with eyes of faith.The faith that plants the bulbs in the garden in winter can see the blooms in the Spring.Look past what may seem dead or hopeless to the person, the issue with the eyes of faith.
GROW with GOD.To encounter the Truth, born in a manger is to be forever changed.We will be compelled to decide… to turn away from Jesus and embrace our fearful intellect or to grow in that faith and love that brought Him here to us. If we come and encounter the Living Word, The Light of Life, born of the Virgin Mary, and if we decide to follow we will grow in that love, the peace, the holy joy that only God can bring.We will still encounter the sorrows and struggles of this world, until He returns.
IS CHRISTMAS TRUE?
The answer is there if we will just Listen, Come to See God and allow HisPeace, His Love to grow through our lives.