26 March 20174 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent - A Cycle - John 9:1-41

Oil was delivered to a home one winter day. The father, surrounded by his kids, protested he did not order it. The driver asked, "Do you have oil?" The father said no. "Well," the driver said, "you're in luck. Even better, this oil is paid for." The driver handed over the gift card. It read, "Sent to you by a Christian." His benefactor was anonymous but well known to Jesus. The most famous blind man in history is featured in today's Gospel. It is a play in three acts. (William Barclay) The drama opens with wonder and ends in faith. The man formerly blind had no idea his ophthamologist was the Messiah. In the first act, he is summoned by the Grand Inquisitors. In answer to their third degree, he says in verse 11 "the man called Jesus" gave me sight. He considered the Teacher extraordinary but nothing more. He might well have applied Shakespeare's words to Jesus, "His life was gentle and the elements were so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a man.'" Many atheists are lifelong fans of Jesus. His is the greatest story ever told and with each telling it gets better and better. (Unknown) His life is one in an infinite trillion. But a singular man is not thereby divine. In the second act and verse 17, the cured man takes a major step forward. He calls his benefactor a prophet.

Such a person is a VIP with God. He knows what's going down and what's going on. But he's not divine. The curtain goes up on the final act. The once blind man is about to take Kierkegaard's gigantic leap of faith. John's miracle play is to conclude with all guns booming. The cured man has been rudely expelled from the presence of his inquisitors. They wanted to lynch him. They snorted indignantly, "Are you trying to teach us?" He was to them trash. But the Lord of the Temple is waiting for him. He knew well that he would be kicked out of His Temple. He starts the dialogue with the question, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He responds, "Sir, tell me who He is so that I may believe." Christ's response comes as no surprise to the man. "I am He." The man declares, "Lord, I believe." Notice he does not call Him "Jesus" now nor "sir" but "Lord." Then he fell on his knees and worshipped Him. The curtain drops to this centuries old play. The man placed his belief in the Galilean because he felt compelled to do so. His new eyes told him of His divinity. Though he had been blind, we are nowhere told that he was stupid.

The more one studies Jesus, the greater He becomes. This is not true of us. We quickly reveal our faults. Eg, we are all grossly disappointed by pedophile priests, but none of that disappointment washes over onto Christ. If it did, you would not be reading these lines nor I writing them. This miracle tells us much about the Lord. The blind man had not asked for a cure. It was the Christ who gave it freely. He was touched by the man's condition. It did not concern the Saviour that the man did not know Him from a hole in the wall. He was repelled by the condition of the man's eyes. His blindness offended Him.

He wanted him to enjoy rainbows, purple and orange sunsets, and wild flowers. If Christ had a calling card, it would read, "If in trouble, call me at 1 800 JESUS." Christ is one who keeps His heart softer than His head. (Unknown) And, as Jesus is on call 24/7, so does He wish us to be. He would be delighted if we followed the example of the anonymous donor who opened the homily. The benefactor has oil delivered in winter time. A Christian impulse has changed the family's life. War had been declared on poverty and this time poverty lost. What had begun as a cold winter developed into a warm one because of a Christian. Lent is moving along. Into our ears, the Messiah whispers, "Do amaze me in the three weeks left in this Lent with your generosity to my poor. Do it without calling attention to yourself." The poor are not hard to find. The New York Times reports 20% of US children live in poverty and 47 million US workers lack a living wage. You may say, "I give away so much already. When do I stop?" The answer is when Jesus stops giving to you. Remember poverty never takes a holiday. (Unknown)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent: Searching for Sight

I grew up in Totowa Borough, a suburb of Paterson, New Jersey, which itself is really a suburb of New York City. Like all New Yorkers or wanna be New Yorkers from New Jersey, I grew up with the distinct attitude that people from the Northeast were "in the know", or, simply put, the smartest people in the world. Actually, there are plenty of New Yorkers who think that intelligent life ceases west of the Hudson River, including New Jersey. There are also plenty of people in the rest of the country that are convinced that intelligent life never came into existence east of the Hudson River. That second group just might be correct. "Being in the know" is the sad attitude of many people throughout the world who are certain that their view of something or other is the only reasonable view. We experience this in politics as some people are absolutely convinced that anyone who sees things different from them have no clue about what is best for the country.

So you have radio commentators and editorial writers on each side of every debate presenting themselves as great intellectuals, and treating those with whom they disagree as absolute morons. Thankfully, the intellectual arrogance of the talk show hosts, pundits, editorial writers, and columnists does not have a tremendous effect on our world, at least, as long as the arrogant intellectuals stay within their minimal spheres of influence. However, when these people take steps into that which really matters in life, our relationship with God, then we face this horrible situation: the intellectually arrogant belittle people of faith. After all, they are convinced they are "in the know." In reality, they are blind. They are blind to the Presence of God in their own lives and in the world. They cannot see God standing right in front of them. And the common everyday woman or man, the elderly lady who devotes her life to prayer, the young family who makes tremendous sacrifices to provide a Catholic home for their children, the Teen who stays away from the party everyone is talking about because he or she knows there is going to be abundant amounts of alcohol and drugs there, these are the people the arrogant call blind. But these everyday people, everyday prophets if you will, these are really the people who have sight.

The drama of John 9, the Man Born Blind, is the story of a simple man open to God's presence and arrogant men who cannot see the Christ standing right before them. The blind man is the one with sight. The Pharisees, those great luminaries and self-proclaimed intellectuals, are blind. Little has changed in the world. We go to work, to school, and the so-called intellectuals belittle us because we are people of faith. But those who mock us cannot answer the questions that matter: What is life really about? What is the purpose for all of our struggles? Can lasting happiness ever be found? Does it exist? Where is it? These self styled intellectuals cannot answer these questions. But we can. Life is about God who gave us life. We exist to love, honor and serve Him. With God as our center, every aspect of our life has meaning and purpose. His love is experienced in the love of our families, of our marriages, of our Church family.

We experience His Love in each other. There is so much more to life than the physical, the here and now. The spiritual is real. Happiness does exist. It comes from union with God. No one can take this happiness from us. Even those who are persecuted for their faith remain at peace with the Lord. People like St. Maximilian Kolbe, starving to death in the concentration camp, or Ignatius of Antioch waiting for the wild beasts to be released in the Roman Coliseum or each one of us when we are mocked for our Catholic lifestyle, still remain at peace with the Lord. We possess the happiness that lasts. We pray every day for the strength and courage to keep us from sacrificing this happiness to the empty promises of those who do not know God.

And we pray that others might also see. Existentialists wrote that human life has no meaning outside itself. Albert Camus described life as "absurd"; Jean Paul Sartre spoke of "anguish, abandonment and despair." Despair results from rejecting the light. It is not just some philosophers who despair. There are many others, including those who seem to embrace darkness, who have an intense desire to find meaning in their lives. There are many who present an arrogant facade, but who are internally in turmoil. There are many people who wonder why they go through the motions of life, rejoicing at births, and weddings, mourning disappointments and deaths, working hard to enjoy a day or so off a week and a few weeks off a year, and all the time wondering if there could possibly be more to life than the physical.

Many people are hurting. They are sick of living in a state of ennui, boredom with life. They are sick of being blind. Today, we pray that they may open their eyes and see, see Jesus Christ standing right in front of them. We pray that they may focus on the Lord and find meaning. We pray that they might join us in the realization that everything makes sense when we are united to Jesus Christ. In his exhortation the Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis calls on us to help others see our joy in Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to call ourselves Christians. We have to bring Jesus Christ to others. Just as Jesus healed a man who was blind, we must lead others out of darkness into the Light of Christ. Pope Francis summons us to share our joy and proclaim with our lives to those who are searching: I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see. What joy we have in Jesus Christ! Amazing Grace.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Lent
Best Lent Ever Week 4: Become a Continuous Learner (March 26, 2017)

Message: Lord, open my eyes - that I may learn what is pleasing to you. I am wearing rose vestments for Laetare Sunday. The word means to make joyful. The name "Leticia" comes from Laetare. If you know a "Leticia" or a "Joy" congratulate them today. We have reason for joy as we enter the 4th week of the Best Lent Ever. To receive God's joy we need - as we have seen - a daily time of silence to listen to him. Today St. Paul tells us, "Try to learn what is pleasing to God." And we have this question: "In what way is God inspiring you to become a continuous learner this Lent?" A continuous learner not only reads but re-reads.* A good book merits re-reading. Books that I value I have read 3 or 4 times - and one book I have read dozens of times.

Not every single word - although I have read it word by word three times - but the major parts dozens of times. I'm talking of course about the Bible. Matthew Kelly (hold up Resisting Happiness) observes that the Bible is full of interesting people "Some of them walked with God and some of them walked away from God and most of them did a little bit of both." In chapter 14 he gives motivation for daily Bible reading. He tells about a man who made a commitment to read the Bible daily. Matthew asked him if it makes a difference in his life. "Absolutely," the man says, "I am happier when I do it. I become a better leader, a better husband, a better father, just a better person, when I do it. But almost every day I feel a pull not to do it." You know what the man is experiencing.

That's right! Resistance! Mathew Kelly talks about how to keep going in the face of resistance. Many people have told me how help they find his Best Lent Ever videos. This week dust off your Bible and start with Matthew's Gospel and Psalm 1. Some verses you may find perplexing - like the list of Jesus' ancestors. Others familiar like the stories of Jesus birth. After Easter I will offer a way to go deeper into God's Word. For now I ask you to read and be at peace. What matters is listening to God - ten minutes of silence, maybe more, maybe less. At this point, please take your Mass Journal and write one idea that will help you this week to listen to God, to experience his healing, to open your life to him. We're all like the man in today's Gospel. We need Jesus to open our eyes. The man in the Gospel has one big advantage. He knew he was blind. We often do not. A prayer for this week: Lord, open my eyes - that I may learn what is pleasing to God. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent, Classic John 9: 1-41

Gospel Summary
Jesus, in order that the works of God might be made visible, gives sight to a man who had been blind from birth. Members of the community then proceed to debate the meaning of the various aspects of the event: why Jesus put clay on the man's eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam; whether the man was really the blind man they had known; the significance of Jesus' making the clay with his saliva on the Sabbath; the fear of the man's parents to acknowledge that Jesus was from God; the expulsion of the man who had been blind because he insisted that Jesus really was from God. The passage ends with the judgment of Jesus that the man who was born blind now truly sees; while those who claim to see have closed their eyes to the works of God made visible before their eyes. Life Implications John uses the remembrance of Jesus' cure of a blind man to develop a universal, theological meaning of the event for us, the hearers of his gospel.

We are aware that Jesus is the source of division among people today, just as he was in his own Jewish community during his lifetime and decades later at the time of the gospel's composition. There are numerous actors in the gospel narrative with whom we might identify and then explore the implications for our own life situations. We can identify with Jesus, the light which shines in the darkness. Christians who have accepted this divine light in turn must allow the light of Christ to shine through them so that the works of God might be made visible. The narrative seems to affirm that the blind man who has received the light of Christ, himself becomes a light shining in the darkness. His simple, to-the-point responses suggest that they might have been spoken by Jesus in similar circumstances.

He, like Jesus, has become a source of division. One might readily identify with the beggar, blind from birth. Here is a person who seeks the truth and has the courage to act upon it even though suffering is the result. The narrative illustrates the cost of discipleship in a world of darkness, which tries to overcome the light (Jn 1:5). Most Christians would not think of identifying with those who refused to see the light and thus become hardened in their blindness. Jesus, however, also warns us that those who say "We see may really be blind to the presence of God in their midst. Consider this sentence from the First Letter of John to his fellow Christians: Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1:11). A good prayer for this Sunday might be: "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief (Mk 9:24). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Modern Lectionary 31, Gospel: John 9:1-41 Today is Laetare Sunday, the day when the opening antiphon for mass is taken from the final chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah: "Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her (Isa 66:10-11). The term Laetare, meaning "rejoice, is the first word of this antiphon in its Latin version. The essential idea of today's liturgy is that we reflect on the joy we sense as the days of Lent progress and the time of Holy Week and Easter begins to draw near. The celebrant at mass may wear special rose colored vestments today to highlight further this note of joyful anticipation. Arriving at true joy involves coming to terms with reality, seeing clearly who we are and where we stand, and the scripture readings for mass take up this theme of perception with some vivid scenes. First, we hear the account from the First Book of Samuel in which the great Samuel, whom the Bible is careful to identify as a "see rather than a "prophet was sent by God to Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Israel. When Samuel entered the city and encountered Jesse he saw the eldest and strongest of Jesse's sons, Eliab, standing with his father. He thought to himself: "Surely the Lord's anointed is here before him. Immediately, however, a word of clarity and reproof came to him: "The Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance.There anoint him, for this is the one!' (1 Sam 16:6-7).

"The one whom Samuel was told to anoint was of course David, who would later become the greatest of Israel's kings and even a figure to whom Christ himself is compared, but whose beginnings were nonetheless shrouded in obscurity and dismissal. The next image of vision and perception comes in the gospel, where we encounter the striking story of the man born blind. This is a long reading but I think it is important for the entire selection to be read at mass (John 9:1-41) instead of the abbreviated version because of the incisive nature of this powerful narrative. Everyone in this story comes to terms with reality for better or for worse: the man born blind both literally sees for the first time, and figuratively he "see the goodness and holiness of Jesus.

The Pharisees "see not only what Jesus did, but they perceive as well what it portends for their way of life and they respond with fear and anger, preferring the blind illusion of control over the frightening vision of freedom in Christ. What this tells us is that it is not enough to see clearly; rather, when we see clearly who we are and where we stand we must also respond to our situation in a way characterized by the Christian virtues of humility, charity, and a desire for conversion. The man born blind "saw that he had been given not only the gift of literal sight but that of new life in Christ. The Pharisees who denied their need for Christ"They ridiculed him and said, You are that man's disciple; we are disciples of Moses! ultimately refused the gift of new life and remained blind: "Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, "We see, so your sin remains' (John 9:28, 41). On this Laetare Sunday given to reflection on Christian joy, let us rejoice in Christ and his gift of new spiritual vision and new life, taking to heart St. Paul's inspired words "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Eph 5). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The account of the Man Born Blind that we are presented with in John's Gospel today is a very remarkable and at the same time a very human story. We can see it at several different levels. First of all, there are the straightforward facts of the story which seem to involve a lot of toing and froing with one group quizzing another. It starts when the man born blind is pointed out by the disciples to Jesus so they can ask the question about who had sinned, the man or his parents. As a group of disciples, they want to know what Jesus thinks on a whole number of topics and so they must often have asked him many similar questions over the years. This encounter with blind man becomes simply the occasion for them to ask Jesus about a further belief commonly held by the people at that time. Jesus says that neither of them have sinned and that this man's blindness was to give glory to God. He then uses the blind man to provide an example of the healing power of God. He smears paste on his eyes and the man is healed when he washes it off. It becomes a matter of controversy when the people bring the man to the Pharisees.

They, of course, immediately see the healing which took place on the Sabbath as something they could use against Jesus. The blind man is unusually plain speaking and when the Pharisees don't get the answers they want they bring in the man's parents who turn out to be much more reticent than their son. They are clearly happy for their son but do not want to get involved in disputation with anyone in case it results in their livelihood being put in jeopardy. Jesus hears about the interaction between the blind man and the Pharisees and goes to find him. When they meet up, on hearing Jesus' true identity, the blind man believes and worships him. The whole account of the miracle comes to a conclusion when Jesus makes a pronouncement about the fact that he has come so that the blind might see and those with sight turn blind. It is at this point we realise that there is another whole layer of meaning that can be uncovered from the story.

Jesus is pointing out that there are two kinds of sight. First there is the sight that comes from using our eyes to see that which is around us and then there is the sight, which we might call insight, to see with the eyes of faith. According to Jesus it is this insight which is much more important, because it is this which enables us to see with the eyes of faith and so to attain eternal life. The Pharisees are exposed as people who are completely blind to matters of faith. What they seem to be interested in is conformity and outward observance of the law far more than anything else.

Their desire is to preserve the status quo and to come down hard on anything or anyone who threatens the current equilibrium. The man born blind is extraordinarily forthright. He has suffered from a major handicap all his life and he is well aware precisely who has performed acts of kindness for him; and he is just as aware of those who would rather sit in judgement on him. You will note from the question that the disciples put to Jesus that his blindness was generally regarded in those days as a divine punishment for sin so there were plenty of people who despised him. The religious authorities clearly then must have shown him very little compassion when he was blind and this might explain his rather robust responses to them. He doesn't regard their interest in his case as being very friendly and so he gives them no respect at all. Last Sunday we heard about the Woman at the Well to whom Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah.

This Sunday in the account of the Man Born Blind we see how Jesus once again reveals himself as the one who is to come. This time he refers to himself as the Son of Man which although ambiguous is often seen as a Messianic title. The fact that the man who was formerly blind then worships Jesus inclines us to believe that he at least understands that by using this title Jesus has disclosed his divinity. During Lent new members of the Church, the catechumens, are being more intensively prepared for reception into full membership at the Easter Vigil. These two Gospels have been put in the Lectionary at precisely this time because they have a particular relevance for catechumens since they show two important examples of people who have come to faith in Christ. In both cases, they are outsiders, one being a Samaritan and the other being a blind man and therefore regarded also as a sinner. What is being highlighted is the importance of faith. Unlike many others these two seem to be able to recognise Jesus' true identity. They both acknowledge that he is the one sent from God and they place their hope and trust in him. These are things that the catechumens can identify very strongly with since they have come to the same conclusion themselves.

There are differences between the two incidents. In the case of the Woman at the Well it is primarily because of the Word that she is converted. In the case of the Man Born Blind it is because of his healing. But in both cases, they give testimony before others to Jesus' true nature. This tells us something important; that it is in evangelising others that we become evangelised ourselves. As we transmit the Gospel to others so it takes much deeper root in our own lives. Even someone with only the sketchiest understanding of the faith and who yet communicates this to others ends up with their own faith being deepened. This is a lesson for us all. We might feel timid about talking to other people on matters of faith because we lack the vocabulary or because we feel inadequate in some way. But we should not allow this to hold us back because, as these lessons from scripture tell us, the more we talk about the faith then the more we come to understand it. This is especially so in our families. Explaining the faith to our children helps us to see the logic in it. Talking about the faith with our spouses helps us to deepen our own grasp of our beliefs. Let us see in these two examples of the Woman at the Well and the Man Born Blind people like ourselves, people who don't know very much but who are willing to share whatever it is that we do have. The result is that our faith becomes deeper and broader and stronger.
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