22 March 20204 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: The Fight for Sight

The long story of the Man Born Blind is less about the miracle of the Lord restoring the man's eyesight, and more about the man coming to faith despite tremendous opposition.

Consider this: the story is 41 verses long, but the actual healing of the man takes only two verses at the very beginning of the reading, verses 6 and 7:
When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, Go wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

That was all there was to it, miracle-wise, anyway.  But look at what follows: the man grows in faith despite the opposition, first from his neighbors who refused to believe that this was the man they had known, then from the Pharisees who argued that Jesus was sinful, then from his parents who were afraid of the Pharisees and the impact their son's sight and faith could have upon them, then again from the Pharisees who declared that Jesus was not from God.  The man responded by refuting their arguments, holding on to his faith in Jesus; more than that, growing in his faith in Jesus, and finally, before Jesus saying, "I do believe, Lord," and worshiped him.

The Pharisees went in the opposite direction, becoming more and more determined to discredit Jesus.  By the end of the reading, they were the blind ones and the Man Born Blind was the one who could see.

What I want to concentrate on today is this: what the Man Born Blind experienced as he grew in faith, the opposition he received, is the same as what we experience as we grow in faith.  We will always be confronted with those who do not have faith and who want to convince us to give up our faith.  Perhaps, you have already received some of this opposition.  At school, at work, in the neighborhood someone may say to you, "You're Catholic?  OOOO.  You don't really believe all that stuff, do you?" Or they may come out with the old anti-Catholic bigotry such as, "You guys never read the bible," or "You guys worship Mary making her a goddess," or make statements about the Eucharist that are so blasphemous that  I don't dare repeat them here before the Blessed Sacrament. Or maybe you may come upon people who are not just anti-Catholic, but anti-Christian, or anti-God.  They may challenge those areas of our faith that cannot be explained, but can only be believed, such as the Trinity, or Jesus as both God and man. 

You probably came upon professors in college, and possibly in high school who challenged your faith, speaking to you as though you were a second grader. "Oh, isn't that nice that you still believe those stories."  Then there are those who belittle us because they oppose our ways of living the Christian life, our morality, those actions we are convinced are right or wrong.

Why?  Why do people have such opposition to our faith?  Probably for a lot of reasons.  One of them might be envy; they wish they could be part of a strong Church group, but instead of coming and joining one, they try to destroy those who do come.  Another reason might be intellectual arrogance.  There are the people who are so sure of their superior intelligence, that they see all who take a step outside of reason and into faith as being idiotic. 

There is something else too that is definitely a part of the opposition we experience to Catholicism, to Christianity, and to being faith-filled people.  That something else is the devil.  I do not want to scare you, but the devil is real.  He will do everything he can to get you and me away from Jesus Christ.  The devil is working in all those who are trying to destroy our relationship with God.  The devil cannot stand the fact that we go on retreats and grow closer to Christ.  He cannot stand the fact that we are determined to be the sons and daughters of God we were created to be.  He uses every evil tool he can muster up.  He knows how important friends are to us, so he uses friends against us.  He knows how we want to develop and use our intelligence, so he makes us think that we are intellectual wastes.  He knows how much we enjoy the advancements in technology, particularly our smart phone, so he has turned them into gateways to the world of pornography.   He knows how easily we can fall in morality, drugs, and sex, whatever, so he uses this against us with the most effective of all his lies: "Everybody is doing this.  You do not really believe that there are things you should not do, places you should not go.  Let go.  Do these things and you'll have a wonderful experience, one which God is trying to keep from you."  This is the same argument that the wise scribes of Genesis put into the serpent's mouth as he tempted Adam and Eve.

Have you ever noticed that when we slip in morality, or, perhaps, sadly, take a major tumble, we begin to question our faith?  That is evidence of the work of the devil.  He will do everything; use every trick he has, to return us to a state of blindness. The devil is, after all, the prince of darkness.

However, we are not blind.  We can see.  We know how happy we are when we are with Jesus.  Think of the experiences many of you have already had, the December Retreat, the Steubenville Conferences, the Life Teen camps, LTLC.  Adults, think about those first times that you held you babies and you felt more love welling up in you than ever thought possible. Think about how you talked to God about the wonder of life you held in your arms.  We know where happiness can be found.  We are growing in our faith because we want to perfect our vision until we see God face to face in heaven.  Do you know what they call this meeting with God in heaven? They call this the Beatific Vision.  The prince of darkness will do anything to keep us from the Beatific Vision.  The prince of darkness wants us to be blind.

So men, ladies, do not let anyone or anything steal the light from your eyes.  Do not allow anti Catholic or anti-Christian or anti-Theist,  or immoral people destroy your vision of the Lord.  You and I need to put up a fight, a fight for the light that brings happiness.  We need to put up a fight with every fiber of our energy against the prince of darkness.  We need to fight for Jesus Christ. 

At the beginning of today's Gospel Jesus exclaimed, "I am the Light of the World."  We pray today that we might allow the Light of Christ to grow within us and glow from us.  For it is only our union with Christ that will dispel the darkness of the world.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Lent
The Second Scrutiny

(March 22, 2020)
I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis

Bottom line: We rejoice with the candidates who receive the exorcism prayer asking for sight: Not to see through other people, but to see them. Above all to see Jesus:

Today we have the second scrutiny - an exorcism prayer based on Jesus healing the blind man. It begins this way:
"As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth."

The man represents humanity born with original sin, a curious kind of blindness. We easily see other people's defects, their blind spots, but we have difficulty recognizing our own blindness. We need Jesus radical healing. He does it in a way that might cause to recoil:
"he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes"

The ancients believed that saliva had healing power. Indeed, scientists today know saliva has antibacterial agents, but that's not the point. According to Augustine, the combination of saliva and earth represents Jesus joining humanity with divinity.

Some cannot see it or even imagine it. Jesus' healing upsets the Pharisees. Although they have physical sight, they are spiritually blind. They know everything, but they cannot see what is right in front of their eyes. They have put Jesus in a box. They think he's a "sinner" - someone they can write off. The man born blind gives a simple response:
"If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see"
When Jesus directly confronts the man born blind, he says, "'I do believe, Lord,' and he worshiped him."

In honor of that man it's appropriate that today we wear rose - the color of rejoicing. We rejoice with the candidates who receive the exorcism prayer asking for sight: Not to see through other people, but to see them. Above all to see Jesus:
"Lord Jesus,
you are the true light that enlightens the world.
Through your Spirit of truth
free those who are enslaved by the father of lies.
Stir up the desire for good in these elect,
whom you have chosen for your sacraments.
Let them rejoice in your light,
that they may see,
and, like the man born blind
whose sight you restored,
let them prove to be staunch and fearless witnesses
to the faith,
for you are Lord for ever and ever. " Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Lent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Lent

In the Gospel of John we often find stories which are not to be found in the Synoptic Gospels. And even though we know that John's Gospel is considered to have been written later than the others we should not give in to the temptation to think that this old man John has made the story up.

All of the Gospel writers were confronted with such a great mass of written and oral material about the public ministry of Jesus that they had to be very selective in what they included. What the Evangelists have done is to take the incidents that they regard to be the most important and included them in their Gospel and so ensure that they would be handed down from generation to generation.

You will have noticed that Matthew, Mark and Luke have many similar accounts of specific incidents from the life of Jesus. It is considered by scholars that they used a common source which is now lost; a sort of first draft of the life of Jesus written or put together at an earlier date.

But John does not seem to use this document and his Gospel differs markedly from the others. He takes the long view and his Gospel is the outcome of considered reflection over very many years.  It is not that he made up those incidents that are not recorded in the other Gospels but rather that he sees the significance of particular miracles that the Synoptic writers passed over.

In fact, John stresses only seven miracles or 'signs' as he calls them. And each of these miracles has an important lesson to teach us. The healing presented to us in today's liturgy is that of the man born blind which takes place at the Pool of Siloam. And the lesson we are being taught is that besides our ordinary sight there is another kind of sight, that of seeing the truth of the Gospel.

This particular miracle is about light and darkness. The man had lived in darkness all his life but through healing he comes into the light in two senses: literally, since his sight was restored; and spiritually, since he was given the gift of faith. Of course, it is this gift of faith which concerns us most of all.

After the healing there follows a series of interrogations during which the scepticism of the Pharisees only increases while the faith of the blind man develops and strengthens.

First, he claims that Jesus is a prophet, then he states that he is from God and finally when faced with Jesus once more he declares his faith in him as the Son of Man and kneels down and worships him.

They say that people who have lost, or never had, one human faculty often more acutely develop one or more of the others. This man was born blind but he is certainly not dumb. He is extremely fluent in his speech and, despite a presumed lack of education, he is clever enough to trounce the supposedly learned Pharisees and expose their plan to entrap Jesus.

He is also quite bold and forthright in his speech. Nowhere else in the Gospels do you read of a poor person speaking to those in authority in the way that this blind man does. It is clear to him that Jesus is good and truthful and that these supposedly religious men are nothing but hypocrites. They pretend to look for the truth but when he gives it to them they cannot accept it. At first, they insult him and finally chase him away.

Despite his boldness towards the Pharisees this blind man is revealed to be quite humble and not without self-knowledge. Three times he confesses his ignorance: once to the people, once to the Pharisees and finally once to Jesus. As we have seen, each of these confessions of ignorance is followed by a profession of faith.

We are being subtly told that it is only when we honestly admit our ignorance that faith can find its way into our lives.

After being driven away by the Pharisees our blind man eventually encounters Jesus once again. But actually, it is Jesus who seeks him out and who then asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. The blind man says, 'Tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.' Jesus replies, 'You are looking at him.'

Notice the wonderful use of the senses in this brief but extremely significant exchange. This man who has been blind all his life and who has had to rely heavily on speech and hearing says, 'Tell me who he is.' Jesus who has given him sight tells invites him to use it and says, 'You are looking at him.'

In the early history of the Church this miracle was thought of very highly. It was often depicted in the paintings on the walls of the Catacombs and the three-fold interrogation was taken up and used in the Baptismal Liturgy where adults were put through three scrutinies. During the last of these this very Gospel was read to the Catechumens finishing at the line, Yes, Lord I do believe.

This magnificent story tells us that light triumphs over darkness, truth over untruth, faith over disbelief. It also tells us that while physical blindness is certainly a terrible affliction how much worse an affliction is that of spiritual blindness.

This miracle tells us that admission of ignorance can open the door to knowledge of God. It tells us that the poor and the afflicted frequently have far more insight than the religious elite. It tells us that Christ the Light of the World wants to enlighten the lives of each one of us.

In our language we speak of sight and insight. We see by ordinary physical sight the things around us, even though to call this ordinary could hardly be correct since sight is in itself one of the most extraordinary aspects of creation.

But with insight we see at quite another level, we come to a realisation, we make connections that are not immediately apparent. There is a moment when the real truth of something dawns on us, the moment of insight.

But if we go one step deeper even than so-called 'ordinary' insight we recognise the moment of coming to faith. I am certain that almost everyone here has experienced such a moment which is something much deeper even than insight.

It is the moment when we came to realise that God exists, that he is the author and sustainer of all creation, and that Jesus is his Son and our Saviour.

And that the only appropriate thing for us to in the face of this realisation is to do just what that blind man did: kneel down and worship him.
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