Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Lent

April 3, 2011
1 Samuel 16; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

The healing of the man born blind story in John gives an example of the challenges of witnessing to Jesus during hostile times. The onlookers to the miracle learned that Jesus must be 'of God,' not the sinner that the Jewish teachers claim he is. After the healed man is expelled from the synagogue, Jesus reveals that he is the "Son of Man" and the blind man comes to worship him. The man comes to true faith in Jesus, who is represented as the Light.

The man born blind shares in the experiences of the Johannine community. As Jewish-Christians, they are kicked out of the synagogue by the Jewish brethren and they have no place to worship. They are despondent as they cannot worship their God in their customary way. They grieve because "the Jews," their closest allies, are hostile to them. "The Jews" forbid the Christians from being part of their customs. Jesus, as he does with all the great Jewish liturgical feasts in John, declares the liturgical feasts and all worship is done through him. Therefore, no synagogue, Temple, or other place of worship can compare to the person of Jesus as the place of worship.

When John writes about "the Jews," he is writing about a particular group of Jews in Greece that share much in common with the Johannine Christians. The followers of Jesus considered themselves to be Jews themselves so in no way is this remark an anti-Semitic slight. This particular group was choosing to follow the rabbinic tradition that was developing and they were separating themselves from the Jewish-Christians. They, too, experienced deep loss in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and they were refining their own liturgical practices and customs. Thus, they were hostile to the group of Christians who saw John as their interpreter of the life of Jesus.

God's work is made visible through the man born blind and some will come to faith in Jesus because of him; others will harden their hearts, but they can't deny that something extraordinary has happened. The once-blind man is the one who comes to true belief because he is able to see more fully with his heart. He gains greater understanding of who Jesus is and he incrementally sees his as a prophet, a man of God, the Son of Man, and finally as Lord. Faith is a process that deepens with our understanding and trust and our greater attentiveness to Jesus.

The once-blind man is set in contrast to his hostile adversaries. They come to see Jesus as a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath - a violation of their Mosaic Law. They look at the evidence and refuse to see. They are the ones who have become blind. They cannot construct any coherent explanation using their human logic and they revert to their rigid assertion about a technicality. They close their minds down and stay in the darkness while the once-blind man opens his mind and walks in the light.

This story is an example of the ways we are to remain open to the possibilities that God has for us. When we close our minds, rigidly hold onto positions we cannot explain, and conserve what we know, we become like the religious leaders whose logical arguments cannot explain reality. We close our minds to light and knowledge. When we strive to know, search for answers, and open our hearts and minds to the infinite possibilities, we become like the once-blind man who lives in the freedom of the light. He silences his objections and learns to see with his heart so that his world is transformed. He comes to sight. He choose the light. He comes to true belief.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Isaiah, the Lord is excited to tell about the new creation that will take place when he people are happy and rejoicing once again. In Ezekiel, an angel brought the prophet to the temple where life-giving water flowed from every direction. In Isaiah, the Lord has not forsaken his people. He will provide favor on the day of salvation. In Exodus, Moses is commanded to go down to the people to demolish the molten calf and bring the people back to the Lord. In Wisdom, the veracity of the just one is tested by heaping upon him all kinds of diversity. In Jeremiah, the prophet realizes plots are being hatched against him because of his righteousness.

Gospel: After his first miracle, Jesus travels to Galilee and heals the near-death son of a royal official. In Jerusalem, Jesus heals the 38-year stricken paralyzed man near the pool at the Sheep Gate. As Jesus is questioned for healing on the Sabbath and calling God his own father, he testifies that God is at work in him now. He does not accept human praise, but only that of the Father, and the one who will accuse them is Moses, the one in whom they place their hope. Jesus spent time in Galilee because he knew the Jews were trying to kill him. As the Tabernacle Feast neared, he goes back to Jerusalem to hear the dialogue about him. He reveals himself again, but escapes from their attempts to arrest him. Many are coming to believe in Jesus. Even the guards feared arresting him because no one else has even spoken like him. Nicodemus steps in and disperses the crowds with his evocative questioning.

Saints of the Week

Monday - Isidore, bishop and Doctor (560-636), was a Spanish nobleman who served as Archbishop of Seville for almost 40 years. As an educated man, he was known for a teaching style that served the country's progressive interests. Among his accomplishments was a compilation of an extensive encyclopedia, a dictionary, theological treatises, and a historical work on the Goths and Visigoths.

Tuesday - Vincent Ferrer, priest (1350-1419), was a Spanish Dominican who became a professor of philosophy at age 21. He later taught theology and Hebrew. Despite this conservative interpretations of the Christian message, his preaching was successful in bringing converts to baptism. He helped settle the Western Schism.

Thursday - John Baptist de la Salle, priest (1651-1719), was a French nobleman who helped establish charity schools after his ordination. He trained the teachers for these schools hands-on. Because the schools were popular, he formed the Brothers of Christian Schools for the poor and the privileged. He set up teacher training colleges to educate potential teachers.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Apr 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society.
·         Apr 4, 1534. Peter Faber was ordained a deacon in Paris.
·         Apr 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lallemant, writer and spiritual teacher.
·         Apr 6, 1850. The first edition of La Civilta Cattolica was issued. It was the first journal of the restored Society.
·         Apr 7, 1541. Ignatius was unanimously elected general, but he declined to accept the results.
·         Apr 8, 1762. The French Parliament issued a decree of expulsion of the Jesuits from all their colleges and houses.
·         Apr 9, 1615. The death of William Weston, minister to persecuted Catholics in England and later an author who wrote about his interior life during that period.

Lenten Scrutinies

Candidates (baptized) and catechumen (unbaptized) who have been preparing this past year for their sacraments during the Easter season will be scrutinized by their church and their community of faith. This second of the three scrutinies is conducted this week.

In Cycle A, the second scrutiny is from John 9: The man born blind; the third is from John 11: Raising Lazarus from the dead.