Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Seeing as God sees. We would all like this gift because we would know God’s will more clearly and we would not be troubled by the decisions we make on our own. Life would be much simpler if we only had the clarity of knowing what God wants for us. If we can see as God sees, we can love as God loves; yet somehow the insights of God remain obscure for much of humanity.

Examine the Lord’s choice of David as the anointed one. He was not even worthy of consideration from Jesse’s eight sons because he was the youngest, which means the least valuable, and if Jesse had any daughters, they do not even bear mentioning, which says a whole lot. However, the Lord chose David from Jesse’s kin to build his house that is to last forever. The promise of salvation arrives in the most unexpected places.

The gift of sight is equated with “true belief” in the Gospels, and the man born blind is the fortunate recipient of this gift. He aptly goes through developmental stages of belief of every believer. First, we see that he is chosen, seemingly randomly, which begs the question, “why me and not someone else?” He certainly is grateful, but it raises questions about his relationship to God. “Why now and not earlier in life?” “Did I do anything to merit this gift? If so, please tell me what I did.”

We see the reactions of neighbors to this miracle. They wonder, “how were your eyes opened, are you the same person as the one we knew before?” The implication is “why you and not me?” Some deny that he is the same person, but is someone who just appears like him. Others do not want to see anyone get ahead because, “We know from what type of family you come.” It also raises the ugly specter of the effects of sin. Surely, this man’s blindness results from something terrible his parents did. Jesus explains that sometimes accidents of birth are merely accidents and there is no underlying cause. Sin certainly disfigures the person who commits a sin, and it has insidious consequences, but sometimes imperfections result in this world for unexplained reasons. We have to work hard to understand that sin is really “a failure to even try to love.”

We see the reaction of this man’s parents: they distance themselves from him because they cannot understand what happened and they tell others to speak with him directly because he can speak for himself. It reveals that true sight allows us to stand on our own feet in contrast to the parents who do not fully understand the decision and choices of their son. When we come to new sight and insight, we often stand without the support of family and friends. Do not worry. A new family has chosen us and we have yet to discover who they are, but they are there in astonishing new ways.

When the blind man is questioned again, he does something remarkable: he teaches the elders and the Pharisees and is therefore rejected by them. He does not even mean to teach them. It naturally results from what he now understands. He simply explains what he knows and believes in light of his truth, and sadly others do not even try to understand. Their default response is to reject. Coming to sight is both invigorating, because we must speak of what we know with great authority and clarity, and isolating, because we others will remain in their small, contained world, but the only thing we can do is to move forward, onwards and upward to a new day.

Deepening one’s faith means we stand at a great distance from those who surround us and we stand closer to God and to a newer family of faith with shared values. We invariably see matters with greater comprehension, as we become God’s photographers. What new things do we see? For instance, when there is tragedy, do we only see the horror or are our eyes drawn to those who provide help to those in need? When we look out our windows each morning, do we see the strong beating effects of the sun or the varying degrees of shading that occurs when the light is refracted? In a trash-filled playground, can we see the solitary shoot of a plant that want to bring beauty against all odds to the environment? Do we only see the drama or are we able to see the underlying organization in the chaos that provides clues to future solutions? The eyes of Christ enlighten us and help us to see new possibilities for creation.

Just like the blind man that Jesus healed, we have to learn to see our surroundings in new ways. Explore it with delight. Train your eyes to be more open to God’s working within our sight because the one who seeks will find God in all things and it reorients our world. Let us pray that God will help us see with a discerning heart and a knowing mind that provides comforting insight into God’s intimate feelings for us. When we come to see God laboring in all things, when we come to love as God loves, we cannot help but proclaim our joy with our souls. Our souls cannot contain the secret that God is winning and that we are beholders of this great mystery. Our inner response is to laugh and praise.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah exclaims that a new heaven and new earth are being created – a place where there will be lasting joy and no suffering. Jerusalem will be the Lord’s delight. In Ezekiel, an angel brought Ezekiel to the Temple’s entrance where he found water flowing from beneath the threshold. The water became like a river and provided nourishment for all living things. In Isaiah, the Lord says he will help those in a time of favor. He points out the many ways he will bless the people and remind them that they are not forgotten. In Exodus, the Lord tells Moses to go down to your people and lead them because they have become depraved and have turned from the Lord to worship to calf of gold. In Wisdom, the wicked begin to plot against the righteous one to see if God delivers him from all harm. In Jeremiah, the wicked plot against the Lord and yet the righteous one trusts like a lamb who goes to his own slaughter.

Gospel: Jesus leaves Samaria for Galilee. When he arrives at the place of his first miracle, a royal official pleads for Jesus to heal his son who was near death. The man believed the words of Jesus and as the official was returning home, his servants came to meet him to say that his boy will live. Jesus goes to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews and encounters a man who was ill for thirty-eight years. He cured the man who could not fit himself into the pool, but the authorities plotted against Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath. Jesus testifies that the work he does comes from the Father and that he is blessed with the Father’s gifts. He tells them that he does not work for human praise but for the glory of the Father. His work and teachings do not point to himself but to the one who is from above. Jesus moves about within Galilee because he knew the Jews in Judea were trying to kill him. He went with his brothers to the feast of Tabernacles and people know who he is because he speaks openly about God, and yet no one tries to kill him. Some in the crowd call him “The Prophet” while others call him “The Christ.” Debate ensues about whether he could be the Christ  and guards are sent to arrest him, but they cannot because they never heard anyone speak like this before. Nicodemus settles the dispute and everyone goes home to his own house.

Saints of the Week

No saints are memorialized this week.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
·      March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
·      Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
·      Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.
·      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 ordained a deacon in Paris.
·      Apr 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lallemant, writer and spiritual teacher.