Saturday, March 29, 2014

03-30-2014 -- 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A

March 30, 2014 - 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

While almost all of us can see with our eyes, there is a spiritual blindness that each of us struggles with.

For most of us, being healed of our spiritual blindness is a gradual process.

The man born blind is physically healed by Jesus, but more importantly, he is spiritually healed as well.

Gradually the man gains his spiritual sight and comes to make his profession of faith: “Lord, I do believe.”

Let's look more carefully at these gospel scenes to try to make some sense of this enlightenment so that we can grow in our faith as well.

Before we begin with the scenes, we have to understand that Jesus makes it clear from the beginning that sickness and disease is not a punishment by God.

People believed that when bad things happened, they were being punished by God for their sins.

It's important for us to understand that this is not so. Our sinful behaviors have consequences, but these consequences are our own doing, not God's. Neither the blind man nor his parents sinned.

The first scene: the physical healing.

When Jesus spits on the ground to make a paste with his saliva, he is using the dirt of the earth to finish creation.

Remember God created Adam from the dirt of the earth. Here Jesus is using the same dirt of the earth to finish creation.

The man is not complete and Jesus gives the blind man his sight.

The second scene: the recognition of the spiritual blindness.

The blind man is healed, but his spiritual blindness remains. The Pharisees ask him, “Where is this Jesus who healed you?” He answers, “I don't know.”

But this isn't good enough for the Pharisees. In their arrogance they are spiritually blind too.

So we move to the third scene where the Pharisees challenge him.

They believe that they are the ones who can judge what comes from God. Jesus is a threat to them because he does not follow their rules.

“How can a sinful man do these things? He's not from God. What do you have to say about him?”

The man, who can now see, says, “He is a prophet.”

The Pharisees set up this “us versus them” confrontation.
“What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

The answer, “I already told you. You did not listen.”

This confrontation leads to the beginning of his belief.
The man, who can now see, is forced to take sides.

They ridiculed him. “You are that man's disciple.”

The fourth scene: the man who can now see becomes bold with faith.

“This is so amazing that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. If this man were not from God he would not be able to do anything.”

What’s so amazing is that the Pharisees cannot see the obvious. Their blindness remains.

The final scene: the spiritual healing and the profession of faith.

Jesus seeks the man out again to finish what he started.
When the man encounters Jesus again his spiritual healing is complete, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

His spiritual eyes are now open and he sees and believes.

This gospel is about seeing, seeing God at work in the world through his son Jesus.

Jesus is challenging us to look at our lives to discover our own blindness, our own tendency to be like the Pharisees.

Jesus helps us, who are spiritually blind, to see God’s creation, of which we are a part. He opens our eyes.

But for those among us who already think they know God’s plan and purpose, Jesus’ presence makes them blind.

Let us open our eyes to begin to see the Lord at work in our hearts, in our lives, in our world, so that we can begin to be healed of our spiritual blindness.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

03-23-2014 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A

March 23, 2014 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What was she looking for? This Samaritan Woman. She had come to the well in the heat of the day. What was she looking for?

She was looking for something because women didn’t come to the well at the middle of the day. It was too hot and dry and dusty.

Women drew water in the early morning and at night when it was cooler. What was she looking for?

The well was a meeting place. It was a place of business.
It was a happening place. So what was she looking for?

She had already had five husbands.
What was she looking for? Hmm?

Let’s assume that she didn’t have the best intentions.
That would make her like you and me wouldn’t it?

Never quite satisfied...right? Always looking for something or someone better...correct? Always wondering if the grass is greener on the other side.

There is a yearning, a longing, a desire within us. A yearning for what? A longing for what? A desire for what? What are we looking for? Hmm?

The woman encounters Jesus. Maybe he’s what she’s looking for. Maybe not.

Jesus speaks to her. He breaks through every social barrier and speaks to her. The disciples return and are shocked.

“What in the world are you doing speaking to her? Are you crazy? She’s a woman and she’s a Samaritan. You’re not supposed to be doing this. People are gonna talk.”

You know what, here’s the good news: Jesus stops at the well to speak to us, even when we don’t have the best intentions.

I think sometimes we are just like the disciples, we are shocked. What in the world is Jesus doing wasting his time speaking to me?

We can be just like the Samaritan woman at the well. As a matter of fact, I really think she represents us.

That’s why it’s important for us to understand what the Samaritan woman was looking for?

I bet she longed for peace in her painful, lonely existence. I bet we long for much the same.

She had drunk from several wells and still remained unsatisfied.If we are honest, we have probably drunk from several wells too.

We can even name some of the them:

The well of power, of prestige, of success, of money, of greed, of lust, of pleasure, of intimacy without commitment.

And still we yearn, still we long, still we desire.

These other wells cannot satisfy the thirsting human spirit. Only Jesus gives us life-giving water to drink.

God has created our yearning, our longing, our desire. And only Jesus can satisfy us. So, what are we looking for?

“Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst. The water I shall give will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Can we drink from the life-giving waters Jesus offers?

The life-giving water Jesus gives refreshes and renews us so that we don’t have to keep going to the well at midday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

03-16-2014 -- 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A

March 16, 2014 - 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Life is difficult. Of course, we laugh and celebrate, we work and play.
Life is not impossible or joyless or meaningless. But it is difficult.

It seems that one thing after another demands our attention:
financial debt, taxes, a son who isn’t learning at school, a daughter who is learning too much outside of school, a parent who is slowly loosing the ability to remember, a sibling who is sick and dying, the threat of downsizing at work, unemployment, underemployment, a drop in the market, the wrong numbers in a blood profile.

What makes life difficult is that we continually face physical, mental and social challenges. These challenges take some effort.

Without effort, our personal goals remain unrealized dreams.
Without effort, our enterprises and undertakings flounder.

If life, in general, is difficult, then following Jesus is even tougher.
Living a life of virtue is hard work and life gets harder when we try to bring the best we have to offer.

For example:

If we are committed to being more compassionate, then when we face situations of suffering, we must struggle not to dismiss or ignore them.

If we are committed to living in peace, then when we face situations of hostility and hatred, it is difficult to turn the other cheek and forgive.

If we are committed to honesty, then when we face a cover-up, it is difficult to find and walk the path of truth.

The transfiguration is a remedy to life’s difficulties.
Jesus’ transfiguration is divine illumination.

Illumination can be described as connecting with God and allowing the divine energy of God to flow through us.

This is what happens to the disciples who witness the transfiguration.
They did not understand Jesus’ insistence on suffering and death and resurrection.

So Jesus takes them up a high mountain to reveal to them the divine origin of this path.

Jesus’ transfiguration fascinated, absorbed, and delighted Peter, James and John.

It is a special moment of revelation. They have seen and heard and experienced something very special and it changes them.

That’s why Peter wanted to stay there forever. But they had to come down from the mountain.

This mountain top experience was good for the disciples.
These types of spiritual experiences are good for us too.

God refreshes us with transforming experiences, experiences that bring about a spiritual awakening.

These divine moments of grace give us strength to keep everyday life from frustrating us.

Transforming experiences of the divine have immense value in our lives.

But their primary purpose is something greater: to empower us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in events and people, but most of all in ourselves.

The spiritual experience is not a value in itself. It has value when we are able to recommit ourselves to living virtuous lives.

To do this, we simply need to follow the one simple command given to the disciples at the transfiguration:

This is my beloved son, listen to him.

In the first reading Abram listened to the Lord. He left his home to go as the Lord directed him. He didn’t know the destination.
He had to trust that the Lord would lead him along the right path.

In the gospel, Peter, James and John listened to the Lord and followed him.

What about us? Do we listen to the Lord?

The disciples must open themselves up to what Jesus is saying. The transfiguration encourages them in their struggle to allow Jeuss to show them the way.

Life is difficult. But Jesus is a remedy.

We do need to go up the high mountain to experience the Transfiguration. This Divine illumination helps us to take the next step, to come down from the mountain saying:

I’ve been to the mountain but now I am returning to the earth and walking toward Jerusalem with Jesus by my side.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

03-09-2014 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A

March 09, 2014 - 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

(Read in a slightly satanic voice)

Look at him sitting there under the burning sun.
How long’s he been there? Must be days.
We think he must be hungry. Let’s offer him something to eat.

Jesus, we can see that you are hungry. We think you should turn these stones into bread and eat. Can’t you taste that soft bread.
It melts in your mouth.

We know you’d like that. After all you’ve been through,
you deserve it. You’re worth it. And you can make it happen.

Notice please, that it is the devil who initiates the contact and suggests a plan.

The serpent creeps in to tempt with something that seems to be a good. Go on, do this and you will be satisfied.

But it’s not true. If Jesus had turned the stones into bread,
he would have been satisfied for a moment.

Then it would be easy for him to do it again and again. And suddenly,
he wouldn’t doing the will of God the Father in heaven.
He’d be selfishly serving his own needs.

(Read in a slightly satanic voice)

Look at him sitting there all alone. He must be lonely. We pity him, don’t we? Let’s bring him some comfort, some attention.

Jesus, we can see that you are all alone. You look so lonely.
Come with us now.

This is a nice place here on this tall tower. But don’t you feel abandoned? Make your Father prove his love for you.

Certainly if you throw yourself down from here, he will send his angels to catch you.

The devil wants Jesus to assume his privileged status as the divine Son of God by toying with danger to see if his Father will come to his rescue.

We think that Jesus will be safe because he is the Son of God.
But, Jesus would be hurt. He would fall to his death.

Remember what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross.
It was there that he breathed his last.

(Read in a slightly satanic voice)

Look at him, a man like him would make a fine ruler. The very best.

Jesus, you would make a fine ruler. The world is so big and you would have dominion over so many people.

You would be powerful. All we ask is that you be our friend, our real friend, our best friend, our only friend.

Oh, how we’d like that. We’d give you control over all these kingdoms.

The third temptation assumes that the kingdoms of the world belong to the devil. While he may have dominion, they do not belong to him.

The world and all its wonders, all these things belong to the Lord God who created heaven and earth.

Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and prayer bring him face to face with the devil.

If we are taking these 40 days of fasting and prayer and almsgiving seriously, in an attempt to draw closer to the Lord, then we will most certainly come face to face with the devil too.

But we should not fear. Jesus’ responses help us to face our own temptations.

Fasting: We do not live on bread alone. We are spiritual beings called to live a spiritual life.

Almsgiving: We are not to tempt God. We are to take responsibility for the way we conduct ourselves. And we must move from selfishness to self-giving.

Prayer: We are called to worship God alone, not to sell out to the devil for some fleeting instant gratification.

How are we going to spend our 40 day retreat?

We can stay right where we are, complacent and apathetic.
And the devil will leave us alone because that’s just where he wants us.

But if we set out to change our ways, to truly repent and give ourselves over to fasting, prayer and almsgiving, then the devil will get involved to try to trip us up.

The spiritual fruits we receive from God through our good works this Lent will give us the strength to push back and say, “Get away Satan. We worship and serve the Lord God alone.”

When we say this, the devil will leave us and the angels will come and minister to us.