2nd Sunday of Easter, Year – A – 17

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year – A – 17

Acts.2:42-47; 1Pet.1:3-9; Jn.20:19-31

Today is the second Sunday of Easter. It is and also, the Divine Mercy Sunday. On this special Sunday, the Church continues to relish in the joy the risen Christ. We are called to celebrate the risen Christ the first fruit of all those who have fallen asleep, the hope of Christians, and the Cause of Our Joy.

Today’s first reading recounts the new zeal, the new love, and the new spirit of the early Christian community. A people who used to be afraid of the Jews and persecution, now have been transformed to a courageous people. They are now proud of themselves and their new heritage.

This heritage is their sharing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the cause of their joy, love, unity and strength. This is what the resurrection of Christ did for us also. It restored our confidence as the people of God.

It lifts us from the dust, and places us exactly where we belong. In short, it reinstates us. In the second reading, Peter draws our attention to the mercy of God towards us. In his mercy, God has given us a new birth by allowing us to share in the resurrection of Christ:

“So that we have a sure hope, and the promise of an inheritance that can never be destroyed.” So, what we celebrate this season is also God’s wonderful mercy.

Surely, our salvation is guaranteed through the resurrection of Christ. However, the necessary tool for taking this salvation according to Peter, is our Faith. “Through your faith, God’s power will guard you, until the salvation which has been prepared for you is revealed at the end of time.

So, only faith can guarantee our salvation in the resurrected Christ. In today’s gospel, Christ presented himself to his disciples. During this very important visit, He dispelled their fears and doubts. He restored their peace, and commissioned them as ministers of the sacrament of reconciliation.

It suffices to note that it was not easy for Thomas to believe that Christ has risen. As we witness to the risen Christ, we shall certainly encounter those (some Thomas) who will doubt our testimony. Let us not be bothered by their unbelief and stubbornness.

This is because, God himself will convince them through the power of the Holy Spirit. All we need is, to simply to pass on the message and leave Christ the risen Lord to convince them.

So, like the disciples of Christ, let us continue to announce the good news to the whole world that Jesus Christ our Lord has truly risen from the dead.

As we celebrate divine mercy Sunday today, we are reminded that God extended his mercy to us by allowing his son pay the ransom for our sins. Christ accomplished this through his paschal mystery.

Finally, we too, must extend this mercy to others. Hence, we are called to be apostles of mercy. So, as we spread the good news of Christ’s resurrection, we must give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is because, in his mercy and generosity endures forever.

Our Church leads us now into what we might call “The time of the handing over of the Spirit.” To examine the significance of that time let’s return to God’s first breathing forth His Holy Spirit, that life-giving creative act of God that we find in the first verses in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis.

There we find God’s Spirit “brooding over the waters” bringing light out of darkness, order out of chaos, and life to all of God’s creatures. Creation was brought about by God’s Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, Christ Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin “by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River the Holy Spirit, like a dove, descended upon Jesus signifying that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Anointed One, the One anointed by God’s Holy Spirit.

At the beginning of His public ministry Jesus was led out into the desert by the Spirit, there to be tempted by and to defeat the Devil. When He died on the Cross, St. John tells us that Christ handed over His Spirit. Each one of us is now destined to be a temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

It can be fairly said that the reason why Jesus was born among us and the reason why He died on the Cross was to give us God’s Holy Spirit, God’s holy presence, a presence that was lost when Adam and Eve separated themselves from God in the Garden of Eden.

In going to His apostles immediately after He rose from the dead, Christ Jesus was restoring God’s presence to us once again, God’s personal, life-giving, and loving presence –God’s special presence given to us now as His forgiven prodigal children.

What was lost in the Garden of Eden is now restored in the Garden of the Resurrection. What are the elements within that presence; what is the nature of that presence? Well, certainly it is not a passive presence. On the contrary it is a dynamic, creating, moving, and energizing presence.

Above all it is a sanctifying presence – we are made whole again, made whole with God. We are once again made holy, holier even than Adam and Eve… holier because, through Christ, God’s Holy Spirit is not simply present next to us or around us but lives now within us.

The time of the handing over of the Spirit culminates in Pentecost. Dying on the Cross, Jesus “handed over His Spirit,” St. John tells us. The first act of Jesus after He rose from the dead was to give His Spirit to His apostles.

At Pentecost, they were confirmed in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit so they might put their fears behind them and go out into the world, into our world, and share God’s recreating, life-giving, reconciling, forgiving, and healing Holy Spirit with you and with me.

It is sometimes said that one religion is as good as another, that it doesn’t matter what religion one belongs to. I think it does matter. It really matters because I don’t find what Jesus did for us — giving us the power of forgiveness — present in any other religion.

The handing over of the Spirit is for the forgiveness of our sins, it restores us to God’s life again. It is found uniquely in our wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation. That matters… that really matters. In what other religion can you find that?

One final note. Since God has been so infinitely generous in giving us this gift, a gift that comes to us through the terrible suffering and death of His Christ, ought not we be generous in sharing our forgiveness with those around us who have sinned against us?

If we feel we don’t have the strength and power within us to do so we should remember that God has given us the strength and power to forgive. For the gift, we have been given is not ours to keep, it is a gift God has given to us in order that we might share it with others.

We have the power of the Holy Spirit within us to do so. May we offer the world around us the hope and the joy that, because of Jesus Christ, is found in the power to forgive. It is one of the greatest and most necessary gifts we have to share with all those in our world around us. Amen.

Easter Homily – 17

Easter Homily – 17

Acts.10:34a, 37-43, Col.3:1-4, Mt 28:1-10

I wish everyone a Very Happy Easter. May the risen lord bless you today, as well as all those in your family whether they are near to you or far away.

A new candidate was being baptized at the river near the church. The minister said to the candidate, “Now before I baptize you, I want to know if you believe in God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” “Yes, I do,” said the candidate, and the minister pushed him under the water.

He came up sputtering and gasping. Then the minister asked, “Do you believe in all that the church believes?” “Yes, I do, he replied, and the minister pushed him under the water and a second time, holding him a bit longer than before. When he came up, he was choking and spitting out water.

“Now,” said the minister, “I want you to tell this assembly in your own words what you believe.” The candidate looked at the minister for a moment and replied, “I believe you are trying to drown me!”

Where to begin? There are so many readings to choose from, a real embarrassment of riches. A preacher can almost “pick a text, any text,” and just start talking. There are, however, certain phrases that jump out at me this year. Let’s see where they lead.

In Romans, Paul declares emphatically: “Death no longer has power over Jesus.” A famous poet has expressed it even more powerfully and absolutely: “Death shall have no dominion.”

That is what the women in the Gospel story found out. There they were, on their way to pay their final respects by completing the anointing of Jesus’ corpse. And then, out of the blue, an angel says, “He is not here… he has been raised!”

The message is the same as in St. Paul: death no longer has power over Jesus. So, following the angel’s instruction, the women hurry off to tell the other disciples, and then, out of the blue, “Jesus met them on their way!”

Now they saw for themselves that what the angel said was true. Jesus had really shattered the bonds of death.

In Ezekiel, the issue is another kind of death, namely, exile. Here God seems more concerned about his own reputation: “Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name.”

In other words, God wonders what people will think of him when they realize, “These are the people of the Lord, yet they had to leave their land.” They might wonder what kind of God this “Lord” is, to let his own people languish in exile.

But God also has a plan to preserve his reputation in the future: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” Worship of alien gods will no longer be a temptation, exile will no longer be a threat.” He will shatter the bonds of sin, and his reputation will be safe!

The Lord had earned his reputation in Genesis and especially in Exodus. After the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses and all the people sang: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant.”

But some 700 years later, Isaiah (long before Ezekiel), witnessed the damage being done to God’s reputation by his people. He foresaw a time of punishment, but he foresaw also a time of reconciliation.

And here we find the blessed, heart-easing words, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back…, with enduring love I take pity on you.” Tenderness, not punishment, will be the last word. Enduring love, not exile, will be the bottom line.

Which takes us back to Romans: Death no longer has power over Jesus. And so it no longer has power over us. This is true first in the literal sense, for St. Paul writes, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

And it is no less true in the figurative sense. Nothing that we think of as a kind of death has power any longer. Not the loss of loved ones. Not the loss of friendships. Not the loss of our most precious possessions. Not even the loss of health. Death shall have no dominion!

Death’s reputation is forever ruined. In one of his “Holy Sonnets” the poet John Donne mocks death with these words:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;…

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

It’s all so wonderful. Where to begin?

And where does it end? (Hint: It doesn’t.)

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about. It is more, much more!

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (1Kgs.19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions.

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness.

To enter into the mystery, we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols. in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.

The women who were Jesus’s disciples teach us all of this. They kept watch that night, together with Mary. And she, the Virgin Mother, helped them not to lose faith and hope. As a result, they did not remain prisoners of fear and sadness, but at the first light of dawn they went out carrying their ointments, their hearts anointed with love. They went forth and found the tomb open. And they went in.

They had kept watch, they went forth and they entered into the Mystery. May we learn from them to keep watch with God and with Mary our Mother, so that we too may enter into the Mystery which leads from death to life. Amen.

Good Friday 2017

Good Friday 2017

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 / Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 / John 18:1 – 19:42

Three Kisses To Jesus?

The Holy Week commemorates the last days of Jesus on this earthly life. The ceremonies of the season remind the passions of Jesus. One sentence that highlights the season and the passions of Jesus is: “Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.” (Matt.26:49)

A kiss is a sign of an affectionate communication. It is a sign of relational commitment and understanding. It has been a human instinct to show great affection. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years and was crucified to death according to the plan of Redemption. It may be interesting to know who else kissed Jesus during his lifetime on this earth.

The affectionate kiss of the Mom:

Kissing a child is an instinctive act of a mom. Mother Mary who brought forth Jesus to this earth as her child should have kissed him thousands of times with the greatest affection. She should have kissed him when she had to run to Egypt to escape from the order of Herod to kill all the infants of Bethlehem. She should have kissed him when she found him in the Temple after searching for him for three days.

The kiss of contrition:

Luke records in his gospel the story of a sinful woman who kissed Jesus. God loves the sinners more than a mom can love her child. A kiss of contrition shows that God can turn a heart affectionate when a sinner reconciles with Him.

“Then he (Jesus) turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.'” (Lk.7:44-45)

A kiss of betrayal:

Judas kissed and betrayed Jesus. The story of Passions begins with the kiss of a friend or disciple. Kiss, the symbol of great love and affection has been misused here for a selfish purpose – may be for 30 pieces of silver coins by which Judas was bound to oblige the high priests of Judea.

What about the kiss that I am going to give to Jesus during the veneration of the cross?

Is this going to be the affectionate kiss of the Mom?  Or

Is this going to be the kiss of contrition? Or

Is this going to be A kiss of betrayal?

Let us reflect well before we come to Kiss the Cross of Christ.

 

Holy Thursday – 17

Holy Thursday – 17

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / John 13:1-15

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor’s office. After his checkup, concerned, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said, “Your husband is suffering from very severe stress. If you don’t do the following, your husband will most definitely die.”

The woman quickly said, “Tell me, doctor, what I need to do.” The doctor said, “Every morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. Make him something nutritious for lunch. At dinnertime prepare an especially nice meal.

Don’t burden him and don’t discuss your problems with him, it will only make his stress worse. Most importantly, never nag him. If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, your husband will regain his health completely.”

On the way home, the husband saw how distressed his wife was and asked, “What did the doctor say?” The woman looked at her husband and said, “Honey, the doctor said you’re going to die.”

This humorous story points out the reality of what we celebrate tonight – if love isn’t paired with service, we cannot truly live. We gather tonight and begin the Sacred Triduum – three days which really serve as one singular feast.

Tonight’s feast is in itself a mini-Triduum recalling three things in particular – the institution of the Eucharist, the mandate to service, and the establishment of priesthood – but ultimately, I think tonight focuses on God’s bounty; God’s goodness to us.

These Holy Days seek nothing less than to inspire us; to remind us who we are as children of God and members of the Church; and most profoundly to remind us through dramatic moments of ritual and sacrament and prayer of one powerful reality – that Jesus Christ is real.

We do not merely gather here tonight to tell a very old story. We gather here tonight to meet a very real person – our Savior Jesus Christ, who – although walked the earth some 2,000 years ago – is still living and active and in our midst today.

In the history of the Church, Lent and Holy Week were originally established for those preparing to enter the Church as new members. Originally, new members entered only once a year, at the Easter Vigil.

Just as today, in the early centuries of the Church, there was tremendous drama in these rituals.  For example, in the 4th Century, St. Ambrose, in a Holy Week homily instructed catechumens on the awesome power of the Eucharist.

He wrote, “Perhaps you say, ‘The bread I have here is ordinary bread.’ Yes, before the sacramental words are uttered this bread is nothing but bread.

But at the consecration this bread becomes the body of Christ…When the moment comes for bringing the most holy sacrament into being, the priest does not use his own words any longer: he uses the words of Christ.

Therefore, it is Christ’s words that bring this sacrament into being. What is this word of Christ? It is the word by which all things were made. The Lord commanded and the heavens were made, the Lord commanded and the earth was made, the Lord commanded and all creatures came into being.

See, then, how efficacious the word of Christ is. There was no heaven, there was no sea, there was no earth. And yet, as David says, ‘He spoke and it was made; he commanded and it was created.’

To answer your question, then, before the consecration it was not the body of Christ, but after the consecration I tell you that it is now the body of Christ.

He spoke and it was made, he commanded and it was created…You see from all this, surely, the power that is contained in the heavenly word.” What is St. Ambrose’s point? Quite simply and quite powerfully – that Jesus is real!

Likewise, a modern example. This one from St. Pope John Paul II in a letter he wrote for Holy Week 2002. He said, “Before this extraordinary Eucharistic reality we find ourselves amazed and overwhelmed, so deep is the humility by which God ‘stoops’ in order to unite himself with us!

If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? We can only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith.”

My brothers and sisters, the profound question that God places in your heart tonight is this: Do you believe that Jesus is real? Do you believe that He is present in our midst?

If the answer is “yes” then we’ve got to be like the early Christians and that belief has got to be translated through the example of our lives into so much more than words – it must be lived in action; in service!

Our Gospel proclaimed tonight, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Have you ever wondered why it is that on this night that commemorates the institution of both the priesthood and the Eucharist, our Gospel is about foot washing?

We would expect perhaps to have a passage from Matthew, Mark or Luke related to the bread and wine of the Last Supper. Instead, we’re given the washing of the feet. John gives us an example where Jesus turns things upside down through a tremendous act of humility.

The Master washes the feet of the servant. Peter is stunned, “You will never wash my feet!” But Jesus shows that the transformative power of His love is most effective when turned into humble service.

In the washing of the feet, Jesus turns the Mantle of Privilege that comes from being the Son of God into an Apron of Service transforming the world with humble love.

Jesus shows us that when we recognize Him in the Eucharist; when we have internalized Him in our lives; we most powerfully make Him truly present to our world by the simple act of washing feet; simple acts of service that make Jesus real.        We have been blessed in these recent days to have such a profound example of exactly this type of humble service in our Holy Father, Pope Francis, haven’t we?

Certainly, as Pope, as leader of more than a billion Catholics throughout the world, he has assumed a Mantle of Privilege as well – one that comes with tremendous authority, power and the trappings of a such a position.

But, we know that from the time that he has been Pope, he has set the Church and the world on its head with his simple form of humble leadership. From the moment of his election, he has chosen the Apron of Service as the hallmark of his leadership of the Church.

Like Christ, he is giving us an example that we too should do. I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you also should do.

So, the question tonight is this: are we willing to take off our outer garment?  Are we willing to lay down our own Mantles? For us it may not be a Mantle of Privilege, it might instead be a Mantle of pride or jealousy, anger or selfishness, laziness or greed.

Whatever our Mantle is, can we lay it down and replace it with the Apron of Service? Because when we take off our outer garments then all things are possible for us – in and through God. Someone said, “When we are young we think we can change the world by sheer force of will.

We march for our causes, speak out to be heard, we protest and write letters. But, as we grow in spiritual maturity we may realize that the way to change the world is to put down our placards and pick up a towel and basin.”

My friends, on this Holy Night, look into the mirror that is Jesus Christ in His Sacred Body and Blood. Look there until you see your own image reflected in the face of Jesus. Then, become that mirror for the world, reflecting the face of Christ to all who see your face.

Reflect Christ through your own humble, simple acts of service to one another. Put on the Apron of Service and follow the example that Jesus has given us; the example that St. Francis followed; the example that Pope Francis now witnesses to; the example that we are all called to follow.

My friends, Jesus is real!  Let us be filled once again with the Real and Abiding Presence of Christ here tonight and let us become his Real and Abiding Presence in our world. Let us become like Him, washers of feet.

“‘Do you realize what I have done for you…I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Amen.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – 17

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – 17

Is.50:4-7; Phil.2:6-11; Mtt.26:14—27:66

If we listen carefully to today’s sacred readings, and to the beautiful prayers of the Mass, we have there a review of our Catholic education and formation. We are reminded that, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds shouted “Hosanna”—which is Hebrew for “Grant your salvation!”

It is a form of exultant greeting and acclaim. Jesus enters Jerusalem just as Zechariah, in the Old Testament, had prophesied.

In the reading of the Passion, we are reminded that Jesus, humbling Himself out of love for us, did not shield his face from blows and spitting, but offered His life on the cross to atone for our sins.

And we are reminded that, as Jesus died on the Cross for us, he quoted from the 22nd Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This quotation does not indicate despair, for Jesus knew the entire 22nd Psalm, which joyfully concludes.

In the reading, today from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, he reminds us how Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . ., humbling himself, [and] becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.

We wear red today because it signals the blood of martyrs; and Jesus is the greatest martyr. He gave us His body and blood, not only on the cross, but also in the most holy Eucharist, which is really, truly, and substantially His body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Blood is life-giving; it is the essential element in sustaining us in life. Babies in the womb receive oxygen and nutrients from their mothers’ blood. When natural disasters occur the Red Cross appeals for blood donors. During surgeries, it sustains patients in life.

In many cultures the bonding of people is sealed in rituals that mingle blood. In all cultures blood has a deeply religious significance.

When God brought the Hebrew people out of their slavery in Egypt, the blood of sacrificed lambs marked their homes and they were spared the punishment that fell upon their Egyptian captors.

Later, on Mt. Sinai, when God bound Himself to His people, Moses offered animal sacrifices and then took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

Moses then took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Ex.24:6-8)

As we enter now into Holy Week, blood and the cup of suffering are the centerpiece of God’s saving and life-giving actions.

In the blood of Christ which flowed from His crucified body we are liberated from the ultimate consequences of our sins if we follow in the way of Peter and not in the way of Judas. God offers, we respond, and everything depends upon our response.

How will we respond to Him? Can we and will we accept God’s forgiveness? Judas did not. Peter at first could not but later he did. Pontius Pilate tried to wash his hands of it, denying responsibility.

The Jewish leaders accepted responsibility. “His death is upon us and upon our children,” they declared. Many people in Jerusalem at that time simply didn’t care; they couldn’t be bothered. What about us?

When we drink of the cup, the cup of suffering, we have our own opportunity to drink of God’s life-giving force that empowers us to face this world’s unfairness and injustices. The harsh truth is that millions of innocent people suffer.

The harsh truth is that Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, was innocent and unjustly suffered terrible rejection and pain. Instead of allowing himself to be imprisoned in resentment and hatred, he walked the path leading to redemption and resurrection.

What about us; do we enter into the passion and death of Christ? Or do we simply not care and not be bothered? God offers; what is your choice?

Are we willing to follow Jesus, not just to Church but in our daily life? Are we willing to entrust ourselves to Him even when the future is frightening or confusing, believing God has a plan? Are we willing to serve Him until that day when His plan on earth is fulfilled?

These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Let us take a fresh look at this familiar event. We might be surprised at what we see. It could change us forever. Amen.

4th Sunday of Lent Year A – 17

4th Sunday of Lent Year A – 17

1Sam.16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph.5:8-14; Jn.9:1-41

A blind man is walking down the street with his guide dog one day. They come to a busy intersection and the dog, ignoring the high volume of traffic zooming by on the street, leads the blind man right out into the thick of the traffic.

This is followed by the screech of tires as panicked drivers try desperately not to run the pair down.  Horns blaring around them, the blind man and the dog finally reach the safety of the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

The blind man pulls a cookie out of his coat pocket, which he offers to the dog. A passerby, having observed the near fatal incident, can’t control his amazement and says to the blind man, “Why on earth are you rewarding your dog with a cookie? He nearly got you killed!”

The blind man turns partially in his direction and replies, “To find out where his head is, so I can kick his rear end!”

But as for that blind man in the gospel, he didn’t even have a dog to lead him. He was blind, he was a beggar, there was nothing that people saw in him, and there was nothing he saw in himself. So, it was, until Jesus came along and then things changed.

Earlier on, the disciples had looked at the blind man and asked whose sin it was that caused the blindness – his sin or his parents’ sin?

And then after when the blind man was healed, the Pharisees looked at him and asked what kind of sinner it was that healed the blind man. It is strange that the disciples and the Pharisees and those who had sight could only see one thing – sin!

The disciples saw blindness as a punishment due to sin, and the Pharisees saw that man who was healed of his blindness as a sinner. As for the blind man who was healed, he had his sight restored, and he could see just as the rest who had sight could see.

But as much as he could now see like the rest, there was something he saw that made him different from the rest. When he was asked: What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes? His reply was: He is a prophet.

Not only he saw Jesus as a prophet, that former blind man became a surprise witness in the whole drama. He even confronted and refuted the Pharisees by saying: Now here is an astonishing thing.

He has opened my eyes and you don’t know where he comes from. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing. That was a stunning statement from a surprise witness who was once blind but now could see deeper and see more than the rest.

But this gospel passage is not just about another miracle of healing a blind man. Jesus proclaimed that He is the light of the world. His light is in all of us so that we too can see deeper and see more.

The light of Christ is not some kind of special talent that is given to only some or a few, and which can only be discovered through some kind of talent contest.

We have the light of Christ so that we can see deeper and clearer, and to choose what is from God and reject what is not from God. Indeed, we need the light of Christ to see what is from God and what is not from God because they can look so similar.

For example, HATE has four letters, but so does LOVE. ENEMIES have seven letters; so, does FRIENDS. LYING has five letters; so, does TRUTH. NEGATIVE has eight letters; so, does POSITIVE. UNDER has five letters; so, does ABOVE.

CRY has three letters; so, does JOY. ANGRY has five letters; so, does HAPPY. RIGHT has five letters; so, does WRONG. Jesus gives us His light so that we can see clearly and choose wisely. Let us choose what is from God, and reject whatever that is not.

We have all heard the phrase “Seeing is believing.” The idea comes, I suppose, from skeptical people who won’t believe anything is real or anything is true unless and until they see it for themselves.

In today’s Gospel account the phrase “Seeing is believing” is paradoxically both proved and disproved. It is proved by the blind man eventually seeing Jesus and acknowledging that indeed Jesus is “from God.” The blind man recognized Jesus for who He is.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, men who were sighted, did not or would not see Jesus for who He is. The blind man could see, the sighted Pharisees were blind. Seeing, they would not believe.

Let me turn your attention now to the fact that the blind man’s recognition of who Jesus really is came about gradually… through a process.

When first questioned, he told his neighbors that “the man called Jesus” made paste, put it on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the waters of Siloam. When asked where Jesus was he said he didn’t know.

When brought to the Pharisees who questioned him as to the man who healed him, the blind man said, “He is a prophet.” The Pharisees, as we know, refused to believe that Jesus was anything other than a sinner.

Finally, at the conclusion of the episode, Jesus searched him out and when He found the man he acknowledged that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and then worshipped Him, an act that one gives to God alone. Worshipping anyone or anything else other than God is blasphemy and idolatry.

In short, the formerly blind man acknowledged the divinity of Christ. So, for the blind man, truly, “seeing is believing.” The blind man’s progress in gaining spiritual insight is matched by the spiritual leaders’ step-by-step journey into darkness and blindness.

Even though Christ, the Light of the World, was standing before them their stubborn reliance only on themselves and their blind pride led them into darkness.

Once again, we are dealing in this Gospel account with St. John’s major themes: order out of chaos, light out of darkness, good out of evil, and life out of death. The question now presented itself to us here in this church is: Do we recognize what our real struggle is all about?

What about the presence of God in our lives? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him or do our many concerns blind us? We don’t have to go to the trouble to try and find God. He has come to search us out just as He did the blind man.

God comes to us on this very day and on this very Mass. The Light of the World has come and the darkness shall not overcome it.

There is only one darkness that can prevail, the darkness of our own lack of attention and our own lack of vision when it comes to His presence in our lives. It may be true that we do not willfully ignore God and are blind to His presence, but if “seeing is believing” how can we believe if we do not see?

Lent is time set aside when we try to see God in our lives. Lent is a time when we try to step away from all of our worldly concerns and give some time and attention to what’s going on in our souls.

To strengthen our faith and our belief we need, along with the blind man, ask: “Lord, that I might see” and then expect a miracle, the miracle of seeing the Light of the World in our darkened days.

Our blindness is not the blindness of the Pharisees. Ours is being too busy for time with God, too worried about the cares of this world.

“Seeing is believing.” Oh, Lord, let me see your light, let me recognize your presence in my life; open my eyes because I know who you are and I know what you can do. Oh, Lord, that I may see. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A, – 17

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A, – 17

Exo.17:3-7 / Rom.5:1-2, 5-8 / Jn.4:5-42

Did you ever feel like saying or hear someone say, “There must be something more to life.” Whenever we feel like saying or hear someone say, “There must be something more to life” it shows we need more of Jesus in our lives.

Having Jesus in the center of our lives makes our whole life better. Every day is better with Jesus in the center. When we have Jesus where he belongs our whole life just falls into place.

A father wanted to read a magazine but was being bothered by his little girl. She wanted to know what the United States looked like. Finally, he tore a sheet out of his new magazine on which was printed the map of the country.

Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to her and said, “Go into the other room and see if you can put this together. This will show you our whole country today.” After a few minutes, she returned and handed him the map, correctly fitted and taped together.

The father was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly. “Oh,” she said, “on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got all of Jesus back where He belonged, then our country just came together.”

Yes, when we allow Jesus where he belongs our whole life just falls into place. This season of Lent is a gift from Jesus to get Jesus back where he belongs in our lives and to allow everything in our lives fall into place as it should.

The Prefaces for Daily Masses during Lent – the prayers after the “Holy, Holy, Holy…” – express beautifully this aim and goal during Lent:

Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heat renewed. (Preface of Lent 1)

This great season of grace is your gift to your family to renew us in spirit. (Preface of Lent 2)

Through our observance of Lent, you correct our faults and raise our minds to you, you help us grow in holiness… (Preface of Lent 4)

So, at the end of Lent we want to have our mind and heat renewed, to be renewed us in spirit, to have our faults corrected, our minds raised to God and to have grown in holiness.

At the end of Lent, we want to have the picture of Jesus put back together again properly in our lives because Jesus is the “something more to life” that we are looking for.

This is precisely what happened to the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. This thirst of Jesus is symbolic; it was for her faith that Jesus thirsted. So, during the conversation Jesus gradually helped the gift of faith to grow in her heart.

We see the woman’s faith growing by the way she addresses Jesus; the titles she gives to Jesus show more and more respect and faith as their conversation progresses.

Firstly, she says, “you, a Jew” (Jn.4:9). Then she calls Jesus, “Sir” (Jn.4:11, 15). Then she calls Jesus a prophet. (Jn.4:19) Finally she refers to Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah (Jn.4:29)

All the Samaritans of that town call Jesus the Savior of the world after the two days he spent with them. (Jn.4:42) Jesus awoke faith in her heart. The Preface for today’s Mass says,

“When he asked the woman of Samaria for water to drink Christ had already prepared for her the gift of faith. In his thirst to receive her faith He awakened in her heart the fire of your love.

Let us just go through the Gospel. The conversation began with Jesus asking her for a drink. We hear of two thirsty persons – Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

They are not desperately thirsty but water was their topic of conversation. Jesus was thirsty enough to ask the Samaritan woman for a drink, though Jews do not associate with Samaritans; the gospel makes it a point mention it.

Furthermore, it was a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman! But thirst can make people discard formalities and reservations. Jesus was tired and thirsty and He wanted a drink.

The Samaritan woman was also thirsty and that was why she came to the well to draw water, although it was at an odd time – it was at noon, a time when people would stay indoors because of the heat (and that tells us something about her).

But as their conversation went on, more and more was revealed. The Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well to quench her physical thirst. But there was another kind of thirst that she could not quench.

She could not quench her thirst for true love – she told Jesus she had no husband. But she already had five husbands and the one she has is not her husband. Jesus knew her secrets, but He was gentle in revealing it to her.

He revealed it to her with love and compassion. But He also knew that she had a thirst that wasn’t quenched and that’s why she had secrets that she wanted to hide. Her thirst made her act strangely – she tried to avoid people and she tried to hide her secrets from Jesus.

But Jesus, who is the living water, slowly quenched the thirst in her heart, and with that she did the really astounding thing.

She hurried back to the town, to the people that she had been avoiding, and to tell them to come and see the man who had told her everything she ever did! Her spiritual thirst had made her hide her secrets from people.

But Jesus gave her the living water and the courage to face the truth. Yes, the thirst of the heart can make us irrational and act strangely. In our spiritual thirst, we will even turn to dead waters.

But that will be like trying to quench our thirst with sea water; the thirst will come back with a vengeance. We turn to dead waters when we give in to our desires – our desire for attention and status.

Our desire for success and to prove that we are better than others and to show-off. Our desire for pleasure by indulging in pornography and engaging in immoral acts with others. Yes, we try to quench the thirst of our hearts with dead waters.

But Jesus knows all that we have done. He wants to cleanse us with His living water in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus wants to quench the thirst of our hearts with the living waters of true love, which only He can give.

Let us turn away from those dead waters that will create more dark secrets and make us hide from God and from others. Let us turn to Jesus who gives us the living waters of truth and love, so that our hearts will be at peace with God and with others. Amen.