Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Fourth Week of Lent 2011
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Mt. 17: 1-9
The healing of the man born blind told in this Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent details the controversy between the healed blind man and the Pharisees. The blind man moves toward the light of faith and the Pharisees, as usual, refuse to budge and remain in the darkness of their ignorance. Because the healing happened on the sabbath, the controversy gets even worse. The main problem in this story is that the Pharisees do not know where Jesus is from and they were not open to what he said in order to find out. And so the antagonism of the Pharisees continues.
The question asked of Jesus by the disciples opens the door for a bit of reflection and instruction for us today. They ask Jesus (regarding the blind man), “Whose fault is it (the blindness)? Who sinned, the man or his parents?” People at the time of Jesus had the belief that any physical sickness or infirmity was the result of either the afflicted one’s sin or his parents’ sin. Seems like they had to blame someone for it. Jesus rejected this whole idea. The point for us to ponder here is blaming others for what we have done. We must learn that we are responsible for our own actions. The devil didn’t make me do it and my parents are not responsible for something I have done. One of the criteria for a normal and mature person is accepting the responsibility for one’s own actions.
The main point of this story, I believe, is openness to God’s word. Those who are blind and yet open to God’s word, those who listen to God and obey him, will see the light. But those who claim to be able to see and are not open to what Jesus says will remain completely blind. I have used the example of my hand to show the value of openness before in these homilies. If I take my hand and hold it open, the light will shine on the palm of my hand. But if I clench my hand into a fist and keep it that way, no light will be able to shine on the palm of my hand. It is in darkness and will stay there until I open my hand.
How about us? Do we find ourselves open and listening to what God says to us? Or are we closed in on our own ideas, our own opinions, our own way of doing things? Where, in what areas, do I need to be more open? Answering these questions make for an interesting time of reflection for us.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 4: 43-54
Some authors point out to us that St. John’s Gospel contains 7 signs or “wondrous deeds” of Jesus. In case you are wondering what they are, I will list them: 1. Changing the water into wine at Cana (c. 2). 2. Curing the royal official’s son (c. 4). 3. Curing the paralytic at the pool (c. 5). 4. The multiplication of the loaves and fish (c. 6). 5. Walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee (c. 6). 6. The cure of the young man born blind (c. 7). 7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (c. 11).
The Gospel chosen to be read on this Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent is the second of these signs. A royal official whose son was ill approached Jesus and asked him to come to Capernaum and heal the boy, who was near death. Jesus told him, “You may go; your son will live.” The official believed what Jesus had said to him and started back to Capernaum. On the way back, his slaves came hurrying to meet him and told him his son would live, that he had recovered about 1:00 in the afternoon. The official realized it was just at that time that Jesus told him his son would live.
This cure brought about by Jesus is somewhat different from the other miracles worked by Jesus. Usually he would touch the one he was healing or he was actually present when when he cured the person. But this time Jesus did not go to the person being cured. He simply told the official, “You may go; your son will live.” Jesus cured him without any apparent outward action at all.
It is good for us to remember that when we pray to Jesus for something, he doesn’t have to appear to us, talk to us, or whatever. He simply answers our prayer in his own ineffable way. My God, how great Thou art!
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 5: 1-16
Today’s Gospel selection gives us the 3rd of the 7 “wondrous deeds” contained in the Gospel of St. John: the curing of the paralytic at the pool. The name of the pool was Bethesda and around it “lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.” Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been ill for a long time and he said to the man, “Do you want to be well?”
This pool, along with some others, was thought to have curative powers. Periodically, an angel would stir up the water of the pool and the first person to enter the stirred up water would be healed. The man answered Jesus’ question with a complaint, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus simply said to him in return, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well.
Once again the day was a sabbath and the Jews wanted to know who had performed the cure, who was it who worked on the sabbath. The man did not know, for Jesus had left. Later Jesus found the man again and told him he was the one who had cured him. The Jews then began to persecute Jesus because he did this on the sabbath.
We can mention here that Philo and some rabbis insisted that God’s powers remain active on the sabbath, keeping all things in existence, giving life in birth and taking it away in death. (Philo was a Greek Jewish Biblical Philosopher who lived from 20BC to 50 AD). Evidently Jesus felt the same way.
Jesus came to give us life and to give it abundantly and this purpose didn’t just stop for the sabbath. We are to follow this same course in loving our neighbor. Again, let us remember that people come before things.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 5: 17-30
“I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
Jesus, in our Gospel for this Lenten weekday, speaks of his closeness to the point of identity with the Father. Jesus does nothing on his own, the Father loves the Son and shows him what he himself does, the Son gives life like the Father, it is impossible to honor the Son without also honoring the Father, as the Father has life in himself, so he gave the possession of life to the Son in himself. Then the words of the Son that we should all be able to make our own, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
The will of God for all of us is to acknowledge the Father and the Son as our way, truth, and life. Jesus tells us he did nothing on his own. That should be the goal of all of us. How many, many times I have gone off on my own, doing what I thought was the way, the truth, and the life. And consequently many are the times when I goof things up when I do this. Remember the bracelets that had written on them: What would Jesus do? Not a bad thing to ask ourselves before acting.
Jesus, you are our way, truth, and life.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 5: 31-47
“The works that the Father gave me to accomplish …… testify …… that the Father has sent me.”
Countless times I have read someone quoting St. Francis of Assisi as having said to his Friars: Preach always – and if necessary, even use words. Personally, I have never been able to locate in his writing just where or when Francis said this. But I guess it really doesn’t matter that much. The thought and suggestion is a good one. We preach the Gospel to others far more by our actions that we do by our words and heaven knows people pay more attention to my actions than to my words. People are interested in whether I practice what I preach. It’s that old idea of talking the talk and walking the walk. If the two don’t jive up, then I’m a phony and no one pays any attention to me at all.
Where do I fit in here? Can people tell from my actions that I follow the Gospel, the commands, and the values of Jesus? Or do they hear one thing from me and see another in my actions? Let’s take a little time to check this out in our reflection time today.
Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30
For nine years (1981-1990) I lived and ministered in Lorain, Ohio, either as a parish priest or as a hospital chaplain. Lorain is about 20 miles west of Cleveland and is located right on Lake Erie. While I was there, the Friars splurged and bought a boat. It was a Lyman, a boat built especially for Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes and can kick up very quickly to very high waves in a storm. Our boat was built to take this beating, but if we got caught in a storm we still found it wise to point the boat into the wind, into the waves, to keep from capsizing.
Jesus did the same thing. When he was faced by difficulties or the storms of life, he turned into the wind. He didn’t turn the other way and try to run away from the storm or opposition. How about us? When we encounter the storms of life, do we turn into them, face them, or try to turn the other way and flee?
Lord, with your grace and your strength, help us to keep our noses into the wind.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
John 7: 40-53
“Have any of the authorities of the Pharisees believed in him?”
Some of the crowd wanted to arrest Jesus and sent guards to bring him in. But they returned empty handed. “Why did you not bring him?” the crowd asked. “Have you also been deceived?” And then the Pharisees asked the guards, “Have any of the authorities of the Pharisees believed in him?”
The people were beginning to think for themselves about Jesus and not like the Pharisees wanted them to think. Nicodemus, one of their members, did not believe what they had to say about Jesus. The Pharisees thought everyone should believe as they did. And undoubtedly many of the people did so.
How about us? Are we influenced by the beliefs of others without taking the time to study things and develop our own ideas and opinions based on our values? Just because the guy across the street is prejudiced against those who have a different religion than he, doesn’t mean I have to be that way too. If so and so jumped off a high bridge, would I follow?
Lord, help me to make up my own mind on things and issues using your values as my criteria and not necessarily the opinions of others.