Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 2, 2008 (John 9: 1-41)
Today’s Gospel selection is a long one dealing with Jesus’ cure of the man born blind in chapter 9 of St. John’s Gospel. St. John builds his Gospel, if you will, around seven “signs,” or miracles of Jesus. I will list these seven signs for you: 1. The Wedding at Cana (2: 1-11), Jesus is the Lord of nature;2. The Healing of the Royal Official’s Son (4: 46-54), Jesus is the Lord of Life; 3. The Healing of the Paralyzed Man (5: 1-15), Jesus is the Restorer of Lost Powers; 4. The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (6: 1-14), Jesus is the food by which we live; 5. The Walking on the Water (6: 16-21), Jesus is our Guide and Helper; 6. The Healing of the Man Born Blind (9: 1-41), Jesus is our Light; 7. The Raising Of Lazarus From The Dead (11: 1-57), Jesus is Lord of Eternal Life. Life does not end with physical death.
Many of these same miracles are also noted in the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. But the synoptics tell these stories to show the love, compassion and power of Jesus, that he is indeed the Messiah. For St. John, he lists these miracles or “signs” with a deeper meaning in mind. This possible deeper meaning is noted in the listing of the signs just given above. The deeper meaning shows the message Jesus was revealing as Redeemer of humankind.
There is much going on in this narration of the miracle as we realize when we read it. The issue of work being done on the Sabbath certainly is part of it. But what is the deeper meaning of this sign that we spoke of a moment ago? Above all, we noted that Jesus is our Light. All of us are afraid in one way or another of the dark. When I go out on a pitch black night, I can’t see what is right in front of me and that frightens me. Could it be that sometimes some people are afraid too of the light, afraid that what we are doing may be seen by others, or afraid of Jesus, the Light, and the changes his way might bring to my life of darkness.
I suspect this was part of the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ problem. They were comfortable the way they were and didn’t want waves made. As I look back on my own life, this was part of my own problem when I knew I had to stop drinking. It sounded so easy to say that word “stop.” But there was more to it than that. What would happen to my life if I all of the sudden admitted I was an alcoholic? What would people think? Would they reject me as a nothing and a weak person? Would I lose my position was pastor of the parish? How would I ever make amends? How would I get over the guilt and shame of what I had done and become? These and other considerations were real at first but after I finally got into treatment they were still there but so were some of the answers to the questions. There were risks but what I wanted then, what had to be if I were to survive, became worth the risks. And we could make a similar list for the Scribes and the Pharisees. They remained resistant to opening their eyes to the Light and to the fact that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life. What would happen to their lives if they admitted this?
The Lenten season is a good time for us to disentangle ourselves from any spiritual blindness and darkness and really unnecessary fears and see if we can get on the road to conversion and happiness despite any risks we must take. With God all things are possible.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 3, (John 4: 43-54)
In the first reading for today’s Liturgy, Isaiah has the Lord saying: “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.” I equate the “old way” here with my way, the way I did things in the past, the way that ultimately brought me guilt, shame, pain and misery. Finally, I realized the truth of the words: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Then I began to look for this way, truth and life and make it mine. In time, the guilt, shame, pain and misery disappeared for the most part.
I don’t think of the past too much anymore. Much of it was pain, misery and stupidity, as I said above. I do think of some of these things sometimes with the idea of never wanting to return to that and that I had better keep on doing what I’m doing to avoid having that happen. And occasionally I look at my past with euphoric recall. There were some good and happy times too, particularly with my wonderful family. It is good to remember these times, For the most part, however, I am thankful to God and happy to be where I am now. The Lord created a new life for me, doing it his way, and I am grateful for this.
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 4, 2008 (John 5: 1-16)
“Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Our Gospel for today begins with the rather pitiful story of the man waiting for 38 years by the pond of Bethesda for someone to help him into the waters when they were stirred by the Spirit of God so he would be healed of his illness.
Whenever the symbol of water is used in the Scriptures, it can usually be tied in some way to the waters of Baptism. And so it is with today’s Gospel. When we are unaware of the “living water” spoken of on the Third Sunday of Lent, we are sick, ill, carrying a mat upon which to rest and wait. When we are, however, aware of the cleansing, healing power of the waters of Baptism, we cast aside the darkness of sin in our lives, get rid of our mat, and begin to walk in the ways of the Lord. Jesus, thank you for your life-giving grace, thank you for your healing, thank you for your cleansing power in my life, for helping me to rise and walk in your way, truth and life.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 5, 2008 (John 5: 17-30)
Jesus, in his humanness, tells us at the end of the Gospel today that he cannot do anything on his own because he seeks not his own will but the will of the Father who sent him. Would that we could make these words of Jesus our own.
Much of the suffering and pain that has come to be in my life comes from my trying to run the show. There was a time in my life when I was indestructible and knew all the answers. I finally came to discover that just the opposite is true. I am powerless most of the time, very destructible, and most certainly do not know all the answers to all of life’s riddles. I have discovered that the only way to survive in a peaceful and happy manner is by surrendering to the will of my Father who created me. And when I think of this, I am immediately drawn to the words of St. Francis of Assisi when he acknowledged the same truth in his life: Lord, what do you want me to do? What do YOU want me to do?; not what do I want to do. I have discovered that this attitude is the only one that makes any sense.
Lord, please tell me today what you want me to do, to be, for you and for my neighbor.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 6, 2008 (John 5: 31-47)
The first reading for today from the Book of Exodus shows us God’s reaction to the behavior of the Israelites as Moses led them out of Egypt and away from Pharaoh to the land of milk and honey. We remember from reading about this journey that they constantly disobeyed the Lord’s will and complained constantly against God who was trying to help them to freedom and happiness. Today’s reading shows God becoming angry with all this nonsense and threatening to let his wrath blaze up against them to consume them and wipe them from the face of the earth.
But Moses intervened, as he had done at other times, and asked the Lord to change his mind, to give the Israelites another chance. We have seen before in these homilies where God and his beloved Son Jesus are great givers of second chances and third and fourth and fifth chances ad infinitum. And again, in today’s reading, God relents in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on the people.
How many times God would have been completely justified in zapping me and you from the face of the earth for some of the things we have done against his law. And yet, in his kindness and love, he has forgiven us and given us another chance to get our heads screwed on right. Lord, thank you so much for your love and your mercy. Help me to do better this time around.
Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 7, 2008 (John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30)
In the Gospel selected to be read for today’s Liturgy, the question of who Jesus really is surfaces again. I am at the point in my life now at age 77 where I am comfortable with following Christ, with a firm belief that he is really the way, the truth and the life. Experience undoubtedly has a lot to do with this. I have tried it both ways: my way and the Lord’s way. As I have said so many times, the twenty or so years I did things my way, when it was all about me, were not the happiest years of my life, that’s for sure. But they were good years in the sense that they showed me the way to go was Jesus’ way and not my own. I guess this was just something I had to prove to myself. Life with Jesus is infinitely better than life without him. Now, after all of these years, I can say that for certain. And it is good for me to say that to myself often.
Life following Jesus, his ways, his values, has been fruitful and exciting. I have discovered the rewards of making progress in being compassionate, caring, forgiving, prayerful and serving. I am happy, content, at peace with God and myself. And for me, that is good, very good. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, when I occasionally decide to give my way another try, it doesn’t take very long to realize I am on the wrong road and make a turn or two and get on the right one again. The experience gained through the years has been good. It has been quite a pilgrimage, but worth it in the long run. Today I am grateful to God even for all the goofs I’ve made because they have led to where things are today. How do you see this in your life?
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 8, 2008 (John 7: 40-53)
Today’s Gospel selection is kind of a follow up on what we said yesterday. When I was writing yesterday’s homily, I did not look ahead to see what today’s Gospel was about. I usually do not do this. And it is amazing how so often the thoughts on one Gospel are reinforced by the following one.
There are all kinds of people in this world, a real menagerie, and all are at different points and places in their beliefs and ideas about Jesus, who he is and what part he plays in their lives. And I am a part of all this. Perhaps no two of us are on exactly the same page. I know no two of us are alike. We are all unique. I think it is important to realize this. Sometimes, in talking to others and interacting with them, I presume they are on the same page I am on. That is a dangerous presumption and almost never true. This is where patience and acceptance and tolerance come into the picture. I have come to realize I cannot become angry and frustrated because all people are not coming from where I am coming from. We are all different and I must remember that.
Lord, help me to be patient, kind and accepting to those who disagree with my point of view and help them be patient and kind and accepting of me.