4th Sunday of Lent
Saint for the day: St. Peter Regalado (1390-1456)
1st Samuel 16:1 …13
In today’s Holy Gospel, the man who had received his sight told the Pharisees, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ … and I am able to see.” (John 9:12) In St. John’s characteristic style we “see” another of his dramatic stories presented to us as a multi-acts drama with lots of walk-on parts and involving many sub plots. Even when we use the familiar phrase, “Now I see!” we only scratch the surface of what this Gospel is all about. The analogy that I come up with right at the start is: to a person born blind there is only a vague concept of what things look like. I can look at a painting done by Picasso and try to explain what it’s all about to someone born blind but they will only be able to “see it” on a limited level since they have no experience of knowing what seeing really is. One way for sighted people to try to understand what blindness is all about would be for us to try to tell another person what Heaven looks like. We don’t live in the realm of Haven so we will always have a difficult time getting clear concepts across. There are a couple of things that popped out at me with this Gospel that harkens to a creation image: Jesus made mud with his spit to heal the blind man. Just as Adam was formed out of the mud of the earth Jesus was re-creating the blind man into a new person and then sending him off for a kind of baptism ritual at the pool of Siloam. It’s only after this that he gets his sight. I’ll have to go back and see what I said about this 4th Sunday of Lent reading in previous years because I think this is the first time I’ve come up with some of these thoughts. One thing that I’m pretty sure of: many people – when they look at their Missalettes and see how long this Gospel is – will automatically close their ears and not really hear the fullness of this marvelous story. They’ll say that they heard it before, but they’ll end up being blind and deaf! Maybe the one reading this Gospel should end it with, “Let him who has ears to hear see!”
Stop for a moment and think about all the “things” we’ll be “seeing” when we move into Holy Week with all the rituals and symbols of this unique week that we call Holy. Palm branches waving; feet washed; then the Eucharist highlighted and adored – perhaps at an all night vigil. Then the Cross: a symbol of torture becoming a sign of our redemption. Death. Burial and Resurrection. With all of this packed in to a few days we are bombarded with images that are meant to help us see … with eyes of faith … the love that God has for us in sending His only begotten Son to redeem us. OH! Now I see! Amen.
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Saturday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Saint for the day: St. Berthold (died: 1195)
“I tell you … everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
I have to ask myself why this parable seems so familiar to many of us? I know, for myself, I can see images of this scene in my mind. Maybe it does this because it is a common trait that most of us easily fall into. Or maybe it’s the “either/or” thing that we often let dominate our lives. Strangely enough, though, both of these extremes are not what God is looking for in our lives. Sure enough, we all have times when we wonder what God is doing in our lives and why we are having such a hard time following Jesus. The verse of today’s Responsorial Psalm brings us back to where we need to be: “It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.” Maybe it would be better if we read the above by changing that last word from sacrifice to “Judgment.” After all, that’s what did the Pharisee in since both men were not free of wrongdoing. Tax collectors were like mafia in that they played both sides of the line and made a good profit in the process – at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve. The Pharisees were all show and spent most of their time caught up in the small jots and titles of the Law that piled heavy burdens on the backs of the poor. And they, themselves, did nothing to help those who were heavy-laden.
Whenever Jesus uses parables in his teaching we have to be careful about how we place ourselves in the stories. If you look at most any of the parables you should be able to see that they paint a multi-sided picture that tells us something about ourselves and our relationship with God and with others. The story we hear today is not about one or the other. Both of the characters in this story are not free of wrongdoing and the point that Jesus is trying to make is the hypocrisy of both of them. Whenever Jesus heals someone he sends them off saying, “Go, you are healed … and avoid sin in the future.”
You might remember my telling about the priest who ended the Mass by slightly changing the last words of the Mass. Instead of saying, “Go, the Mass is ended” he said, “May the Peace of Christ profoundly disturb you!”
At first glance we might be shocked but if you really think about that it does ring true. If our relationship with Jesus/God doesn’t knock us down in some way or other we have to ask ourselves, what does it do? So there’s some aspect of both the characters in this parable that apply to each of us. Go back and read today’s first scripture from Hosea again and let the last line, especially, be our prayer for today: “For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice. Knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Amen!
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Friday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Saint for the day: St. Hesychius of Jerusalem
“Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming back to me and living deeply our new life.”
These words, from the Weston Priory hymn, are based on today’s first Scripture reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea. Any time you get stuck thinking that God is out to get us go back and read this section of Hosea. It lets us know that God desires to make us as fruitful as possible. I don’t know how many more images he could have packed into this reading to get across the promise that He would always welcome us back into His love.
Just in case we can’t fully grasp this Idea the refrain from today’ s Responsorial Psalm repeats it saying: “I am the Lord your God: hear my voice!” Then Jesus, fully aware of His Jewish roots, answers the scribes question by quoting the well-known – Schema, Israel: “The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind, and with all your strength.” AND … your neighbor as yourself.” (Deuteronomy 6:4ff)
Fr. Donagh O’Shea, an Irish Dominican, writes a commentary on the daily Gospel which often has wonderful insights into the Holy Scriptures. You might enjoy what he says about today’s Holy Gospel and you can get directly to it by clicking on the following “link:” St. Catherine's Bridge. We need to always remember that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. He is the “bridge over troubled waters” and the way for us to get from here to the other side and the Kingdom in it’s fullness. In that sense, the “Shema” is like a “toll-free bridge” as long as we don’t leave off the important last part: “… and your neighbor as yourself!” I think that this is a wonderful image that our Holy Father, Pope Francis is forever trying to get us to grasp. Our task as Christians needs to make us into bridge builders rather than people who put up roadblocks and detours. And we need to always make sure that our love of the Lord, our God, leads us to help those who have no means to get to that “bridge.” We don’t attain any grace just getting ourselves across that “bridge” if we haven’t helped others make the journey. Amen?
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Thursday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Saint for the day: Bl. Francis Faa di Bruno (1825-1888)
“Jesus says, ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’” (Luke 11:23) In the reading from Jeremiah we hear the term “stiff-necked people” and this thought was further advanced with the refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm, “… harden not your hearts.”
Those three verses, captioned above, come together for me as I sit here in the quiet dark of our little house chapel and form a single picture in my mind: I have an image of a tall, slender person – almost stretched out to be scrawny and skeleton-like – with head thrust back and snooty nose high in the air. It’s the image of a person who cares nothing for anyone else and isn’t even aware that there are other people around. We might call this person “self-centered” or “egotistical” and it’s a miracle that they can even move around since their haughtiness has not only hardened their hearts but their lungs and nose are stretched so tightly they can hardly breath. With this stance, they are totally unaware of anybody around them. This image almost scares me and I find myself praying, “A clean heart create for me, O Lord and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Psalm 51:10) If our Lenten Journey is to have any meaning for us that verse above has to be our prayer as we are re-created into caring, loving people. I can even hear the poor and the sick crying out, “Have a heart!” as they struggle to find someone who cares for them. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground when it comes to following Jesus. If we’re not with him we have to ask ourselves where are we? We certainly don’t want to be part of that group that is divided against itself. But don’t let me scare you away. Think back to that parable of the “talents:” It wasn’t that the last guy was supposed to have brought back as much as the first or second person did. But he is thrown out because he didn’t even put his gift in the bank for interest. An act that is totally passive. It shouldn’t surprise us that the Church promotes devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary since this reminds us to soften our approach and make our journey one which is motivated by a clean and loving heart. A creative heart that pumps new life into us and allows us to see with the eyes of Jesus and know the healing power that his loving presence gives to us so that we can share that with those in need. The closing line of today’s Holy Gospel seems to be key: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23) When Jesus says this verse above, how do we know where we stand? Perhaps the answer can be found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 5:22-23. Amen!
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Amen!
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The very Rev. Fr. Lewis Mary Shea, OP was a Dominican friar from the Chicago Central Province of St. Albert the Great,...
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8