Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lord, that I may see!

HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT, March 30, 2014:

Join me in song for a moment – you all know this one: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Thank you. I think we might have some new members for the Choir here.

I was blind, but now I see. Our Scriptures today are full of these opposing images – darkness vs. light; blindness vs. sight. "Surely we are not also blind, are we?" is the surprising question that we hear from the Pharisees and it is a question that is meant to resonate in our hearts today as well. Could it be possible that we, too, are blind?

We have a story of Jesus before us today that is functioning on different levels. On the surface is a spectacular story of the power of Jesus; His power to heal. How amazing it must have been to be present and see this scene. Everyone knew this man to be blind all his life. And, now through this dramatic action of mud and saliva, Jesus restores physical sight to the man. And, all are amazed, but the story quickly shifts away from that level to the deeper level.

It is a level that asks a fundamentally spiritual question – where does real blindness exist? Is it merely in the eyes? Or is real blindness in the heart; in the soul? This could easily direct us to a reflection on our sin and on our need to turn to God for forgiveness – especially the forgiveness that is found so powerfully in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, this should be a part of our regular spiritual practice – especially so during Lent.

Maybe you even saw this earlier in the week as our wonderful Pope continues to surprise us. On Friday, he was leading a Reconciliation Service in Rome and when it came time to hear confessions, he was being lead to his confessional by his Master of Ceremonies, when spontaneously, surprising even his MC, the Pope made a mad-dash for another confessional and there the Pope knelt before the priest and himself went to confession. Confession is good for the soul; confession clears the blindness of our hearts. Even Bishops and Priests; and yes, even Pope, needs those healing waters; and no, we can’t absolve ourselves in a mirror! And, here we have the Pope, once again, walking the walk, showing – not merely telling us – what we are called to do; called to be.

Our Scriptures today about blindness could easily simply be a reflection on that reality of sin and an encouragement to confession, but I think they are also calling us to something more. They are calling us to see. They are challenging us to no longer accept the blindness that exists in our lives, but to open the eyes of our hearts and see!

You may have heard of the author John Howard Griffin. He is well known for his book Black Like Me, which describes his experience of living disguised as a black man in the South in the early 1960s during years of bitter racial turmoil. It was also later made into a movie. What is not widely known about Mr. Griffin, though, is that during World War II, he was blinded in an airplane explosion; and he lived for 12 years completely blind. He could not see anything. Then one day, walking down a street near his parent’s home in Texas, he suddenly began to see what he described as “red sand” and without warning his sight returned. A specialist later told him that he had been suffering from a blockage of blood to an optic nerve that had suddenly cleared. Referring to that experience, Griffin told a news reporter, “You can’t imagine what it is like for a father to see his children for the first time. I had constantly pictured them in my mind and then there they were - so much more beautiful that I had ever imagined.”

Blindness, whether physical or spiritual, is also about what we are failing to see. Did you ever stop to realize that the very first words that God speaks in the Bible are these, “Let there be light.” The very first words of God are to make it possible for our eyes to see the beauty of His creation; to see literally His presence that is all around us. When we are spiritually blind – that is really the heart of the matter – we are blind because we have failed to see God who is right in front of us; all around us; speaking to our hearts; speaking to our lives.

Surely, we’re not blind too, are we? That question is meant to echo in our hearts today. And the answer is yes, we are blind to the degree that we fail to see God around us. Can we see Him here, in this Church? Do we see Him present in His Word and Sacrament; in each other? More importantly, what happens when we walk out of those doors? Do we see Him there? In our husbands and wives; in our sons and daughters; in our friends and family and co-workers? How about in the homeless person, the drug addict, the lost and the forsaken? How about the immigrant, the prisoner, the enemy?

Our blindness has not fully been healed until no matter where we look, we see only God; we see only a brother or a sister; we see only the Kingdom.

There, of course, have been so many powerful moments in this first year of Pope Francis – his washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, his embrace of the young boy with cerebral palsy on Easter Sunday, and the man with the disfiguring skin condition; his joyful experience with the young boy who would not leave his side; his mad-dash to the confessional on Friday. His eyes are open to the presence of God all around us; and I think each of these actions of his are meant to help open our eyes to that same presence of God in our lives. Let there be light. Let us see the light. Let us be the light.

Surely, we are not blind too, are we? Let us today invite God to shine His light on any blindness in our lives; to heal any blind spots in our hearts; any places where we can’t see Him. And let us hear the words of St. Paul meant for us, “Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

"Lord that we may see."

Join me again, won’t you? “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”



May God give you peace!

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