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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fourth Sunday of LENT (A)
March 22, 2020


 

  The

  FOURTH

  Sunday

  LENT

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Lent 4 A 2020

The first and third readings today are full of the confused and sometimes wayward thinking that demonstrates how unsettled we human beings often act as we live our lives. That seems to be the case whether it is the task of selecting the future king from among Jesse's sons to match whom God wanted to be anointed or figuring out how a man born blind could suddenly see. Confusion and wayward thinking seem to be prevalent in today's world, too.

There is so much about which to be distracted and confused, and therefore blinded, by the world's current medical crisis! Pushing away those constant and invasive thoughts, the alerts on our phones, and ever-changing news flashes takes significant effort... and success is just not 100%! This crisis is not something we can control or navigate by ourselves... we need the mercy and stability of God.

Our readings this Sunday contain the 23rd Psalm. It is a great time to recall it. I think it is also time to re-memorize it, share it, and try to live it in concrete ways.

It is evident that we need a really strong focus on God so we can follow God's Plan and not lose our way !!! In the second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, we are told, "Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth." How good to remember that each of us been gifted through our Baptism as children of light and beloved of the Father!

What kind of goodness can each of us, through God's grace, produce in this crisis? The answers are as unique as each of us and our circumstances, but yet still bound together in prayer and good works. Take the time to pray and act intentionally.

My brother reminded me that washing your hands well should last about 20 seconds, about the same amount of time to pray the Lord's Prayer. Everyone can do that, even if we can't assemble for a prayer service or Mass. Let us fill our minds, hearts, and days united with prayer and good works!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fourth Sunday of Lent March 22 2020

1st Samuel 16: 1, 6-7, &10-13; Responsorial Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Our reading from the gospel of John this Sunday is a veritable mine of insights and lessons. There is a short form of the gospel for those who can hear only words. The long form of the gospel is for those with imagination that puts them into the story, not as observers, but as participants. There are four main characterizations this Sunday. There are the pompous ones whose life’s work is to control and manipulate with their decrees and versions of truth. These are represented by the Pharisees who claim to know everything, who assume moral and political power to be movers and shakers of society, in control of culture.

Secondly, there are those who are submissive to the Pharisees because those in power can make life very difficult for those who disobey them. Being out of favor with the Pharisees results in rejection by society and even loss of means for survival.

In third place are individuals on the margins of society, accepted as dependent, thought of as objects of pity. Persons of means often consider such individuals as a drain on the resources of society and unproductive. They are viewed as nuisances and avoided.

In the fourth place is a prophet who brings sight to the sightless. This is no ranting demagogue or sniveling do-gooder. This is a prophet who completes his work using the simplest of things to heal, to teach, to reveal the truth of the nation, of the culture, of the systems and logistics of his era.

A fifth characterization with a very small role to play are the bystanders who marvel, gossip a bit, and then turn away to their usual and customary pursuits. They are unimpressed, uninspired, and miss the message.

In this terrible time of the coronavirus pandemic, life is slowed a good bit as we isolate ourselves for our own safety and for the safety of the most physically vulnerable among us. This allows us time to be quiet and think. It is a great time to listen with our hearts and imagination and find in this gospel treasures of great worth, matched pearls, purest gold, and silver outshining the wonder of a full moon. Here are some starter thoughts regarding these characterizations of John. Though written more than nineteen hundred years ago in Ephesus. That ancient city dating back to the tenth century Before Christ was the base for John’s evangelization and his school after the Ascension. Tradition tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived there with John after the Ascension.

Let’s begin with the bystanders. These were the persons who visited the Temple to worship God and to pray for their needs. They noticed this blind beggar and knew him as we would know a landmark passed each day. At times they could be moved to compassion and drop a coin in his collection cup. They would have known nothing about him nor cared to. They would not have thought of him as a person. He was a beggar to be pitied. When he received his sight, they wondered how it happened. And when the wondering passed, they forgot both the beggar and event that changed him from worthless to an active member of the city. How easy it is for us to overlook the wonders of God’s work! How frequent do miracles happen to others we know only as part of the scenery as we pass by? Do we find ourselves moved to compassion passing current day crossroad beggars? Do think of them as victims of their own failures or as rejects of society? Do not these beggars share the image and likeness of God? Our faith teaches us the dignity and worth of every human being comes from God’s sharing? Have we experienced beggar-ness personally? If we have experienced that rejection, that denial of dignity we come out of those circumstances changed.

Let’s next think about the parents of this nameless blind man. What had they thought when they discovered him blind? Did they consider themselves sinners and wonder what they had done to cause this curse upon their son? Did they think of God as a cruel judge getting even with sinners? Was "fear of the Lord" merely a debilitating, cringing emotion that distorted the Creator, the Liberator, and the Father? When their son was given sight, given the possibility of taking a place in society, why did they fear the Pharisees? Was it because they believed the Pharisees were looking for specific answers to questioning? Were they frightened they might be excommunicated, cast out from society and its supportive traditions? Was it necessary to avoid the truth rather than rejoice in an unsolicited gift granted their son? Do we allow the powers of commerce, of entertainment, of wealth, and politics to cloud our sight and thus allow those powers free rein to control thoughts, actions, and intentions?

What about the Pharisees? These are learned men who found a way to interpret the Law of Moses for their advantage. There is advantage in controlling others with moral principles. Law is cut and dried. Persons applying law to every situation, every moment of life puts teachers of the law, policemen of the law, and judges in control. There were other Rabbis who studied the ancient writings and oral traditions especially regarding the covenant agreed to by God. Universally these Rabbis speak of God’s loving kindness as his approach to the covenant. They saw the law as a guide to relationship with the Creator, Liberator and Savior. This is the God of compassion and mercy. But the Pharisees used the Law of the Sabbath to condemn a deed of loving kindness offered by Jesus." They should have known better. But they were more interested in power and prestige than in the good of the blind man. Are we comfortable in our judgements regarding others, even family members? Do we use moral judgments to denigrate, ignore, and even reject others as worthy of dignity? Are we bigots to racial differences, to aliens, to gender, to sexual preference, to national origin, and all other sources of prejudice? Do we believe that all men and women are created equal with inalienable rights? Do we condemn those in poverty as deserving of their condition? Do we give alms because it makes us feel good: should not alms be a recognition of the dignity and worth of the beggar?

Now we come to the main character, the one who is grilled and condemned because of a miracle worked on his behalf. The man born blind has a lot in common with each of us. He has no experience of light except the warmth given off by the sun. He has no idea of color and the brilliance of the diverse hues of creation and human work. He has no idea of facial expressions, of the smile of a mother, of the pride in the eyes of a father. He doesn’t know of frowns or faces tense with anger. He has no idea of the shaking of heads in disapproval or smiles of recognition. He just didn’t know. His neighbors and those who knew him as the blind beggar wondered how he came to sight. Some said he wasn’t the blind one, only someone who looked like him. But the beneficiary of the miracle had no hesitancy. He answered with the words God used to describe himself. "I am." When interrogated by the Pharisees concerned about the violation of the Sabbath – making clay and smearing it on the blind man’s eyes was prohibited work – he could only repeat what it was that happened. When asked about the person who had given him sight, he could only say that man must be a prophet to be able to reverse what birth has denied him. He disagreed with those who said the man who cured his blindness was a sinner since he violated the Sabbath. "How can a sinful man do this?" Then he was asked what he thought about this man. The formerly blind man came to a new conclusion. "He is a prophet." The Pharisees then threw him out insisting that he was blind from birth because he was born in sin. When he was found by Jesus after being thrown out, Jesus asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. The man born blind could only answer, "Who is he, sir, that I might believe in him?" Jesus revealed himself as that Son of Man. That phrase has meaning not only in Hebrew tradition but also in pagan religions. That Son of Man was the one expected to come on a cloud to save humanity from its slavery. This man born blind did not ask to be healed of his disability. This man had no hope of sight, of taking a place in the noise of commerce or sharing in the prayers chanted in the temple nearby. He was sought out by Jesus so that his blindness might be removed and that he could see the Son of Man. Are we blind to the presence of the Christ among us? Are we not born with a blindness of spirit that requires the Christ to take the ordinary material of the world – spit and dirt – to grant us clear sight into the truth? When we wash the dirt from our eyes, we see, and we come to know and to understand. When we wash, we become me in members of the people called together. In that coming together we experience by the company of each other the presence of Jesus who heals us of our blindness. The busyness of life, the pursuits for accumulation, of a place in society, or security on a foundation of wealth all tend to cloud our sight, preventing us from seeing, of knowing the presence of the Living God in our midst. Are we not blinded by our birth into the world of consumerism, of materialism, of ritual, of authority, and of power? Are we not judged by our position in life? Are we not condemned by thinking our faith is foolishness and impractical in the real world? Does not Jesus lead us, gently but surely into accepting him as Lord?

Lastly, there is Jesus. It’s not an easy task to place ourselves in his sandals. To do so requires a great humility. It is most difficult to see others as worthy of dignity and freedom when we ourselves struggle with discovering personal dignity and worth and experiencing the freedom of the children of God. Yet, that is part of this story. Jesus calls us, telling us not to judge others by the circumstances of their lives. Sin is not the cause of a person’s condition. It is not for us to judge. It is for us to heal. It is not for us to claim authority or fame. It is for us to make the Lord present to our families, to our neighbors, to our Assembly, to our state, to our nation, and certainly to our world. That is our mission as followers of the Christ. That is our fulfillment as walkers of the Way.

This is Rejoice Sunday. We’re halfway through our period of cleansing, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. How are we doing? Are we making progress in healing our blindness?

Carol & Dennis with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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SEEING IN THE DARK: 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT A

You and I belong to a Christian community of stories and storytellers. In the telling of the stories of Jesus especially, our own stories are told. As we identify with the people in those stories, with their distress, anger, anxiety, hopes, fears, struggles, sadness and joy, we too make living contact with our Savior. We are challenged by his words, supported by his love, and healed by his touch.

Today's gospel reading is the story of Jesus the Light of the World. It’s the story too of the blind man. It’s our story too. Three stories are interwoven and interconnected.

The blind man has lived in a world of darkness from the day he was born. He has never seen his room, his table, his chair, his bed, his door. He has never seen flowers, or trees, or children. He has never seen anything or anyone. Besides, he is poor and without any means of support. With nothing like an invalid pension to ease his distress, he is reduced to begging in the streets. His struggle for survival is aggravated by contempt, insults, and abuse from others.

‘Leading Lights’ in his town are baiting him with their ignorant accusation: 'Your blindness was caused by your sins.' Even after his blindness is plainly cured, they keep up their sneers: 'What you allege just didn't happen. This Jesus fellow is a sinner. Sinners cannot cure people. Anyway, you weren't blind in the first place. You were just faking it.'

All through his ordeal the patient sufferer never loses his cool, and replies to every accusation with the unvarnished truth. And through it all he grows in his appreciation of the greatness of the one who helps and heals him.

At first, he sees in Jesus a man with special powers, one who can smear mud on a blind person's eyes and make the sufferer see again. Next, he comes to see that Jesus is a prophet, a messenger of God. Finally, he recognizes Jesus as his Lord and King, and bows down and worships him.

As the blind man's story unravels bit by bit, the story of the greatness of Jesus is also told. He speaks and acts as the light shining in the darkness, one which will never be put out. He repudiates the prejudice that physical blindness is caused by sin. He speaks of getting on with God's healing work while there is daylight left to do it. He sees the urgency of the blind man's plight and goes to the rescue immediately. He ignores the ignorant and foolish chatter of his enemies. And when the man he delivers from blindness is expelled from the synagogue, Jesus seeks him out, and empowers him to develop a livelier faith, a surer hope and a deeper love.

Where do we find our own story in all this? For each of us - old, middle-aged, or young - the blind man's story is the story of our becoming Christians, by means of both faith and baptism. In the early days of the Church, when people were baptized as adults rather than children, baptism had the name 'The Enlightenment'. At our baptism, our priest lit a candle from the Easter Candle, symbol of the Risen Lord, and handing it to our father or godfather for us, said: 'Receive the light of Christ.'

Even as the story of the blind man's enlightenment shows us the influence of Jesus on the blind man’s honesty, courage, determination, faith, hope and love, it also shows us what it means, as the ritual for Baptism puts it, to ‘walk always as a child of the light' . It means nothing less than seeing, feeling, judging and acting, as Jesus himself has done. It involves asking again and again that WWJD question: ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

In Peter Shaeffer's play Equus, the psychiatrist remarks: 'I need a way of seeing in the dark.' In today's gospel reading, St John leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is that way. We are hopelessly blind if we think that we've got life all figured out, or that we've got it all together, and that we don't need Jesus to enlighten us, and show us a purer, better, more genuine and more generous way of living.

In the light of the gospel today, each of us might surely want to say to Jesus: 'Lord Jesus, how much blindness is there still left in me? How much selfishness do I still display? How much insensitivity, how much prejudice, how much snobbery, how much self-righteousness, how much hypocrisy, how much pride, how much contempt for others? Lord Jesus, just how many blind spots do I have?'

And each of us might want to pray three famous short prayers: - 1. 'Lord, that I may see, Lord, that I may see.' 2. Lord Jesus, give us the grace to see ourselves as others see us.’ And 3. ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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