1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 2: 14, 22-23
Peter does in this passage what Jesus did in the gospel. He uses Scripture to shed light on God’s saving plan that has been unfolding in their midst. The speech is trying to motivate the hearers to repentance and conversion. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 294-296)
This really takes place after Pentecost in ‘Luke’s story’.This is an example of typical early Christian preaching. There are 4 parts to the early ‘kerygma’ or ‘creed’:
- Jesus was a man sent by God.
- Jesus was a man empowered by God to overcome evil.
- Jesus was a man who was betrayed, who suffered and died.
- Jesus was then raised and vindicated by God.
This ‘sermon’ is given here by Peter, now transformed by the Spirit of Risen Christ. Peter who slept in the garden and then denied Jesus in fear now proclaims the same Jesus with joy and power. Here is the power of Jesus’ Resurrection! Peter challenges all of us to be so transformed.
The early Christians turned to their Scriptures, just as we do, to help them understand the happenings in their lives. Here Peter uses Psalm 16, and so it was chosen to be the psalm for this Sunday (our closing prayer). Notice how it is about Jesus – and about us.
It was impossible for Jesus to be held in captivity by death; this is what Peter declares to his listeners. Christ could not be held by death because in his cross he had overcome it. Death – theologically, at least – is our ultimate separation from God the source of life. Jesus was not held by death because of some abstract quality of divinity; it was his complete obedience to the will of God (trusting, listening obedience) that kept him more convinced always of God’s love than the evil and suffering around him. It was not some magic act due to his divine powers. It was this trust and obedience that overcame human alienation and separation from God (what is meant by sin and death). (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1: 17-21
The great Easter truth is not that we live newly after death . . .But that we are to be new, here and now, by the power of the resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever, as that we are to live nobly now because we are to live forever. (Phillip Brooks)
In this passage we have to be careful not to take the language of ‘ransom’ and ‘blood’ too literally. The language is somewhat crude and cultic, but it is meant to speak of the liberation that we as Christians have as we come to understand the meaning and consequence of Jesus’ death. His blood speaks of Jesus’ total surrender and trust to his Father’s will and life. In this trust Jesus found the way through death to eternal life with his Father and our God. There is fear here on this side of the grave. But, like Jesus, let us surround our fears with trust in the God who loves us and has ultimate power over death. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
From Richard Rohr: “We can’t see love, but we can see what happens to someone who is loved – the power and gentleness of those who let themselves be loved by Jesus, endless life, welling up within . . . “
The Gospel – Luke 24: 13 – 35
Each time we gather for Eucharist we experience this Emmaus story. It is a ‘pattern’ for Eucharist and for conversion. We share the story of Jesus. We invite the stranger, invoke a blessing, and share a meal. In this breaking of the bread our eyes are opened; our hearts come alive with a new fire. Here on this side of the grave and eternity, we can know Jesus; we can experience his presence. Our hearts can burn with the insight and encounter that comes to us from our Lord, a reality we can trust. (Celebration, April, 2005)
The early church had to express and reflect on their encounter with the Risen Jesus. Certainly for all of us, too, life is a journey, full of joy and newness, grief and doubt. Like all people on a journey, these early followers were living a time of transition: they needed to learn to live the Paschal Mystery – the mystery of new life through death. After Jesus’ death, he did not get his ‘old life’ back. His resurrection was about receiving a new life – a richer life that was never going to end again in death. This is our salvation, too. With Jesus, we journey from the tragedy of Jesus’ death and absence in the empty tomb to his presence in and with them in a powerful, new way. (R. Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, 142-150)
Notice how Jesus’ use of scripture helps them to understand and see the present reality in a new way. Jesus points out to them the sacred pattern of a prophet. God’s purpose and plan must be realized – made real and apparent – in an unruly world. By not annihilating such a world – nor robbing it of its power of decision and action – God’s prophets and servants are faced with the suffering that such a world causes. Since the world does not easily submit to God’s Word and plan, Jesus had to follow the pattern of all great prophets: work against evil and injustice; then be willing to face hardship, even rejection and death. Jesus helped these two followers to remember the past effectively — with help from the scriptures, Jesus helped them to bring the truth to the present and apply it to the future. This is what Jesus offers us at each Eucharist. (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, 294-296)
From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, pp. 30-41, 60-66:
Yes, we must mourn our losses… To grieve is to allow our losses to tear apart feelings of security and safety and lead us to the painful truth of our brokenness… Our grief makes us experience the abyss of our own life in which nothing is settled, clear, or obvious, but everything is constantly shifting and changing… But in the midst of all this pain, there is a strange, shocking, yet very surprising voice… “Blessed are those who mourn… there is a blessing hidden in our grief… in the midst of our tears, a gift is hidden… the question is whether our losses lead to resentment or to gratitude… The great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist… is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately linked with its fragility and mortality… I still remember… “It is only the broken soil that can receive the water and make the seed grow and bear fruit.” We must take the brokenness of our lives and place it under the blessing of God’s love. We need to lift our little stories up into God’s great story… the great temptation of our lives is to deny our chosen-ness, our belovedness, and so to be trapped in the worries of our daily lives. We not only need to see the manure that covers the soil, but the fruits on the trees that sprung from it.
Notice that at the moment of ‘open-eyed’ recognition of Jesus, he vanishes from their sight. Luke’s point is clear: from that time on, the disciples would meet Jesus, know him, be fed and taught by him at every Eucharistic encounter. And in a sense their ‘vision’ is so improved that they find it no problem to journey back to Jerusalem at night – full of joy and energy. (Celebration, April 2005)
These two disciples are leaving their faith community. They do not even place much credence in the ‘women’s testimony’ concerning the empty tomb. In fact, it seems that it is this very testimony that motivates them to leave. They are hitting the road, deep in confusion. Yet, Jesus joins them. This story is sort of a metaphor about how God deals with someone who has gone away; perhaps it is also an image of how we are to deal with each other in our unbelief. It is a story of paradoxes – of faith and crisis, of distance and closeness, of seeing and blindness, of light and darkness. Sometimes it is only as we look back – when we ponder and reflect – that we realize that God’s presence and closeness was real. And so, present with him at the table, they finally recognize the gift of the presence that was there all along, walking away, talking away, wondering why, telling their woe, hearing his story once again. Maybe their sense of loss, their longing for hope, was hope. Maybe even their desire to believe was believing — even their longing to love was love. Maybe the God-we-find-in-Jesus can see all the way through to our broken hearts and clouded minds. It happened back then on the road – it can and will happen to us also on our road of life if we but welcome his presence. (John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Engaged” http://litrugy.slu.edu )
From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, pp. 95- 97:
For communion with Jesus means becoming like him . . . And Communion creates community. Christ, living in them, brought them together in a new way. The Spirit of the risen Christ, which entered them through the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, not only helped them recognize Christ himself but also each other . . . the God living in us helps us recognize the God in our fellow humans . . . this new body is fashioned by the Spirit of love. It manifests itself in very concrete ways: in forgiveness, reconciliation, mutual support, outreach to people in need, solidarity with all who suffer . . .
Let us pray (Psalm 16 The Message Version):
1-2 Keep me safe, O God,
I’ve run for dear life to you.
I say to God, “Be my Lord!”
Without you, nothing makes sense.
3 And these God-chosen lives all around—
what splendid friends they make!
4 Don’t just go shopping for a god.
Gods are not for sale.
I swear I’ll never treat god-names
5-6 My choice is you, God, first and only.
And now I find I’m your choice!
You set me up with a house and yard.
And then you made me your heir!
7-8 The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake
is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I’ll stick with God;
I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.
9-10 I’m happy from the inside out,
and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
that’s not my destination!
11 Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I’m on the right way.
1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47
This is the first of 3 summaries that Luke has in Acts. Ancient Greek writers used the word, Acts, to refer to the feats of great persons: the Acts of Hercules, the Acts of Hannibal, the Acts of Alexander, etc. This book (by the same writer as Luke’s Gospel) is sort of a cultic biography. It is a rather idealized version of the early church – the first people who knew and lived the reality of the Risen Christ. It acts like a norm by which we are to measure our attempts at being church.
The Resurrection of Jesus was and is a community-evoking, community-forming event! Before the experience of the Risen Lord, these people had little impact on the world. They lived small ordinary lives. But after the resurrection, they had become a community – persons who were interrelated, interdependent, and mutually supportive. Alone, they had been almost ineffective, but together they became “a formidable presence” for good – “alone they seemed powerless, but together, united in their presence of the risen, living Christ, they began to change the way human beings look at life, at death, at God, at one another. This reading shows us the four foundations on which such a community can be built: 1) The teaching of the apostles: faith formation – bringing the implications and applications of the Gospel into the ever changing present circumstances of real life. 2) The communal life: caring for and about each other; it was a community that began to be formed “from every nation under heaven.” Despite their diversity, they gathered in fellowship. 3) The breaking of the bread: being nourished by Jesus’ presence in ritual and in word. 4) Prayers: an individual and communal living-out of a love relationship with God. (Celebration, April 2005)
2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1: 3-9
The author of this letter was probably a disciple of Peter, the apostle, or even an associate of Paul’s. The theology is very similar to Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It might have been written between 70 – 90 AD. It is written in very cultivated Greek, and it uses the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. There was intense, widespread persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). This emperor demanded that he be adored as Dominus et Deus, Lord and God. Unlike Nero’s attack on the church in the middle 60’s, Domitian caused Christians to suffer as far away as Smyrna and Pergamum. These Christians also suffered much local hostility from their own neighbors who defamed them and regarded them as ‘evil-doers.’ (Celebration, April 1999 and 2002)
Our new life in Christ is seen in the midst of these troubles as a precious “inheritance” – “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” – bringing us through death to a “new birth to a living hope.” Ironically, we often ‘inherit’ things through a death – but even more significantly we inherit things usually within the context of a family: “those who are birthed anew through the experience of Jesus’ resurrection belong together as a family… both in the present and in the future.” (Celebrations, April 1999, 2005)
As much as we would like it otherwise, ‘feeling good,’ ‘feeling fulfilled,’ can have little to do with true goodness and ethics. What really tests our goodness is not whether we tell the truth when it is easy or profitable, but whether we tell the truth when it is difficult, daring, even dangerous . . . Being faithful when it is easy and rewarded is one thing; being faithful when it is difficult and unappreciated is another. Faith in the Risen One is there for the good times — but it is even more vital for the times of fear, confusion, grief, and pain. Faith is not the absence of pain or sorrow; it is bearing pain and sorrow in faith – trusting that these evils will not have the final word. God’s word of love will. Such faith does not take away wounds, but it can transform them. (John Kavanaugh, “The Word Embodied” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
The Gospel – John 20: 19-31
What meaning do you find in this reading? the locked doors…the meaning of ‘the fear of the Jews’ – the ‘authorities’…shalom — “Peace be with you,” Jesus’ greeting…Jesus breathing on them (Genesis 2: 7; Ezekiel 37)…the power of forgiveness…the binding that comes from the lack of forgiveness…the wounds of Jesus…Thomas’ experience of doubt and faith
What can we learn from Thomas?
1st, we see the importance of community – we can miss a lot if we separate ourselves from community. When sorrow overwhelms us, it is then that we need to see that we can “seek the heart and mind of Christ” in other believers.
2nd, Thomas was honest – and even bold. When he had doubts and questions he did not deny his doubts “by pretending that they didn’t exist.” He took them directly to Jesus. (Celebration, April 2005, and Quest, Spring 2005)
The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6).
This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and…
View original post 577 more words
Triduum means “three days”: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. But I’m going to be a rebel and talk about the forgotten day in the middle…Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday is this awkward, in-between time. A not-knowing time, where everything just sits and you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. Some people fear the worst, some people hope for the best. Fear often creeps in. We often turn inward and go to that dark, hellish place. We’ve all had our Holy Saturday moments. Maybe we are waiting for test results, or a friend to come out of surgery. Maybe we applied for a job, or college. Maybe we are just in the rut of life, and don’t know where we are headed. Holy Saturday is unfinished and uncomfortable.
Traditionally, Holy Saturday is considered the day that Jesus descended into hell. You know how we say in the Apostles’ Creed, “…suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified; died and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead,”. You would think hell would be where Jesus could not be. But he goes there anyway. Jesus does not want us to be alone, even in our sin. Even if we let fear creep in and we try to shut our Lord out, he runs into the depths to find us. This is how Jesus enters into our lives. Jesus comes to be with us in our Holy Saturday moments, so we can rise with him on Easter.
Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar expanded on the insecurity of Holy Saturday. He begins with the emptiness of it all. “Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell.” But then as the day progresses, “Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.” And then finally, hope dawns. “High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.”
As you walk through the Triduum, may you hold on to that hope which will spring forth. When you face the challenge of Holy Saturday, be at peace and turn to the Lord. He will go down into your desolation and fear, and He will raise you up with Him.
Father Bob’s homily Palm Sunday…
Palm Sunday A
It says in the Roman Missal that the reading of the Lord’s Passion is then followed by a brief homily. Then there is a picture of tiny Catholics cheering, which seems a little unnecessarily mean.
The grim and gripping story of the Lord’s passion seems so foreign and bizarre. How could they not see the innocence in Jesus? How could they do that to one who only wanted love and justice to prevail? It was so outrageous and so real to me as a kid that I can remember praying the Stations of the Cross and telling my mother that it is great that we are praying and all, but shouldn’t someone go to Jerusalem and actually stop this!
Yet, that is not how everyone hears this story. For some, it is not foreign or bizarre. For some it is their reality. For some it is…
View original post 738 more words
I often think how The Lord is with me — with us — and yet I can go through my day rather unaware… So I’ve come to treasure a prayer to help me to focus on this loving Presence that permeates my life — all life. In Mass it comes at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. For me it has become a sort of mantra: “Through you, Lord, with you, Lord, in you Lord.” When in difficulties, problems or grief, I find these words bring strength somehow. When happy or celebrating, they bring me gratitude and a good sense of humility. They are great words to exercise through — and with. These words can become a morning prayer, a walking prayer, a pondering prayer — and a good night prayer along with a thank you, Lord! I share this in case you might find it helpful also.
Do you ever think about how wonderful it is to stand at different parts of our Mass? I do! When we stand in prayer with the presider who represents Christ, we are standing with Jesus and for Jesus. It is a position of commitment and purpose. I once read in an article that the early Christians decided to stand around the table of The Lord because that was the position of the servant at meals. Like Jesus who said he came to serve, so they also stood ready to serve — to be one with Christ. We stand at the gospel showing our readiness to be a part of this Good News. We stand at the Eucharistic prayers ready to offer our ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ — uniting ourselves with Christ’s. We stand at the Our Father together — one in God’s family. We then receive The Lord walking upright together. At the end of our Mass we stand waiting to be blessed and sent out to be the presence of the Risen Lord in a world in need. As we head toward Easter I also think what a lovely resurrection position it is. May we rise up with joy and love this Easter!
It is wonderful to walk in spring, isn’t it? Even wet patches seem ‘mud-luscious’! And just wait until the leaves start to burst out of dead- looking branches– and flowers pop their heads out of the cold earth! It is precious time to walk AND pray. I like to use the line from our Mass prayers: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!” Maybe as we pray this simple prayer, our hearts will burst open with gratitude and love for the many wonders of life.
The Gospel: Matthew 26: 14 – 27: 66
Thoughts on the Gospel at the Procession:
In Jesus’ day the Jewish people had hoped that the Messiah would come with military power and might – and that with that power he would free them. But Jesus came and opened a new way. Just as he rode to Jerusalem on a donkey, an ass, a pack animal, rather than arriving with armies and angels, so he opened a new path for the reign of God, the Kingdom of God. He preached about God who cared for the least, who sought the lost and the poor and counted the hairs of one’s head. This God reached out to the Gentiles, the enemies of the Jews and spoke of loving one’s enemies as if it were possible. His idea of the reign of God and how a Messiah might act was incomprehensible to many of the people. This was not the way a messiah ought to act. This could not be God or God’s servant. (Celebration, April 13, 2002)
What does the word Passion mean for you?
A dictionary says that it means strong emotion and agitation, such as ardent love, eager desire, even rage. It also means intense suffering. Jesus is the face of God: “He is the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) What do we learn of God in his passion?
Jesus does not want followers who seek after suffering; he does, however, want followers who seek after truth and love and are willing to suffer in order to live this truth and love in their real lives.
Thoughts from Prof. Dr. Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) Theology of the Cross from his book: Einfuhrung in das Christentum (Introduction to Christianity):
In many devotional books we encounter the idea that Christian faith in the cross is belief in a God whose unforgiving justice demands a human sacrifice – the sacrifice of his own son. This somber and angry God contradicts the Good News of God’s love and makes it unbelievable. Many people picture things this way, but it is false. In the Bible, the cross is not part of a picture of violated rights; the cross is far more the expression of a life which is a ‘being for others.’
This is an appalling picture of God, as one who demanded the slaughter of his own son in order to assuage his anger. Such a concept of God has nothing to do with the New Testament. The New Testament does not say that human beings reconcile God; it says that God reconciles us.
The fact that we are saved ‘through his blood’ (Hebrew 9:12) does not mean that his death is an objective sacrifice . . . In world religions, the notion which dominates is that of the human being making restitution to God in order to win God‘s favor. But in the New Testament the picture is the exact opposite. It is not the human being who goes to God, to bring him a compensatory gift or sacrifice; rather, it is God who comes to human beings with a gift to give us. The cross is not the act of offering satisfaction to an angry God. Rather, it is the expression of the boundless love of God, who undergoes humiliation in order to save us.
Christian worship is not the act of giving something to God; rather, it is the act of allowing ourselves to receive God’s gift, and to let God do this for us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian who died at the hands of the Nazis on April 8, 1945. In his book The Cost of Discipleship, he talks about cheap grace and costly grace:
Cheap grace is when we look to ourselves for what we have in life. The blessings we have are taken for granted. We can do what we want without retribution. Cheap grace places ourselves in the center. It is easy. There is no personal responsibility, unless it is to take credit for the good. But it is empty. No, grace was bought at a price in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 6:19-20). There is more to life than living in cheap grace.
Jesus died on the cross to save us. He was without sin, yet he died for all of our sins so that we would know eternal life. That is costly grace. Living in that grace understands that. It is looking to God for what we have in life, knowing it is all from God. God is the center. It is being a disciple, wanting to do what is right because that is what Jesus did. It is wanting to please God, knowing God’s grace is a free gift but having the desire anyway. It is a fulfilled life. It is, “…water on parched ground, comfort in tribulation, freedom from the bondage of a self-chosen way, and forgiveness of all sins,” (Bonhoeffer, p. 52). Costly grace is living with the knowledge of what Jesus had to do to allow us the freedom of eternal life, and being grateful for it.
“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, as so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world, “(Bonhoeffer, p. 60). There is a freedom in knowing you are living the way you were meant to live. That you are answering a call, or at least attempting to do so.
Jürgen Moltmann, another Geman theologian, witnessed the Allied fire-bombing of Hamburg and was held as a prisoner of war by the British. It was there that he developed his theology of the cross. From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God (p. 61):
While his Son is dying on the cross, God the Father suffers too, but not in the same way. The Father suffers the loss of his Son, experiencing infinite grief. There is total separation between them; they are lost to each other. At the same time, however, they have never been so close. They are united in a deep community of will, each willing to do this for love of the world. As a result, the Hoy Spirit who is love, the Sprit of their mutual love, flows out into the broken, sinful world. Their Spirit justifies the godless, rescues the abandoned, befriends the lonely, fills the forsaken with love, brings the dead alive, and guarantees that no one will ever again die godforsaken because Christ is already there in the depths of abandonment.
Here are at least two other lessons we can learn from the cross:
- The cross shows us just how cruel, and destructive evil actually is. Evil hates; evil killed the kindest, gentlest, most loving person who ever lived. Evil tries to destroy all love, kindness, friendship, and truth.
- The cross also shows us the power of love, of good, of God. No matter how powerful Evil can seem to be, it is false. God and his love are greater than ANY EVIL OR PAIN. God can redeem (set free), save (bring to health). God can recreate and give life if we trust him and live in relationship with him (faith).
(Thoughts taken from Jesus, The Carpenter’s Son, by Richard J. Reichert)
Caution concerning Matthew’s Gospel (and John’s also):
It is always important to understand that by the end of the 1st century Christians were struggling to define themselves apart from their Jewish roots and to try to find their place in the larger Gentile world. In the process they began to realize they were not merely another Jewish sect. Antagonism grew on both sides. In Matthew’s passion story we see an effort to blame ‘the Jews’ – really meaning the authorities for the most part – and to exonerate the Gentiles. Be careful not to read into these statements more than what is there. Anti-Semitism is never right, nor is it what the inspired Word of God is trying to teach us. Power-hungry men, some Jewish and some Gentile, who wanted to play ‘god’ were responsible for Jesus’ suffering and death. In a true sense, responsibility lies where it belongs, with evil and sin. (Living Liturgy, Year A, 89 & Monika Hellwig, Jesus: The Compassion of God)
The presence of Christ in Eucharist…thoughts by a friend of Father Bob’s…
Recently, a good friend going through the RCIA process wrote to me about “transubstantiation.” He is scientifically trained and spoke of someone who could trace food through DNA found in the digestive system. Could we do the same thing with Jesus through the Eucharist? He suggested, I am sure correctly, that he is not alone in this kind of question concerning the real presence. He thought I could share this response on the blog, so here it is.
I will not be able to trace the DNA of Jesus through the digestive tract and I will not be able to “prove” he is there in any scientific way. Yes, this will require faith, but it is not a blind faith or one without explanation.
Let’s deal with the very technical term – transubstantiation. The first thing to know is that the Church is ready to allow it still to…
View original post 822 more words
There are many who believe that some people are poor because they are bad. And there are those who think that prosperity in this life is a sign of God’s pleasure. In today’s gospel, the disciples see a man who was born blind, and they ask Jesus, “Was it his or his parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind?” Now, who among us hasn’t asked a similar question at some time? We reason that since God is in charge of everything, anything bad that happens must be some sort of punishment for that bad deed. The belief that suffering is a punishment from God can cause all sorts of problems. Many believe that those who find favor with God lead pleasant lives, and those who are evil are doomed to lives of misery. No! That’s not how it works! Jesus’ message is very clear.
Jesus wants us to see as he sees, to see through his eyes.
We need to recognize that our suffering is not a punishment from God. We also need to stop spending so much time and energy looking to place blame. Too often, assigning blame for suffering is a way to avoid getting involved. Rather, we should open ourselves to Christ and put all of that energy we are wasting into finding a compassionate, life-giving response by simply looking at the world around us through the eyes of God, the eyes that Jesus sees through.
A friend of mine who received a big award accepted it by saying, “I don’t deserve this. But then he raised his head and said, I have very poor eyesight too, and I don’t deserve that either.” My friends, it is dangerous for us to think too much about what we deserve and what we do not deserve.
I remember speaking with a wonderful woman of great faith that I knew. She was the mother of two young children and was very sick and would soon die. I suggested that she might want to read the book called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” She laughed, she looked at me and said, “You know, the question I ask a lot is, “Why don’t more bad things happen to bad people?’ I can deal with my sickness, but I really wonder why God doesn’t punish my husband who left me and our children when I got sick.” Yes, sometimes life seems so unfair, doesn’t it? I think we all wish that good people would have all the good luck and that people would be punished for every bad thing they do.
But, life is a lot more complicated than that. Suffering is a mysterious thing, and God’s ways are not our ways. As long as we live in this world, we will never understand why things happen as they do unless we can see through the eyes of Jesus.
Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, calls us to live in the light of the Lord, not in darkness. Like the man born blind in today’s gospel, we need to learn to see. We are called, though, to see in the way that God sees. God does not look for people to blame or punish. Rather, God looks on each one of us with love, with forgiveness, and with compassion.
The theme of our Lenten journey this Lent, already half over, is to open ourselves to Christ. By doing that, we would learn to see as God sees.
We would strive to want what God wants, and to act as God would have us act. When we pray, we should not try to change God, to persuade God to do things our way. Rather, we need to trust God enough that we can pray for God to change us. We need to trust God enough so that we can pray that God will help us all to stop looking for people to blame and start looking through the eyes of Jesus for ways to help ourselves and one another.