March 26, 2017


March 26, 2017:  Fourth Sunday of Lent / Laetare Sunday

Today's guest dressers Jamie, Sid, and my mom

Mainly gospel-inspired

For 2nd reading

For Psalm 23
For future celebrations
See 16 connections with today?
Legend below
Pope Francis Angelus
In his healing of the man born blind,  Jesus reveals himself as light of the world.  Each of us is blind from birth, in that we were created to know God, but because of sin we need a new light, of faith, that Jesus has given us.  The man born blind is opened up to the mystery of Christ.  He represents us when we don't realize Jesus is the light of the world and look elsewhere and rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark.
Christ has enlightened us in baptism and called us to behave as children of light.  What does it mean to have true light and walk in the light?  First, to abandon false lights such as self-interest.  If we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of our profit, pleasure, or prestige, we're not being truthful.
The Holy Spirit leads us to the mystery of the death of Christ:
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 3rd Lenten Homily
(summary concluded from yesterday)
Death was swallowed up in victory:  There's only one true remedy to death, and we're robbing the world if we don't proclaim it by our words and lives.  "If many died through one man’s trespass, more have God's grace and the grace of Jesus Christ abounded for many....  If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, more will those who receive the grace and gift of righteousness reign through Jesus Christ."  "Death is swallowed up in victory.  Death, where's your victory?  Where's your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  The decisive factor occurs when Christ dies.  But what changed the nature of death?  The Son of God descended into the tomb but came out on the opposite side.  He didn't turn back like Lazarus, who had to die again, did, but opened a breach on the other side through which all believers can follow him.  “He took on himself the suffering of man, suffering in a body which could suffer, but through the Spirit that can't die slew death.”  “By his passion our Lord passed from death to life and opened a way for us...  that we too may pass from death to life” (Augustine).  Death becomes a passageway to what doesn't pass away!  "We do die, but we don't continue in it, which is not to die at all.  For the tyranny of death is when he who dies is never allowed to return to life.  But when after dying is living, and a better life, this is sleep, not death" (John Chrysostom).
All these ways of explaining the meaning of Christ's death are true but not the most profound, which is found in what Christ, through his death, brought to the human condition, more than what he came to remove from it:  God's love, not human sin.  Jesus didn't die a violent death merely to pay a debt human beings owed; he died so that human suffering and death would be inhabited by love!  We were condemned to die alone, but entering death we discover God's love now permeates it.  Love couldn't dispense with death because of human freedom:  God's love can't eliminate evil and death with a magic wand; his love must allow suffering and death.  But since love penetrated and filled death, love now has the last word.
What changed about death because of Jesus?  Nothing and everything!  Nothing in terms of reason, everything in terms of faith.  We still have to enter the tomb, but now there's the possibility of exiting.  This explains the believer’s paradoxical attitude in the face of death, similar to other people's yet so different.  Sadness, fear, and horror, since they know they must go into the abyss, but hope since they know they can leave it.  “Those saddened by the certainty of dying [are] consoled by the promise of immortality.”  "We wouldn't have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as those with no hope.  Since we believe Jesus died and rose, through Jesus God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep."  Paul does not ask them not to grieve but tells them “not to grieve as [unbelievers] do.”  For believers death is not the end of life but the beginning; it's not a leap into the void but into eternity.  It's a birth because only then does real, everlasting life begin.  The connection between the earthly life of faith and eternal life is like that between an embryo's life in a mother’s womb and the born baby's.  "It is this world which is in travail with that new inner man that is 'created after God's likeness.' When he has been shaped and formed here, he is born perfect into that perfect world which never grows old.  As nature prepares the fetus for life is in the light, so it happens to the saints" (Cabasilas).
Death is also a baptism; it's how Jesus describes his own death:  “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”  Paul speaks of baptism as being “buried with him by baptism into death.”  At the moment of baptism a person used to be completely immersed in water; all their sins and fallen nature were buried, and the person emerged a new creature, symbolized by the white robe.  The same thing happens in death:  caterpillar dies; butterfly is born.  God “will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away,” buried forever.
An important aspect of Catholic ascesis has been “preparation for death,” meditation on death and on a description of its stages and its progression from the periphery of the body to the heart.  Many depictions of saints show them with a skull nearby, even Francis who had called death “sister.”  Inscribed above a skeleton in the Capuchin Crypt is “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.”  All this can be a useful reminder in our secularized and unthinking age.  It's wrong to say Christianity advances by the fear of death; Christianity actually removes the fear of death.  Christ came to “deliver all who through fear of death were subject to bondage”; Christianity advances because of the though of Christ's death, not ours!  So it's more effective to meditate not on our own death but on Jesus' passion and death, as has been the daily bread of generations before us.  The meditation generates emotion and gratitude, not anxiety; it makes us exclaim, Christ “loved me and gave himself for me!”
Pick up a Gospel and slowly read its entire passion account.  "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
  • 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a  Lord to Samuel:  “I'm sending you to Jesse; I've chosen my king from his sons.”  Samuel thought he was among the seven presented to him, but the Lord said no:  “Man sees appearance, but God looks in the heart.”  Jesse brought David; God told Samuel to anoint him.
    Wordle: Readings 3-30-14
  • Ps 23:1-6  "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."  You lead and guide me and give me rest and courage.  You're at my side; I'm unafraid.  You spread the table before me and anoint me.  Goodness and kindness follow me, and I'll dwell with God.
  • Eph 5:8-14  You were once darkness but are now light in the Lord.  Live as children of light; learn what pleases God and expose works of darkness.  “Awake, sleeper; Christ will give you light.”
  • Jn 9:1-41  Jesus restored sight to man born blind who told those who first asked, then the Pharisees, who were divided about how Jesus who didn't keep sabbath could heal him.  The Jews summoned his parents who confirmed he was born blind, then called the man again, heard him speak of Jesus, and expelled him.  Jesus found the man:  "Do you believe in the Son of Man, the one speaking with you?" / “I do, Lord.”...  Pharisees / Jesus:  "You think we're blind?" / "You say, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains."
    • Creighton:  Today's gospel illustrates how we can refuse to see.  Where are my blind spots?   When do I refuse to believe despite what I see?  How often have I spun actions to fit in with what I want to believe?  Refused to let facts challenge my beliefs or opinions?  Dismissed the possibility of looking from a different perspective?  Rationalized so I don’t have to look at an issue differently?  We put ourselves through convolutions so that facts don’t interfere with our beliefs.  We see what we want or expect.  We're reminded to see people as they are, not as they appear.Lord, help us to see with the eyes of Jesus so that we may find God in others.
      Jesus opens the eyes of a man born blind/ Duccio
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Sight for sore eyes":  There are human and divine ways of seeing. Because we've been baptized into Christ, we can share in God's way; God enlightens "the eyes of our hearts" when we live our Baptisms:  loving God and others ("Those who hate are in darkness; they walk in shadows, not knowing where they're going, since the dark has blinded their eyes."), rejecting worldly ways to avoid being blinded by the god of the present age, seeing Jesus as he is, and seeing God "face to face."  "I came into the world to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.'"  "Blest are your eyes because they see."
    • Passionist:  Today’s readings are about seeing and not seeing:  the blind see; those who should be able to see are blind to what's before them.  From the 1st reading:  “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord the heart.”  Samuel, sent to anoint one of Jesse's sons as king, doesn't see whom he needs to see, then asks Jesse whether he has other sons.  David, the youngest, was the one called.  May we see with the eyes of Christ:  see him in in every person, not just externals; see him within us, not just our failings; see what we usually don't....
    •  "Jesus frees us from spiritual blindness and sin":  God wants to recognize the light of his truth and wisdom.  God replaced Saul, who didn't recognize God's power to save him, with David, Jesse's youngest son, a man after God's own heart who did what pleased the Lord.  With strength from God, David defeated his enemies and united his people.
    Sin keeps us from God's truth, wisdom, and strength; it blinds us and keeps us from rising on our own to walk in God's love and truth.  Sin clouds the mind and makes it resist God's truth; only God's light can uncover it and free us to walk with God.  The Jews thought many infirmities were the result of sin.  Jesus' disciples asked him what sin caused the man's blindness; he answered that God allowed it to demonstrate his power.  He stated, "I am the light of the world," the source of power who sustains life and overcomes sin, confusion, and blindness.  His works confirmed his message and authority.
    Jesus awakened hope in the blind man, then identified with his misery and drew faith from him by touching his eyes with spittle and dirt and bidding him to wash in a pool likely used to purify people going to worship in the Temple.  His healing is more than a miracle; it's a sign pointing to Jesus, source of life-giving water.  The Pharisees were upset with the miracle because it violated the Sabbath and involved a "sinner"; their prejudice blinded them to God's intention for the Sabbath (to do good) and Jesus' claim to be from the Father to bring freedom and light.  They tried to intimidate the man and his parents by threatening to oust them from the worshiping community; they shunned him because he believed Jesus healed him and was the Messiah.
    "The Jews cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him" (John Chrysostom).  If our witness of Jesus and his work causes rejection, it nonetheless draws us nearer to the Lord.  Paul warns us to avoid the darkness of sin that we might walk in the light of Christ.  What do I let blur my vision of what God is offering and asking of me?  There's no sickness the Lord doesn't identify with.  The Lord offers us freedom from spiritual blindness and restores us.  "If we reflect on this miracle, we'll see the blind man is the human race....  You already know who the "One Sent" is.  Unless he had been sent, none of us would have been freed from sin" (Augustine).
    Dress legend 
    • 'Angel with horn' pin:  "Fill your horn with oil" (1st reading)
    • Blue tie with crowns:  David anointed king (1st reading); restful waters (psalm)
    • 'Heart' pin:  The Lord looks into the heart (1st reading)
    • 'Sheep' tie bar:  David was tending sheep (1st reading); the Lord is my Shepherd (psalm)
    • 'Silverware' tie bar:  "We won't begin the banquet till he arrives" (1st reading); "You spread the table before me" (psalm)
    • Green suspenders:  Verdant pastures (psalm)
    • 'Castle' pin:  I'll dwell in God's house (psalm)
    • 'Street light' tie bar:  You're light in the Lord (2nd reading)
    • 'Eyeball' pin:  God doesn't see like we do (1st reading); blind man's sight restored (gospel)
    • '?' tie pin:  Pharisees' questioning of man born blind and his parents (gospel)
    • 'Roses' pin, rose-colored shirt:  Color of Laetare Sunday

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