March 22, 2020

4th Sun., Lent

March 22, 2020:  Fourth Sunday of Lent / Laetare Sunday

See 16 connections with today?
Legend below

Mainly gospel-inspired

For 2nd reading

For Psalm 23
For future celebrations
Pope Francis

Homily:  Let's think about them and pray for the people dying… alone, without being able to say goodbye to their loved ones, and for their families who can't accompany them on the journey.  I want to reflect on the words of Augustine's words, “I'm afraid when the Lord passes by because I'm afraid he'll pass and I won't notice him”; they always touch me.  

In Jesus’ presence, the sentiments of the heart, our true attitudes, come forth; this is a grace.  Because of this, Augustine was afraid to let him pass by without realizing it.  When Jesus passes by, he heals the blind man and creates a scandal; it brings out the best and the worst in people.

It brought out the best in the blind man:  He responds with astonishing wisdom.  He was used to moving around with his hands, sensing anything dangerous that could make him slip.  But his arguments are clear and precise; he even uses irony.

But the scandal brought out the worst in the doctors of the law:  They knew all the laws but were fixated there; they didn't understand when God was passing by.  They were rigid, attached to their customs; Jesus says so.   Their rigidity led them to commit an injustice; Jesus’ presence evoked the sentiment of closure.

Read today's gospel at home to understand what happens when Jesus passes by.  May it help us understand Augustine:  "I'm afraid when the Lord passes, because he might pass by and I may not recognize it and convert myself." 

Angelus:  Light is at the center of today's liturgy.  The miracle Jesus performs confirms his affirmation that he's “the light of the world.”  He's the light that brightens our darkness.  This applies to both the physical level and the spiritual.  The blind person first receives physical sight, then faith.  The wonders Jesus performs aren't spectacular gestures;  they lead to faith through inner transformation.

The Pharisees and doctors of the law don't acknowledge the miracle.  They interrogate the man, but he confuses them with the simple statement, “I was blind and now I see.”  Gradually he realizes who opened his eyes and confesses faith in him.  He recognizes Jesus as coming from God, welcomes him as the Messiah, and prostrates himself before him.

May we too have this experience.  With the light of faith, the man born blind discovers his new identity; he sees his life and the world in a new light.  He's no longer a slave to blindness and prejudice; his path of enlightenment is a metaphor for the path of liberation from sin we're called to.  Sin is like a veil that covers our face and prevents us from seeing ourselves and the world;  God’s mercy removes the darkness and gives us new light. 

The man comes to see both with the eyes of the body and of the soul.  But it's not enough to receive light; we must become light.  Each of us is called to receive the divine light and manifest it with our whole life.  May Mary help us imitate the blind man so we may be flooded with the light of Christ and set out with him on the path of salvation. 

Wednesday prayer; Friday Urbi et orbiLet us all respond together to the coronavirus pandemic with prayer, compassion, and tenderness, making our closeness felt toward those who are the most tried.  In these days when humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, let's all lift our voices towards heaven.  I invite the heads of the Churches and leaders of every Christian community, with all Christians, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, reciting the Our Father this Wednesday afternoon.  On the day when many recall the Annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation of the Word, may the Lord listen to our prayer as we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ.

This Friday I'll preside over a moment of prayer at St. Peter’s Basilica, and I invite everyone to participate spiritually.  We'll read Scripture, pray in supplication, and adore the Blessed Sacrament, and I'll conclude with the Urbi et orbi blessing, normally given only at Christmas and Easter.

  • 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."
Some of the many livestreamed and recorded Masses

St. Bede the Venerable
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
St. Monica
Bishop Robert Barron /  Word on Fire

  • Creighton:  With the arrival of spring come warming temperatures, more daylight, and less darkness, and with the daylight come flowers, trees, and green yards.  But sunlight isn't the only light to make our days more enjoyable; we can choose to walk in the light of the Lord.  From the 2nd reading:  “You were once darkness, but now you're light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces goodness, righteousness, and truth.”  But it's easier said than done.  Some prefer darkness to light, so their wrongdoings are less likely exposed.  How do we walk in the light of the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness but rather expose them?  We should shine that light on ourselves and search for our spiritual shortcomings, e.g. pride, envy, greed....  The light can help us grow stronger and live, love, and understand others more like Christ.  May we stay in the spotlight of Christ.  May our light so shine that others see our good works and glorify our Father.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Blind man's bluff":  Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides and blind fools. He called the apostles blind:  "Are your minds completely blinded?  Have you eyes but no sight?"  He called the church of Laodicea blind.  If he calls us blind, how will we take his diagnosis?  Will we become defensive, or thank him for the truth?  The Pharisees got angry, blinding themselves to their blindness, resenting the cured man, throwing him out of the synagogue, trying to make everyone else blind, becoming darkness themselves, hating the light, hating "the Light of the world," demanding he be crucified.  Spiritual blindness is degenerative; it becomes darkness and violence.  We must admit our blindness and ask Jesus to heal us, or else we'll hurt our Healer and those he's restored sight to.  Lord, heal us from blindness to our blindness.
  • Passionist:  Jesus' encounter with the man born blind begins when the disciples ask whether the man's sin or his parent's was responsible for the blindness.  Jesus says it wasn't due to sin; it was so the man could make God's works visible, could help others see.  Jesus gives the man sight, but people find what happened hard to see:  they can’t believe the person they knew as blind can now see, and because Jesus healed on the sabbath, they can't see God’s hand in the cure.  But the man sees what it means; he receives both physical and spiritual sight.  He sees Jesus is from God, then believes Jesus is the Messiah.  I too have been made to see differently:  I've had to let go of assumptions about people and interpretations of events.  How do we persist in blindness?  What has the coronavirus pandemic revealed to us about our blindness?  We can be blind to the truth that we're all connected and have responsibility for each other.  We engage in social distancing to protect others.  Though physical distancing, even isolation, may be necessary, spiritual and emotional isolation exacerbates the problem.  But after the crisis, will we retreat into blindness?  May we let Jesus' love in to retain the sight we've been given.  May we “live as children of light” as Paul urges and see goodness, righteousness, and truth in others and in the world.  May God’s love heal us of our blindness, and may our new sight help us help others see God’s love.
  •  "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).
    • St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, carpenter, built priest hiding places, martyr.  “Nobody can be said to have done more good of all those who labored in the English vineyard.  He saved the lives of hundreds.”
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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