Mar 7, 2008

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Given at Cronulla on March 3, 2008.

Readings: I SAM 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13; EPH 5: 8-14; JN 9: 1-41


During the Depression of the 1930s, a boat captain managed to make a modest living by piloting his boat up and down the Mississippi River, in the United States.  His boat was old and needed repair.  The engines were grimy, emitting soot and smoke. The captain was untidy and rude. It so happened that on one of his trips, he met a travelling missionary, who introduced him to Christ and the Gospel. The captain’s conversion was profound and authentic.


One of the first things he did was to clean up his boat and repair its engines.  The deck and deck chairs were freshly painted and all the brass fixtures were polished. His personal appearance and demeanour were transformed. Clean shaven and with a smile he greeted his customers who remarked about the change in the man. In reply, the captain said, “I was spiritually blind; but now I see people and events as they really are.  I have gotten a new glory and it shines out in all I do.  That is what Christ does for a person; he gives him clear vision and a glory.”


This story is similar to the story of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis left his family and his life of wealth and pleasure and he opened his eyes. The first thing St Francis saw was a run down and abandoned church – the church of St Damian. St Francis prayed in this church and St Francis’ eyes were opened. He heard a message from God: “Rebuild my church.” St Francis began by rebuilding this small abandoned church. But as Francis neared the completion of his work of restoration, he realized his mission was for greater – his mission was to rebuild the whole church.


My friends, we have similar missions. Like the captain on the boat, and like St Francis, we need to open the eyes of our heart and put our heart in order, before we look and see what is around us and how we are to contribute.


Today’s readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as soul and God reminds us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.


Although the Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, there are still many among us who are blinded by the same pride and prejudice. Spiritual blindness is very common in modern times.  Perhaps the most awful disease in our country today is spiritual blindness. Such blindness refuses to see the truths of God's revelation.  This blindness refuses even to admit that God or Christ exists.   In their pride, the spiritually blind claim that everything ends with death and there is no life after death.  They accuse believers of childish behaviour.  They ignore the gifts of the intellect we possess.  God's revelation through Christ informs us that there is a future life awaiting us in which our spiritual faculties and our transformed bodies will be fully and fittingly glorified.


My friends, every day each of us look in the mirror, sometimes over and over again throughout the day. We may see that our hair is mess, that it needs brushing. We may see that we need to shave. We may notice that we are going grey and that we are putting on weight.


But my friends, do we reflect about who we are or do we look only at the physical?


When we look in the mirror, we should see Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfection of humanity. We should see God when we look in the mirror, or at least we should admit that we have things in our life that are not right, that are not correct, that are not beautiful.


When our hair is mess, we brush it or we go to the hair dresser or barber.

But if our spiritual lives are a mess, do we pray and do we seek the healing and cleansing presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession? Lent is a time when we are all encouraged to visit Christ the healer in the Sacrament of Confession.


Do we make the effort to offer peace and love to others? There are probably some of us here who haven’t talked to a member of their family for quite some time, maybe even years. This week, I invite you all to open your eyes. To see how we are broken, how we are divided, and I encourage you to make an effort in bringing about healing. Make a phone call and see how an old forgotten friend is or see how a member of the family is going.


Allow Jesus to heal your spiritual blindness.  We all have blind spots in our lives, in our marriages, our parenting, our school situation, our work habits, and our personalities.  We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light.  It is even possible for religious people in our day to be like the Pharisees: religious in worship, prayer life, giving of money, and in the knowledge of the Bible--but blind to the poverty and pain around us.  Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind spots.  Ask Him to remove from us the root causes which blind us:  namely, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits, hardness of heart, and ultimately pride.


Do we see a terrorist in every member of a particular religion?  Do we see people who are addicted to drugs as mere sinners?  Do we fail to see God at work in our lives because He has shown us no miracles?  Jonathan Swift said the "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."  Let us remember that this gift belongs to those who can see the good hidden in suffering and failure.  It resides in those who never give up hope.  Let us pray for the grace to see and experience the presence of a loving and forgiving God.


This Lent is an opportunity to put our lives in order. To open eyes and see how we are called to make changes to our lives, and from there, to rebuild the church, as St Francis was so inspired to follow.


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