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Greetings in Christ,
Blessed Easter to everyone! Jesus is risen from the dead, Alleluia, Alleluia!
The victory of Jesus at this moment is the triumph of God’s goodness and love over evil. By Jesus’ rising from the dead, he has overthrown all forms of evil, and the shadows of darkness and death. The risen Christ is now present in our hearts. We put all our trust and confidence in Him who has revealed the power and wisdom of God.
Faith in the risen Jesus is revealed to us in these ways; by the empty tomb, by the many appearances of Jesus to his disciples, and by remembering the words of Jesus that on the third day after his death he would be raised. All these require our acceptance, most of all by faith and not only by sight. The risen body of Jesus is no longer limited to space and time. This happens by Jesus’ miraculous appearances to the disciples. Jesus did this to assuage their doubts and fears, by changing them into faith in Him – the risen one.
We all are called to live our faith by casting our doubts and fears upon the risen Christ among us. He is present in his Words, and in his Body, Blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, present in all the Sacraments, and in our congregations gathered in His name. He is present most of all in our hearts. Happy Easter!
Fr. Albert B. Becher
Significance of Easter: “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for four reasons:
1) The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith. It is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain” (I Cor 15:14). “Jesus is Lord, He is risen” (Rom 10:9), was the central theme of the kerygma (or “preaching”), of the Apostles
2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies…” (Jn 11:25-26).
3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It also gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.
4) Easter gives meaning to our prayers: It supports our belief in the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus in and around us, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven, hearing our prayers, and so gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayers.
Reasons why we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus (1) Jesus himself testified to his Resurrection from the dead, giving it as a sign of his divinity. (Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2: 19).
(2) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:3). Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13), that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by an armed, 16-member Roman Guard detachment.
(3) The initial disbelief of Jesus’ own disciples in Jesus’ Resurrection, despite His repeated apparitions, serves as a strong proof of his Resurrection. Their initial disbelief explains why the Apostles started preaching the Risen Christ only after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
(4) The transformation of Jesus’ disciples: Jesus’ Resurrection and the anointing of the Holy Spirit transformed men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19), into men who now were confident and bold witnesses to the Resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2) powerfully preaching the Risen Lord.
(5) Neither the Jews nor the Romans could disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus.
(6) The Apostles and early Christians would not have fearlessly preached Christ as Savior and faced martyrdom if they were not sure of Jesus’ Resurrection.
(8) The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing and surviving three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim.
(9) The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. The Apostles and the early Christians were sure about the Resurrection of Jesus.
Life Messages: 1) Let us live the lives of Resurrection people: We are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions, despair, discouragement or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the living presence of the Risen Lord Who loves us in all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life.
2) The conviction of the real presence of the Risen Lord with us and within us and all around us, enables us to lead disciplined Christian lives. It will help us to control our thoughts, desires, words, behavior and actions.
3) This salutary awareness of the presence of the Risen Lord within us inspires us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits and addictions. Our conviction that the loving presence of the Risen Lord dwells in our neighbors and in all those we encounter, should encourage us to respect them and to render them loving, humble and selfless service.
4) We need to become transparent Christians, radiating the Risen Lord around us in the form of selfless and sacrificial agape love, mercy, compassion and a spirit of humble service
GOOD FRIDAY, (April 19): CHALLENGE TO CARRY OUR CROSSES
The cross and the crucifix are meaningful symbols, as the dove symbolizes peace and the heart symbolizes love. The crucifix and the cross are the symbols of the loving and sacrificial offering of self for others. First, it is only in the cross that we see the face of God’s love. There is no greater love than that of a person who is willing to die for another, and the cross tells this love story. Second, the cross is the symbol of the remission of our sins: The Bible says that when Jesus died, he took all our sins on himself on the cross, and so he conquered sin and the devil’s power forever. Whenever we see the cross, we should realize that Jesus, bruised and crushed, died for our iniquities. “But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Is 53:5). Third, the cross is the symbol of humble self-emptying for others. It is the symbol of the cross-bearing Christ leading us in our life’s journey of pain and suffering, carrying his heavier cross and still encouraging us, strengthening us, and supporting us. Fourth, the cross is the symbol of the risen Christ who promises us a crown of glory as a reward for our patient bearing of our daily crosses.
(B) The Cross always means pain. But the pain I suffer for myself is not Christ’s cross unless I offer my suffering with His on the cross for the salvation of all of us. The true cross of Christ is the pain I suffer for others. It is the sanctifying pain we experience in sharing our blessings sacrificially with others. It is also the pain we suffer in controlling our evil tendencies responding to God’s loving invitation to us to a higher degree of holiness. It is, as well, the pain we suffer because we are standing with Jesus, his ideas and ideals and gladly following him and accepting scorn and humiliation from the rest of the world.
(C) Our crosses come to us mainly from four sources. Some of our crosses, like diseases, natural disasters and death, are rise from natural causes. We face other crosses when we do our duties faithfully. Our friends and enemies supply a few of our crosses. Finally, we ourselves cause many of our crosses as natural consequences of careless living and evil addictions.
(D) Good Friday presents us with the question: Why should we carry our crosses willingly? First, cross-bearing is a condition for Christian discipleship. Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me”(Mt 16:24). Second, it is by carrying our crosses that we make reparation for our sins and for the sins of others related to us. That is why St. Paul said that he was suffering in his body what is “lacking” in Christ’s suffering. Third, it is by carrying our crosses that we become imitators of Christ in his suffering for us. St. Paul explains it thus: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2: 19-20).
Life messages: We should carry our crosses with the right motives: This means that we should not carry our crosses cursing our fate as does a donkey unwilling to carry its load. Nor should we protest as do the oxen or horses pulling their carts. Our motive should not be to earn a reward from God as hired workers labor for their wages. We should carry our crosses like a loving wife who nurses her paralyzed husband or sick child, with sacrificial love and dedicated commitment. The carrying of our crosses becomes easier when we compare our light crosses with the heavy crosses of terminally-ill patients or patients in emergency wards. We need to draw strength and inspiration from Jesus Who walks ahead of us carrying his heavier cross, while supporting us in carrying our crosses.
Holy Thursday (April 18) (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15)
Introduction: On Holy Thursday we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, and 3) the anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of His new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering of a lamb to God. They called this celebration the “Pass over.” The farming descendants of Cain, however, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and their final arrival in the Promised Land.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt the families within each from the coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, Christians gratefully remembered the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. After washing the feet of his Apostles and commanding them to do humble service for each other, Jesus, in addition to serving the roasted Paschal lamb, concluded the ceremony by giving his Apostles his own body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine as spiritual food and drink,
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” There is an old legend about Leonardo DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper. In all his paintings, he tried to find someone to pose that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later DaVinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner who could strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago for the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low.”
1) A challenge for humble service. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward.
2) A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the model of self-giving love which Jesus offers us when He shares with us his own body and blood for our spiritual nourishment and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
3) An invitation to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another.’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us.
Palm/Passion Sunday [April 14] Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14 -23:56-L/19
Introduction: The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments of glory (“Hosanna”) and suffering (“Crucify him”) – the royal welcome given to Jesus by his followers and the drama of his unjust trial culminating in his crucifixion. Holy Week challenges us to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation, to appreciate gratefully the price Jesus paid for our salvation, and to return God’s love for us (expressed through the suffering and death of Jesus), by loving others. The meditation on these Paschal mysteries should enable us to do our own dying to sin and rising with Jesus, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our Faith, and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus.
Scripture lessons: Today’s first reading, found in the prophecy of Isaiah, is called the third Servant Song. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22) expresses Jesus’ agony on the Cross and His unfailing trust in His Heavenly Father. The second reading, taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. The first part of today’s Gospel (Lk 19:28-40) describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers. They paraded with him for two miles, from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In the second part of today’s Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56), we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Luke. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus to death on the cross, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the leaders of the people who preserved their positions by getting rid of Jesus. The reading reminds us that Jesus died for our sins.
“Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” Constantine the Great was the first Christian Roman emperor. His father Constantius I who succeeded Diocletian as emperor in 305 A.D. was a pagan with a soft heart for Christians. When he ascended the throne, he discovered that many Christians held important jobs in the government and in the court. So, he issued an executive order to all those Christians: “Either give up Christ or give up your jobs.” The great majority of Christians gave up their jobs rather than disowning Christ. Only a few cowards gave up their religion rather than lose their jobs. The emperor was pleased with the majority who showed the courage of their convictions and gave their jobs back to them saying: “If you will not be true to your God you will not be true to me either.” Today we join the Palm Sunday crowd in spirit to declare our loyalty to Christ and fidelity to his teachings by actively participating in the Palm Sunday liturgy. As we carry the palm leaves to our homes, we are declaring our choice to accept Jesus as the King and ruler of our lives and our families. Let us express our gratitude to Jesus for redeeming us by his suffering and death, through our active participation in the Holy Week liturgy and our reconciliation with God and His Church, repenting of our sins and receiving God’s pardon and forgiveness from Jesus through His Church.
Life messages: Let us try to answer five questions today: 1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as he wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of his Palm Sunday procession? 2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Do I? Or do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness? 3) Will Jesus have to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of his Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither is Jesus pleased by my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God. 4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? The palms should remind us that Christ is our King and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life. 5) Am I like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? Let us carry and radiate Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service to our families, and communities.
Today is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. In the Gospel we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. This is the most important time in our faith, when Jesus offers his life to set us free from the evil and slavery of sin. We are called to surrender our sins to God, rejoice in being forgiven, and to start living a new life. Please be guided accordingly by joining our Holy Week activities.
Tuesday will be the blessing of Holy Oils at the Cathedral of the Virgin de Guadalupe. Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. is the final time offered for Reconciliation before Easter Sunday.
Triduum, or “The Three Days”, begins on Holy Thursday at 7:30 p.m., with a celebration of the Last Supper and Adoration until midnight in the Chapel. On Good Friday we will observe the Stations of the Cross at 2:00 p.m., and, at 7:30 p.m., Venerations of the Cross and Communion. On Holy Saturday the Easter Vigil Ceremony begins at 8:30 p.m.
The solemn Liturgical services of the Triduum reflect on the suffering and passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, revealing the loving, saving power of God.
Fr. Albert B. Becher, Pastor
Lent V [C] (April 7) Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
Introduction: Reminding us of God’s readiness to forgive sin, give the sinner a second chance, bind up broken lives, and restore people to His friendship, today’s readings challenge us to show the same mercy to the sinners around us and to live as forgiven people, actively seeking reconciliation with God and with one another. The central theme of all three readings is a merciful God’s steadfast love. The readings remind us that we should not be self-righteous and condemn the lives of others when God is calling them tenderly to conversion.
Scripture lessons summarized: Explaining how a merciful God forgives the sins of His chosen people and leads them back from the Babylonian exile, the first reading reminds us that we too are forgiven, and we are saved from our own sinfulness. In the second reading, Paul presents himself as a forgiven sinner who has been completely transformed by his Faith in Christ Jesus. His life is an example of the Gospel exhortation, “Sin no more.” Paul loves Christ so much he wants to share in His sufferings and even in His death so that he may share Christ’s Resurrection. The sinful woman’s story of sin committed, and sin forgiven in today’s Gospel, shows the inexhaustible mercy and compassion Jesus gives to repentant sinners. In addition, by making sinlessness the condition for throwing the first stone, Jesus forces the accusers to assess their own souls and to leave. Thus, He grants justice to the accusers and mercy to the sinful woman. In our own lives, we bear witness to the Justice of God by confessing our sinfulness and resolving to avoid sin, and we bear witness to God’s Mercy by accepting the forgiveness of our sins and promising to forgive those who have offended us.
Divine mercy on Chuck Colson: Probably, Chuck Colson (Charles Chuck Wendell Colson, 1931-2012) got inspiration from John Profumo to make a similar served seven months in the Federal Prison, Maxwell, Alabama, for acting as President Nixon’s “hatchet man” in the Watergate Scandal. After his prison term, Colson became an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship and Breakpoint. He was the founder and chairman of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, which is “a research, study, and networking center for growing in a Christian worldview.” While Colson lived, the Center’s work included Colson’s daily radio commentary, Break Point, which was heard in its original format on more than 1,400 outlets across the United States. Colson was a principal signer of the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical document. He was joined by leading Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholic leaders in the United States. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus restored a sinful woman by lavishing on her his Divine mercy and forgiveness. She may have become Christ’s follower bearing witness to his mercy till her death.
Life messages: # 1: We need to become forgiving people, ready for reconciliation: Jesus has shown inexhaustible mercy and compassion to sinners by dying for our sins. But we are often self-righteous, like the Pharisees, and ready to spread scandal about others with a bit of spicy gossip. We are judgmental about the unmarried mother, the alcoholic, the drug addict and the shop-lifter, ignoring Jesus’ command: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Let us learn to acknowledge our sins, ask God’s forgiveness every day and extend the same forgiveness to our erring brothers and sisters. We need to learn to hate the sin but love the sinners, showing them mercy, compassion, sympathy and acceptance, leading them to Jesus’ ways by our own exemplary lives.
2) We have no right to judge others: We have no right to judge others because we often commit the very faults we condemn, we are often partial and prejudiced in our judgments, and we do not know the circumstances which have led someone to sin. Hence, let us leave the judgment to our merciful God Who does read people’s hearts. We should show mercy and compassion to those who sin because we ourselves are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. The apostle Paul reminds us: “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” (1 Cor 11:31).
Greetings in Christ,
In this week’s Gospel, the woman’s encounter with Jesus becomes an opportunity for her to receive God’s forgiving love and mercy. This is a very critical situation for the woman, not knowing what will happen to her. The Scribes and the Pharisees tell Jesus that, according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned to death for being caught in adultery. This encounter with God is not only for the woman, but also for the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus reveals God’s wisdom and forgiving power.
Jesus comes for all of us, to tell us about the power of God’s forgiving love and mercy. Even more, God gives every sinner an opportunity to live a new life, by the grace of being forgiven. This is the purpose of Jesus’ coming – to be a part of our lives, to set us free from the evil of slavery to sin, and to give us freedom in the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us genuine peace and joy in our hearts.
Everyone is invited to avail themselves of the grace of God’s forgiveness through the “Light is ON for You”. In addition to our regularly-scheduled weekly times for Reconciliation, we are offering two additional evenings, with extra priests. Please join us this coming Wednesday, April 10 at 6:30 pm, or on Holy Wednesday, April 17, also at 6:30 pm.
Fr. Albert B. Becher
LENT IV (March 31): Jos 5:9, 10-12; II Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Introduction: Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). Anticipating Easter joy, today’s readings invite us to rejoice by being reconciled with God through repentance and the confession of our sins and by celebrating our coming home to be with our loving and forgiving God.
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the Chosen People of God are portrayed as celebrating, for the first time in their own land, the feast of their freedom, by using wheat that had grown in the Promised Land. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), a rejoicing Psalmist invites us, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us together extol His Name!” In the second reading, St. Paul invites the Corinthian Christian community to rejoice because Jesus has reconciled them with God by his suffering and death.
Today’s Gospel celebrates the joy of the prodigal son on his “homecoming” where he discovers his father’s forgiving and overflowing love. It is also the story of the rejoicing of a loving and forgiving father who celebrates the return of his prodigal son by throwing a big party in his honor, a banquet celebrating the reconciliation of the son with his father, his family, his community and his God. At the same time, by presenting a self-righteous elder brother, the parable invites us to avoid self-righteousness and self-justification by imitating the repentant younger brother. Let us admit the truth that we are an assembly of sinful people, repentant, and now ready to receive God’s forgiveness and to experience Jesus’ Personal Presence in the Holy Eucharist as our loving and forgiving God.
“Release this guilty wretch at once!” The Prussian king, Frederick the Great, was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners all fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence – except for one man, who remained silent. Frederick called to him, “Why are you here?” “Armed robbery, Your Majesty,” was the reply. “And are you guilty?” “Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment.” Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, “Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it!”
Sad at prodigal’s return: The Sunday School teacher was explaining the story of the Prodigal Son to his class, clearly emphasizing the resentment the older brother expressed at the return of his brother. When he finished telling the story, he asked the class, “Now who was really sad that the prodigal son had come home?” After a few minutes of silence, one little boy raised his hand and confidently stated, “The fatted calf.”
Life messages: 1) Let us return to our Heavenly Father with repentant hearts: As prodigal children, we face spiritual famine all around us in the form of drug and alcohol abuse, fraud and theft in the workplace, murders, abortions and violence, premarital sex, marital infidelity and priestly infidelity, as well as in hostility between and among people. All of these evils have proliferated because we have been squandering God’s abundant blessings, not only in our country and in our families, but also in our personal lives. Hence, let us repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s home.
2) Holy Mass enhances our “pass over,” from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. At every Mass, we come to our loving Heavenly Father’s house as prodigal children acknowledging that we have sinned (“I confess to Almighty God.”). In the Offertory, we give ourselves back to the Father, and this is the moment of our surrendering our sinful lives to God our Father. At the consecration, we hear God’s invitation through Jesus: “… this is My Body, which will be given up for you… this is the chalice of My Blood … which will be poured out for you…” (“All I have is yours”). In Holy Communion, we participate in the banquet of reconciliation, thus restoring our full relationship with God and our fellow human beings.
RCIA Lent IV [A] I Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41
Introduction: The fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday,” expressing the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection of our Lord. Today’s readings both remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul and instruct us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.
Scripture lessons: By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians of their new responsibility as children of light to live as children of the light, producing every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Presenting the miracle of Jesus’ giving of sight to a man born blind, today’s Gospel teaches us the necessity of opening the eyes of the mind by Faith and warns us that those who assume they see the truth are often blind, while those who acknowledge their blindness are given clear vision. In this episode, the most unlikely person, namely the beggar born blind, receives the light of Faith in Jesus, while the religion-oriented, law-educated Pharisees remain spiritually blind. To live as a Christian is to see, to have clear vision about God, about ourselves and about others. Our Lenten prayers and sacrifices should serve to heal our spiritual blindness so that we can look at others, see them as children of God and love them as our own brothers and sisters saved by the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
The eye-opening prayer of a pastor with guts: His prayer still upsets some people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard: “Heavenly Father, We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good.’ But that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of speech and expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our Forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”
1) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots — in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light. Even practicing Christians can be blind to the poverty, injustice and pain around them. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blindness. We need to ask Him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness: namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. Let us pray with the Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay, “God our Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.”
2) We need to get rid of cultural blindness. Our culture also has blind-spots. Often it is blind to things like selfless love, happiness, fidelity with true, committed sexual love in marriage, and the value of human life from birth to natural death. Our culture has become anesthetized to the violence, the sexual innuendo, and the enormous suffering in the world around us. Let us counteract this cultural blindness by experiencing Jesus dwelling within us and within others through personal prayer, meditative reading of the Bible and a genuine Sacramental life.