Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homily 2012 March 18 - that the Glory of God may be Revealed

If I was this blind man in the Gospel, I’d be downright ticked-off at God!  So let’ pretend for a minute I am that blind man.  (put on sunglasses)

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, sitting with all the other blind men at the entrance of the Temple begging – just like I do every day… then I heard somebody ask a question that caught my attention:  “was this man blind because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?”  My ears perked up – I’ve wondered the same thing my whole life.  See – it seems to me that… I was BORN blind, so there’s no way I could have sinned to deserve this, so it MUST have been my parents.  You know – I’ve never really forgiven them for that.

But the answer I heard confused me.  There was another man – It was a voice I didn’t recognize, but I  could tell he spoke with authority – He said I WASN’T blind because of sin.  What?  Not because of sin?!  Everybody KNOWS that blindness and physical ailments are signs that God is punishing somebody for sin… So why else WOULD I be blind?  I could hear that voice coming closer as he continued… this man is blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him”.  Are you kidding?   I’ve spent 30 years blind – begging every day – starving half the time - and not only that, but think of what my parents had to go through:  Every time anybody looked at ME – they looked at my parents and said – They MUST be major sinners.  There were shunned by society.  And now you’re telling me that this was all some scheme that God cooked-up to allow Jesus to restore my sight today…. Just so he could work some ‘hocus-pocus’ to impress the crowds!??    Sorry, Jesus – but if that’s the kind of God you represent, I ain’t buying.  The God I know should PREVENT this kind of suffering.  The God I know should provide healing as soon as my parents asked for it… not 30 years later!  God is NOT supposed to CAUSE this kind of suffering!

When I got over my indignation, I got to thinking about what Jesus said… he said I’m not a sinner!... well.. I AM a sinner, but no more than anybody else!  My blindness was not a sign of my sinfulness.  That’s comforting.
Also – I’m actually kinda excited about the fact that I was part of Jesus’ plan.  He planned from the beginning that I would be a central part to helping people to believe in him.  The more I think about it – that is soooo cool.  My blindness and MY healing will be read about in churches for centuries to come and my blindness and my healing will help people to believe in Jesus.  I can’t think of a greater privilege.
(sun glasses off)

I wish it was dark outside.  Or - I wish we could do these readings on Holy Saturday night.  If you’ve never been here for the Easter Vigil service – you need to try it out.  You know – a lot of people don’t go, because it lasts longer than normal, but it is THE most beautiful liturgy of the whole year.  That is the night when all of our Lenten fasts are end, so we can eat ice cream .  That is the night when Jesus is risen.  That is the night when we baptize and confirm our new members into the Church.  But I want to talk about the Liturgy – what we DO at that Mass, because I think it sheds some light on our Gospel today. 

Picture this:  we start the liturgy with a campfire outside – sounds weird, right!  We START Mass with a campfire – but there are no hotdogs involved.  We bless the fire and the new Easter Candle.  See this candle back here – that’s the Easter candle from last year – it’s getting kinda short.  Well, at the Easter Vigil is when we get a NEW Easter Candle.  This candle represents Christ himself.  Why would we use a Candle to represent Jesus?  Even in today’s Gospel, Jesus told us “while I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  We say in our creed ‘God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God’.  Jesus IS our light.

So we bring that new Easter candle into the darkened church – symbolizing Christ coming into the world which is in darkness.  Now there are actually two symbols here – first – do you remember what the first thing was that God created in Genesis?  What did he say?  “Let there be Light”.  LIGHT was the first thing God created.  Imagine being there when it happened… total darkness and then BOOM…LIGHT!  Must have been amazing.  Later, Jesus was born in the darkness of a cold December night.  December just happens to be the time of year with the shortest days… that’s the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere – so once again, God was bringing light to a world in darkness…and that’s what it’s like when we bring that candle into the dark church.
It gets even better though… like I said, all the lights are off – and Each person in the church has a candle and lights it from the Easter candle – symbolizing that each of us receives our light from Christ.  We receive our faith from Jesus!  If Jesus was not in the world, there would BE no source of Faith.  The fire is then passed down the rows from person to person – symbolizing that we pass-on our faith from person to person until… until the whole church is lit with the light of Christ… symbolizing what the world will be like once we have all spread the light of Christ to every corner of the globe.

Do you see how this connects with today’s Gospel?  This man born blind represents you and me.  All of us are born in darkness – in other words – none of us is born knowing Christ.  We don’t have the light of faith yet.  Now – notice the different stages of the journey this man took.  At first, when they’re questioning him, he says, ‘this man, Jesus put mud on my eyes and made me see’.  Later when they’re questioning him he says, this man is surely a prophet.  Still later, he comes to the conclusion that He must be from God, because only someone from God could make a blind man see.  Did you see the progression?  First Jesus is just a man, then he recognized him as a prophet, then ‘from God’.  Finally, after he’s thrown out of the temple, Jesus meets up with him and asks – do you believe in the Son of Man…. And the man believes and worships him as God… THE God.  God from God, Light from Light.

Our Catechumens have been on a journey for months now – going to classes, opening their minds and hearts and eyes to try to understand more about our Catholic Faith – and more about Jesus himself. 

Their journey – and ours - are much like the blind man’s journey.  We are born in darkness – not knowing Jesus.  It’s a lifelong process of getting to know him.  At some point, we all must let Jesus open our eyes so that we can look into the light… and then – just like the candles at the Easter Vigil – we CATCH FIRE!  Then we SPREAD that fire to everyone we come in contact with.  We BECOME the Light of Christ…. So that the Glory of God may be revealed – through US.

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