Saturday, March 14, 2015

2015/03/15 - Light overcoming the Darkness

Before Mass:
Today, we hear the familiar story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  But – this is not just a story from a long time ago – Jesus is speaking to every one of us today – giving us some important lessons.  Three things I want you to notice:  one – why is this man Blind… VERY important… listen for Jesus’ answer.  Second – pay attention to how the other people react about this man.  Some didn’t even recognize him… see if you can figure out why that is.  The third thing is the last statement of Jesus:  “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”  Ask God to reveal to each of us what that means… not to the person sitting next to you… but Jesus, are you talking to me?

Did you notice in this story how the people reacted when this guy got his sight?  “that’s not him – it just looks like him”.  Think about that…. This guy was very likely a constant presence at the gate of the city… begging daily.  They had probably walked by him every day for YEARS.  How could they NOT recognize him?  Would you and I act any differently?

Some guys did an experiment to see for themselves how people react.  Freezing Homeless Child(Social-Experiment)” []  They staged their younger brother in a tattered T-shirt along the sidewalk in a big city with a cardboard sign asking for help.  It was 5 degrees outside…. 5 degrees, In a tattered T-shirt.  He was shivering quickly.  They took video of what happened next.  Hundreds of people walked by that day.  Most would do everything they could avert their glance… to pretend like they didn’t see him.  They’d scratch their face… turn their head… talk on their phone… pull their hat down….   The boy got so cold, he had a plastic trash bag he climbed into as he lay on the concrete shivering uncontrollably.  A few people would stop long enough to read his sign, but for TWO HOURS, NOT ONE PERSON stopped to help.  Not one.  Nobody really saw him.
But then something amazing happened…after TWO HOURS, a homeless man who had been watching finally got up and came to the boy…. Talked to him… encouraged him, and gave him his OWN coat!!!  He even gave him some money to buy food…. Note…this was a HOMELESS man… giving up his coat and money.

I’m as guilty as anybody else.  I can just picture myself on that sidewalk that day… with my own agenda… I’m too busy… I gotta get to work… to lunch… get home… whatever.  It’s not my problem.  Let somebody else take care of that kid.  Besides, there are so many homeless people – I can’t help them all – So many homeless people on the streets, that we don’t even See them.

This is where Jesus’ words sting:  “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”  We think we are such great Christians…. We think we walk in the light.  We think we see the world around us, but like the people walking by in the video, we do all we can to remain in darkness.  Every person we meet is suffering in some way – but we don’t open our eyes to the suffering.  We’d rather stay blind than see the poverty that is all around us.

The Catholic Bishops of Indiana just published a document called “Poverty at the Crossroads” which calls attention to the poverty that exists here in Indiana.  Poverty continues to threaten the human dignity of countless individuals, and the well-being and security of many Hoosier families.  Our bishops are asking every Catholic Community, and every individual, not only to see, to acknowledge, and “to understand the many challenges facing our brothers and sisters here in Indiana,” but more than that, they call us to consider together, as a community of faith, how SHOULD we as Disciples of Christ respond?

Here’s the first problem… how many of us SEE poverty around us?  Honestly, I rarely see it.  Possibly because they just don’t cross my path.  Possibly because they all live in an area that I avoid.  Possibly because I’m just too busy to notice.  Possibly because they’re proud and they hide it?  The Bishops are inviting us to SEE the poverty – to Judge the circumstances  - and to ACT based on our Christian faith to respond to what we see.

How will you respond to the Bishops’ call?  How will our parish respond?
To start with, I want to invite everyone to study this document.  It’s not that long – and you can find it on-line.
The Grace Co-Op and the Evangelization Team are going to start studying this document in order to allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the reality of Poverty around us.  You might ask, why would the Evangelization team study a document about poverty?  Pope Francis reminds us in his document “the Joy of the Gospel” that one of the best ways to evangelize is by helping others.  Think about that – when we help people, not only do THEY praise God sending us to help… but other people, seeing our good works, will also give glory to our God.  That’s why the poor are here - WHY?  Like Jesus said, “so that the Glory of God may be revealed.  If we ignore the poor – if we don’t SEE them, then we are choosing to let Darkness remain in the world. 

On the other hand, by acting like a true Christian, we allow the Light of Christ to pierce our otherwise dark world.  It reminds me of story of St. Maximillian Kolbe.  You may remember his story – he was in a Auschwitz during WWII.  One day as they were doing their daily work, the sirens blared – and everyones’ hearts sank.  That could only mean one thing:  somebody had escaped.  While you might think that was a cause for hope and rejoicing, everyone was filled with dread because in retaliation for an escape, 10 men would be chosen at random to be killed… a pretty potent way to keep anyone from trying to escape –knowing that 10 men will die on your behalf.  All the men fell into formation as they’d been taught to do – and as the officer came down the line, he stopped at a younger man and pointed to him.  The man fell to his knees hysterical – ‘My family!  I’ll never see them again!’  At that moment, Maximillian did the unthinkable – he stepped out of line – and walked right up to the officer saying – take me instead.  To everyone’s amazement, he took the trade.  Maximillian, along with 9 other men were sent into a dungeon to be starved to death.  Maximillian would lead the men in songs and prayer.  During that two weeks, One of the prisoners who was a janitor said it was like walking into a church every time he went down there.  And then he said the quote which is the reason I’m telling the story, Fr Kolbe's death, he said, was "a shock filled with hope, bringing new life and strength. ...It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp."  The outlook and spirits of all the prisoners was lifted by this act.  Can you imagine how you’d feel WITNESSING this kind of act… in the midst of despair, Maximillian was “a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp”.
In the midst of arguably the worst suffering on the planet, it was the selfless act of helping others that REVEALED THE GLORY OF GOD TO THE WORLD.
October 1982 – Francisek, the man for whom Maximillian had given his life, stood with his family in St. Peter’s square as Maximillian Kolbe was Canonized a Saint.

An act of kindness can change the world… not just for a day – or a year.. .but forever.  Reaching out to the poor, we can evangelize the world.  That’s what the Pope and Bishops are calling us to do in this document… to change the world.  If anyone would like to study this document with us, let me know and I’ll keep you in the loop as we decide when/where we’ll start the study after Easter.

Also – we’ll use some of this document in our learning during Shantytown coming up in two weeks.  Once again, our youth grade 7 through High School will spend 24 hours living as homeless people.  We will live in a cardboard box.  We won’t know whether or not we’ll have any food at all.  We won’t have any personal items… no phones… OMG – can you imagine?  No texting??!??  Each youth is allowed one personal item of your choice.  I invite you to think seriously about that one thing should be… if you really were homeless, what is one USEFUL item which could help you survive?

We’re hoping through this experience, we’ll all have our eyes opened to the suffering that others endure – but also – we’ll finally SEE for ourselves just how good we’ve got it.  We’ll watch a movie about homelessness  - and we’ll probably watch that video of the homeless kid on the sidewalk I mentioned.

Finally – I want to re-invite our youth to join our $5 make-a-difference project.  Now- I need to make one thing really clear:  THIS is not a Contest!  I shared some of the BIG things people did last year in order to open our eyes to the possibilities of  what CAN be done.  But in just talking about the big stuff, I may have given the wrong impression that this is a contest… that you have to do something BIG.  I’m guessing some youth decided they couldn’t compete, so they chose not to take the $5.  I’m sorry if I led you to think that.  That’s not the point at all.  Let me share one of my favorite projects from last year… it was so simple – so small – yet so powerful.  One of our Seniors took their $5 and split it into 5- 1-dollar bills and wrote an encouraging Bible verse on each one - then picked out five people in school and dropped a dollar in their locker anonymously.  She never would have known if it impacted anyone, except she saw on Facebook that night, someone had taken a picture of the dollar they found and explained how much it made their day.  That made a difference.
See what I mean – you don’t have to do anything big.  It can be as simple as taking the $5 and putting it into the poor box – or buy a couple of groceries to put into the SVDP baskets here. 
The point of all of this is what?  THAT THE GLORY OF GOD MAY BE REVEALED.  By using your $5 to make a difference, YOU are getting the experience of changing the world.  You become a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of our world.

No comments:

Post a Comment