Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday. We are halfway through Lent. Fr. Dan and I are wearing Rose vestments to reflect the joy as we look to the coming of Easter.
We have been on a journey of faith practicing prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to grow closer to our relationship with Jesus as our Savior. Those preparing to enter the Church, the Catechumens, and Candidates, have been on a journey learning about the Catholic Faith and their belief in Jesus as Lord on their way to becoming Catholic at the Easter Vigil. Where are we at on our Lenten Journey? Have our eyes of our faith been opened to how Jesus calls us to live as his disciples? Not as man sees, but as God sees? Have we become blinded by the ways of our culture?
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the healing of the Man born blind. The story has many characters: the disciples, the blind man, his parents, and the Pharisees. The disciples ask: Whose sin cause the man’s blindness, his or the parents? Their cultural understanding
was that God’s punishment for sin was the cause of blindness, but this is not so. Jesus tells them man’s blindness was so the works of God could be visible through him. Jesus places a mix of clay and saliva on the blind man’s eyes and sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash– kind of like a baptism of faith in Jesus
The man was questioned about how he was cured and grew in his faith as he gave his answers. His responses were “A man called Jesus”, “A prophet”, “If he were not from God he could not do anything” and finally He calls him Lord, and worshipped him. He grew in Spiritual sight, finally seeing Jesus as the light of Salvation. He did so initially stating the facts: he put clay on my eyes and now I can see. He then grew in courage challenging the Pharisees and asking if they wanted to be his disciples.
The Pharisees questioned him about how the cure came about and there was a division among them. Some thought that Jesus could not be from God since he was cured on the Sabbath, but others doubted that a sinful man perform such a sign. The majority then concluded he must be a sinner. And finally, they threw out the man because, “He was totally born in sin, and was trying to teach them. They started out partially blind and increased to total Spiritual blindness. They were unwilling to accept Jesus as the curing of a blind man.
We heard in the first reading that “man does not see as God sees, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart”. Samuel was directed by God to choose the least in the eyes of the world, the youngest of Jesse’s sons to be Israel’s king, because David had the heart of a servant king. The Pharisees could only see through their cultural lens: Jesus was violating a law by “working on the Sabbath”. But they could not see with their hearts that Jesus was doing something more than restoring sight: He was restoring the man to his community of worship. They thought illness and disability were due to sinfulness, so the blind man was excluded from the community. Even though he was healed of his blindness, the Pharisees still thought he was a sinner and expelled him from the community. Their hearts were blind to the ways of God.
During the last few weeks of Lent, we have an opportunity to work on seeing with the eyes of God rather than as Man sees through our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Most of us have been washed in the waters of Baptism, and have received the grace to help us see by the Light of Christ. At our baptism, we were given a baptismal candle, lit with the Easter candle, and told to “receive the light of Christ.” The Catechumens will soon experience this at the Easter Vigil. When we see injustices in the world, think of the light of Christ, to move your heart to see with His eyes.
One of our Lenten practices, almsgiving, is a way to help us see with the eyes of God. This year our parish Lenten almsgiving to help with homelessness in our community through No Place to Call Home. We may be blind to homelessness in our community because we're not like downtown Indianapolis where you see people begging out on the streets or in homeless camps under bridges. Many of the homeless are couch surfing, which is staying with friends or relatives, till their welcome is worn out. Others are sleeping in cars, parks, or abandoned buildings. There are many reasons why people are homeless, but one of the main ones is domestic violence, as well as mental and physical illness, and changes in the family due to dynamics such as death and divorce. Only a small amount is due to substance abuse. Our culture portrays persons who are homeless as those who don’t want to work. Most people affected by homelessness have jobs or income from retirement or disability. They just don’t make enough to money to afford stable housing.
No Place to Call Home helps people to get out of homelessness by agreeing to receive case management for 3 months. They help to identify partner agencies with case managers in the county to help based on the specific situation of the homeless families. This helps the people identify the causes of their homelessness and then sets goals to find stable affordable housing. One of the stories shared at the presentation last week was told by a man named Sam. He and his wife were in stable housing living off their combined social security retirement income. When she died, he lost her income and was not able to afford the rent and wound up living in his car. A local police officer, found him sleeping in his car and was able to find help through No Place to Call home. This is not the typical case we think of when it comes to homelessness in our community, and there are many others like it.
When our hearts eyes are illuminated by the light of Christ, rather than the culture, we can be moved with compassion to be generous in our Lenten almsgiving. May our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help each of our hearts grow to see as Christ does.
To listen to this homily search for "Deacon Ron's Ramblings" on your favorite podcast site.