Saturday, March 29, 2014

4th Sunday of Lent (A)

1 Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13, Ps 23:1-6, Eph 5:8-14, Jn 9:1-41

The gospel gives us an idea of two kinds of blindness – one is physical, the other is spiritual. The man whom Jesus encountered on the road was physically blind; his incapacity to see the physical world was inborn. While the Pharisees who questioned Jesus’ healing ministry on a Sabbath were spiritually blind; they were able to see the letters of the law, but they couldn’t see the serious need of a person and the salvific nature of Jesus’ action.

Physical and spiritual blindness are both deprivations. On the one hand, physical sight is essential to appreciate the beauty of the corporeal world. It is also an important faculty to find our way to things, people and places. Without physical sight, we can hardly reach destinations. On the other hand, spiritual sight is necessary to understand the deeper meanings of life, the interior splendor of people, and the invisible movements of the Spirit. It is likewise an essential faculty to find our way to heaven or to God, who is our ultimate destination.

Few people are physically blind, but many of us have some degree of spiritual blindness. Sometimes, for example, we fail to see the needs of people around us. What we usually see are our personal and domestic necessities, but not the needs of poor neighbors. Sometimes also we fail to recognize the goodness in people. We are quick to notice weaknesses and inadequacies of individuals, but not their strengths and gifts. Moreover, we easily observe the faults and failures of other people, but we do not easily acknowledge our own mistakes and sins.

However, the most serious kind of spiritual blindness is the inability to notice the silent works of God. How conscious are we of the Divine presence in our lives? Regularly, without us knowing it, God supports, protects and nourishes us with material and spiritual blessings such as food, water, air, comfort, joy, work, recreation, business, family and friends. How often do we fail to count these blessings? Instead of seeing graces, we normally see misfortunes. Instead of counting blessings, we often count misgivings. When we fail to appreciate God’s gifts, we would not be able to give Him thanks.

As we move through the season of Lent, let us humbly ask the Lord Jesus to increase our ability to see and acknowledge our sinful thoughts, desires and actions so that we will come to follow Him more closely on the road to Easter.

John Newton was a slave trader in the 18th century. There was a violent storm at sea that tossed his slave ship like a matchstick. Newton was terrified, and he cried out to God, “If you stop this storm, see me safely home, I promise to cease slave-trading, and to become your slave.” The ship survived, and Newton kept his promise. He became a minister of the gospel, and it was he who later wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

(The story of Newton is from 150 More Stories for Preachers and Teachers by Jack McArdle)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent (A)

Luke 18:9-14. What makes a prayer pleasing to God? The parable presents two people at prayer. One, a Pharisee, started his prayer with thanksgiving. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Wait, this is not a thanksgiving prayer but an act of shaming others. Isn’t it? “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” Oopps, this is not giving praise to God but to self. According to Jesus, God did not hear the prayer of the proud Pharisee. The other, a tax-collector, stood humbly and begged for mercy. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The tax-collector confessed that he is a great sinner and he knew that only God can justify him. Jesus said that God was pleased by the man’s humility, and He forgave him.

Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent (A)

Mark 12:28-34. What is the relationship between love of God and love of neighbor? The most important of all our obligations is to love God, who is the reason and the direction of our being. We have to show our love for God by giving Him the best of our time daily, by praising and honoring Him for all His works, by taking care and developing His creation, by listening and obeying His Word, and by prioritizing His will above all else. Intrinsically connected to our love of God is the obligation to love our neighbor, who bears His image and likeness. God cannot be loved apart from the neighbor because He is present in every person, especially in the poor and the needy. He was clear about it: “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Lent (A)

Luke 11:14-23. What brings peace and security to people’s lives? The first reading provides an important lesson: "Obey my voice and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you" (Jeremiah 7:23). God is telling us here that wellbeing is only given to those who are faithful to Him. And this rings true to many human experiences. People who listen and obey God’s Word live in peace. They may not possess much wealth, but they always live with joy in their hearts. In contrast, people who neglect God’s Word end up broken and disturbed. They feel empty and miserable despite their material possessions and worldly entertainments. Let us then ask Jesus to free us from evil desires so that we can obey and follow the will of His Father.