Saturday, March 29, 2014

Light makes one see or renders one blind

Homily: 4th Sunday of Lent

          It’s quite ironic that while light makes us see the world around us, too much light can also blind us. Light makes one see or renders one blind! We see this truth graphically described to us in the Gospel today. Jesus cured the blind man at the Pool of Siloe (“Siloam”, which means “the One who is sent”). The evangelist John, the great theologian, has combined all possible signs and figures to bring home his point: Jesus, the Messiah – the One sent by God – is the light of the world.

The man who is blind from birth symbolizes all human beings who are born with original sin. Sin is actually blindness to God’s goodness. The clay smeared on his eyes may mean that everyone has to recognize that “we are dust and unto dust we shall return” (cfr. Gen. 3: 19). But then, the man went and washed himself in the water of the Pool of Siloam. Washing one’s face with water symbolizes baptism. The water in the Pool of “the One Sent” (Siloam) refers to the baptism that Jesus instituted. It washes away the original sin that all human beings inherited from Adam and Eve since birth.

Through baptism we receive the Light – Jesus Christ – in the same fashion that our Lord heals the blind man and creates “new sight” in him. Through faith, we recognize Jesus as the One sent by the Father, through Whom all shall be saved. Jesus is the Light of the world, of human existence, of your darkness as well as mine. But how ironic it is that the same light makes us see while it renders others blind! The same Jesus – the Light of the world – opened the eyes of the blind man and turned blind the eyes of the Pharisees. They look at Jesus but they could not see the Messiah. Now, we ask: Who are really the blind? Who is really the keen-sighted? The blind man in the Gospel is the real keen-sighted. The Pharisees are the real blind.

The Blind. The blind are (1) those who see only the appearance. In the First Reading (1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a), the Lord asked the Prophet Samuel to anoint from among the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem the one God has chosen to be the king of Israel. When Samuel looked at Eliab and thought that he could be the chosen one, the Lord said, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature… man sees the appearance but God looks into the heart”. True enough, how many times we judge a person by his appearance or by his gestures and reactions? How many times we stereotype, categorize or put people in a box? Every time we do so, we become blind because we see only the appearance. We are judgmental; we fail to look deeper into the person.

The blind are (2) those who cannot see or refuse to see the obvious. The Pharisees recognized the miraculous cure of the blind man. Yet, instead of praising the author of the miracle – Jesus – and recognizing the divine origin of His power, they said “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath!” Oh, what blindness! Their unreasonable and exaggerated love for the law makes them forget the basic law of love, which is, at least, to think positively of others. Not only did they not see Jesus, they even thought badly of Him. That’s uncharitable! Their blindness consists not so much in their unbelieving, but in refusing to believe even if they have seen the clear manifestation of God’s power. How many times we didn’t see the hands of God at work in our lives simply because we refuse to see the obvious? Have you noticed that even the air you breathe is God’s gift to you? Have you thanked God for all the palpable blessings you have received from Him?

Blind also are (3) those who prefer to stay in the darkness of sin. St. Paul, in the Second Reading (Eph 5: 8-14) today, tells us: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord… Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness”. But we love darkness because we think that in it we are more free to do whatever we want. As the song goes, “No right; no wrong; no rules for me; I’m free…” (Let it go). There is no freedom in doing what is wrong. Freedom will flourish only in the good. Freedom is not just having choices: it is choosing the good. To choose to stay in the darkness of sin is not freedom: it is slavery! You say: “I cannot get out of my vice”. Wrong! You cannot get out of it because you don’t want to. You prefer to stay in darkness. If you’ll just try and make a decision to get out of that darkness, with God’s grace, you can! Again, listen to St. Paul: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.

The Keen-Sighted. He who can really see is (1) one who looks into the heart as God does. Does it occur to you that even though that person may appear unlikeable in your sight, he is a genuine person inside? The Little Prince already said it: “It is only through the heart the one sees clearly, for what is essential is invisible to the eye”. If you want to see the real beauty of the person, give more importance to the moral values in your relationship – loyalty, sincerity, purity, respect of each other’s body – rather than to the physical aspect like sexual activities and other forms of sensuality. Sensuality blinds the spirit. But he who can look at the other person through God’s eyes is keen-sighted indeed!

Another keen-sighted is (2) one who believes even when he does not see or understand. When Jesus found again the blind man, He asked him: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” he answered, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus replied, “I am He”. The blind man exclaimed: “I do believe, Lord”, and he worshiped Him. Do you need proofs in order to believe that Jesus loves you? You say, God does not exist because evil exists. Can’t you see? A god who cannot tolerate opposition is not a true god because he is not powerful enough to tolerate evil. But a God who can permit evil to happen because He can get something good out of it is a true and most powerful God. Even though you cannot yet see or understand why God allows you to suffer poverty or that sickness, believe first in order for you to see. Believe in order to understand!

Lastly, he is not blind (3) who try to live as a child of light. St. Paul exhorts us: “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord”. When the sole motive of your every action, every word, and every thought is God and His glory, you are living as a child of light. However, to live in the light today is very difficult because the world wants to drag you into the darkness. Fight against worldly wiles and temptations. The world will often deceive you with its false lights: the dancing light, the patay-sinding ilaw. Avoid that light because it will blind the little child in you – your innocence.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus comes to you as the Light: He comes to give you back your sight, which you lost through sin. But if you still refuse to live as sons and daughters of light, the Light of Jesus will blind you. Will you prefer to stay blind? Will you not say to Jesus: “Lord, make me see again”? Ask Mother Mary to help you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Itinerary of Christian Life

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Today’s episode of Jesus’ encounter and conversation with the Samaritan woman near Jacob’s well is a vivid description of the itinerary of our Christian life. This itinerary consists in three (3) levels: the encounter with Jesus, the finding of answers to our questions in life, and the giving witness to Jesus. Let us reflect on each level.

The Encounter with Jesus. It was unusual for this Samaritan woman to fetch water at “about noon” because women normally draw water in the early morning or the late hour in the afternoon. Perhaps, this woman chose this hour to avoid meeting anyone. Probably, her marital situation prompted her to avoid such encounters.

But then, she met Jesus unexpectedly. How many times our encounter with Jesus is unexpected? We bumped into someone who invited us to a prayer meeting, and there, we decided to change our lives and follow the Lord. But sometimes, our encounter with the Lord is occasioned by some negative experiences: death of a loved one, broken relationships, economic crisis, family problems.

In the First Reading, we see how the Israelites complained against the Lord and against Moses because they did not have anything to drink. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” Experiencing discomfort, the people immediately forgot the miraculous deeds of the Lord at the Red Sea. Oftentimes, our crisis in life makes us forget God’s providence. Like the Israelites, we also ask: “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”

Yet, one thing is certain: even in our trials and difficulties, in our problems, we can and we must encounter the Lord. The Lord is present not only in prosperity; He is more present in adversity. Oftentimes, we just forget about Him and neglect Him. That is why, we need to go to the well: the Sacraments. At noontime of life, when we feel thirsty and our soul is dry, let us go to the source of living water: Jesus Christ, who is ever ready to quench our thirst.

Finding Answers to our Questions. “Who are we?”, “Where do we come from?”, “What are we here for?”, “What is the meaning of life?”, “Where do we go from here?”, “Is there life after death?” “Does God exist?” “If God is good, why the evil in the world?” You may add more questions. But where will you go to find answers to your questions? To the media? To TV? To movies? To Facebook?

Why don’t you try to listen to the Church? Why don’t you open the Bible? Why don’t you try to browse the Catechism? Why don’t you try to pay attention to people whose lives have become meaningful because they have decided to follow Christ? Why not try to converse with Jesus like the Samaritan woman? Try it. Perhaps, you will find the answers to your questions, just like the Samaritan woman did.

Our basic human questions are legitimate. Our longing for answers and meanings in life is natural. But oftentimes, we are wrong in thinking that only the water that the world gives can quench our thirst. Jesus said: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.

Have you ever wondered why when you decided to accept Jesus in your heart even your hardest trial became bearable? Because you have found meaning to your pain! Have you ever wondered why even in your times of prosperity, without Jesus, everything – even your comfort, your security – becomes meaningless? Because without Jesus, there is emptiness. Without faith in Jesus, there is a vacuum in life that no worldly good – whether money, fame, or power – can fill.

If you have not discovered it yet, sooner or later you will. You will understand what St. Paul meant in the Second Reading when he wrote: “We have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith, to this grace in which we stand”. For even if we are surrounded with prosperity, economic gain, fame, and all what the world can offer, if we are not at peace with God, if we are not reconciled with God, there is still emptiness; all that we have is meaningless!

Witnessing to Christ. After our encounter with Jesus and after finding meaning to our life, the natural consequence is to share Jesus to others: to give witness to the joy that we have found. Witnessing to Christ simply means letting other people see for themselves the joy of encountering Jesus. The neighbors of the Samaritan woman said to her: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world”.

We, Catholics, must give witness today of our faith. How do we do this? By letting people see and hear “for themselves” how our lives have been changed by our encounter daily with Jesus, in the Sacraments, in our workplace, in our family life, in our choice of entertainment. When people “experience themselves”, when they encounter Jesus themselves through our witnessing, this will create a ripple effect. We make Jesus known and loved by the world.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us to encounter Jesus, to let Jesus quench our thirsts for life’s meaning, and to give witness to Jesus among our friends. Amen.  

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.