Monday, March 31, 2014

4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A - March 30, 2014

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen (1 line and then insert above podcast

4th Sunday of Lent
Cycle A
March 29-30, 2014       4:00pm, 10:30am and 12:00pm
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

A Blind Spot

There is a story about a man named Joe who had just sat down at his desk to begin his workday.

One of his associates came running in, out of breath.  He said, “I was almost killed.

“I had just walked out of the deli where I buy an egg salad sandwich every morning.  A police car with its sirens and lights on was chasing another car down the street.

“The police car rammed the other car.  Then the police and the guy in the other car got out and started firing shots at each other.

“I was right in the line of fire and I could hear bullets whizzing over my head.  I’m telling you, Joe, I’m lucky to be alive.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Joe spoke.  “So, do you eat an egg salad sandwich every morning?” 
Blind Spots

Well, Joe got so focused on the egg salad sandwich that he was blind to the terror and upset his associate had just experienced.

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives sight to a man who was born blind.  But he is also poking at the rest of us – telling us to be aware of our blindness or blind spots.

Sometimes we can be just like Joe in that office.  Probably we all have some spiritual blindness or blind spots that keep us from seeing things as they are. 

In this gospel, we see three of the causes of our spiritual blind spots.

Cause 1: Preconceptions

First, preconceptions or preconceived ideas cause blind spots.  Jesus’ apostles believe that physical impairments like blindness are caused by sin. 

Jesus straightens out their thinking and tells them that no one’s sin caused this.  But it is pretty clear that this preconception causes a blind spot in the apostles and they look down on this man and his parents.

Preconceptions can also cause spiritual blindness in us.  For example, a recent media report promotes a preconception about the poor and especially about anyone who uses food stamps or other forms of government assistance.

No question, there can be abuses, but sometimes our preconceptions lead us to blame the poor for their situation and look down on them.  So preconceptions like this create blind spots and keep us from seeing people as persons like ourselves.    

Cause 2: Fear

Then fear can also cause blind spots.  The parents of the man born blind are afraid to understand how their son has gained his sight. 

They are afraid that they will be alienated from the synagogue and their friends.  Their fear causes a blind spot and keeps them from seeing the truth about Jesus.

Fear can also cause spiritual blindness in us.  Maybe we refuse to talk with a friend about some tensions in our relationship because we are afraid of what they might say about us.

We are afraid that we will have to admit to some thoughtlessness on our part also.  So our fear can cause a blind spot and keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves.

Cause 3: Self-Interest

And finally, self-interest can cause blind spots.  The religious leaders in this gospel story feel very threatened by Jesus. 

They wonder what will happen to their position if people continue to flock to Jesus.  This self-interest causes a blind spot and locks them into ways that are not good.

Self-interest can also cause spiritual blindness in us.  It has done this in our Church when we refused to act openly and correctly about some very harmful behavior.

Self-interest can cause a supervisor to refuse to listen to criticism because it might call into question his or her competence.  So self-interest can create a blind spot and this can keep us stuck in bad behavior.


So Jesus today is calling each of us to take the position of the man born blind and admit our spiritual blindness or blind spots.  

One of our Catholic scholars says that Jesus is setting up a contrast here not between the physically blind and those who can see with their eyes.  Rather, the contrast is between those who know they are spiritually blind and those who don’t.

Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent, Cycle A - March 28, 2014

Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent
March 28, 2014    8:30am


This morning there is just one point in the gospel that I want to highlight.

The scribe who asks Jesus about the greatest commandment is most likely a Jew who is very devoted to the temple ritual.
This is why it is so noteworthy that he says that keeping those two great commandments of love is more important than “all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And Jesus really affirms this man’s understanding.

Now, we believe that the sacrifice of the Mass or the Eucharist is important.
After all, Jesus gave this to us and told us to do this in his memory.
But it is important that we realize our oneness with others in sharing this one bread and one cup.
This includes our oneness with those who are here and by extension, with all of God’s sons and daughters on this earth.
After all, when Jesus says that if we come here and find that we are not reconciled with another, we should go first and be reconciled and then come back and make our offering to God.
Jesus places no limit on those with whom we are to be reconciled.
Everyone and anyone is included among those with whom we are to be reconciled.

So, the Eucharist does make us one with Jesus or one with God.
But we are also to be one with each other through this.
We are to allow the Eucharist to empower us to live this out in our everyday lives.

So Jesus affirms the sensitive, insightful understanding of the scribe today.

And, in fact, that insight lies at the basis of our best and fullest understanding of the Eucharist.

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent, Cycle A - March 26, 2014

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent
March 26, 2014    6:30am


Sometimes something really good or even great begins with the simplest word or gesture.
Listening attentively, a warm handshake, a pat on the back, an offer to assist with something, an affirming word –
Sometimes simple words or gestures like these can eventually lead to a good friendship or, in some situations even a marriage.
At the opposite end, sometimes something really bad begins with the simplest word or gesture.
Little sparks of anger, four-letter exclamations, so-called white lies, pretending you do not see the other person’s need –
Sometimes simple words or gestures like these can eventually lead to betrayal, estrangement, even to verbal or physical abuse.

Today Jesus is instructing his disciples to watch out for the little things.
It is the little things that can strengthen our relationships – with God and with each other and with society.
And it is little things that can also erode these same relationships.

Really good and really evil things and situations often start with little things.
That is Jesus’ point today.
That is why he calls us to be mindful of even the smallest part of the letter of the law and of his teaching.
That is why he calls us, for example, not just not to kill someone, but not even to let angry feelings get expressed in any destructive way.

In a way, it is a simple and obvious teaching.
But it is one we easily lose awareness of and forget.

It is a good reminder for this season of Lent.

Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent, Cycle A - March 24, 2014

Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent
March 24, 2014    8:30am


Part of the daily prayer that Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends is called a Review.
Ignatius recommends that in our prayer, we look back to the previous day.
We ask ourselves: how did God come to me yesterday?
How did I experience the light and consolation of God?

It might have been in my prayer, where I sensed or felt very keenly Jesus’ closeness.
It could have been seeing the excitement of a child.
It could have been a phone call when I needed the caring of a friend.
It could have been a wise word, maybe even unintended from someone in a casual conversation.

Ignatius’ guidance is that God comes to us usually in very ordinary, not extraordinary ways, and it is important to identify these and be in touch with them.

Both of today’s readings lead me to recall this part of Saint Ignatius’ spiritual method.
In our first reading, it is a little girl – no one extraordinary – a little girl who has been captured in war who advises the army commander, the enemy of her people, where to go to be healed of his leprosy.
This general, Naaman, goes to the Prophet Elisha in Israel
Elisha tells him to do something very ordinary – wash seven times in the Jordan River. 
Naaman cannot believe that something so ordinary would do him any good.
But again, his servants – ordinary servants – advise him to do what Elisha says.
They reason: if Elisha had advised something extraordinary, he would do it.
Why not do something ordinary like bathe in the Jordan?

So ordinary persons and ordinary activity become the vehicle for healing and the message is that they are the vehicle for God coming to us.
They are the vehicle for experiencing the light and consolation of God in our lives.

It is valuable to be aware of these and to make this part of our daily prayer.