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Pastor's Letter 20200322 - 22 March 2020 - Christ, the Light of the World


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March 22, 2020

4th Sunday of Lent

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “Christ, the Light of the World”

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Darkness

Consider what you might learn from a visit to an underground cave or a mine (i.e. Wind Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, etc.) for instance. I first experienced “total darkness” in such an environment, as a child on family vacation.  The guide asked everyone on the tour to take a position near a wall, as he extinguished all the lights along the path, and then his own lantern.  Suddenly we were plunged into blackness, an eerie silence falling on the group. We were jolted alert as the disembodied voice of the guide explained that every facet of our human sight was dependent upon light, particularly “colors.”  “In darkness,” he said, “Nothing has color.”  Other sensations became apparent:

• I became oriented only to myself—the clammy humidity on my skin that occurs far underground; hearing and feeling the beating of my heart.

  I could no longer see anyone else in the group—not even my own hand in front of my face.

  I had a sense that only Iwas important; there was no “larger picture.”

  Immediately I became focused only on the moment—on my temporal safety, thankful for the feel of the wall behind me and the path beneath.

(That was the first time I really thought about my ability to see.Later, when Danielle and I took our children to visit several caves, they also experienced this phenomenon, and it gave us fodder for many conversations on the physics of light.)

To see well, good eyesight alone is not sufficient.  We must not think that blindness is an illness affecting only the eyes. There are many maladies besides physical blindness that can affect our ability to “see,”—and many are no less crippling:

 Selfishness blinds us to the needs of others.

 Insensitivity blinds us to the hurt we cause others. 

 Snobbery blinds us to others’ equal dignity.

 Pride blinds us to our own faults.

 Prejudice blinds us to the truth.

 Impatience blinds us to the beauty of the world around us.

 Materialism blinds us to spiritual values.

 Superficiality blinds us to others’ true worth, causing us to judge only by appearances.

 We not only “see” with our eyes; we “see” with our minds, as well as our hearts and our imaginations.  Narrow minds—small hearts—impoverished imaginations—all lead to loss of “vision,” causing a darkening of our lives and shrinking our world.  It has been said the greatest tragedy is not to be “born blind,” but to have eyes and yet “fail to see.”  (This was the situation of the Pharisees, in today’s Gospel story, as we will consider below.)

 Our most important senses are the “eyes of faith.” The smallest child with faith sees more than the smartest scientist who has no faith. Faith is more wonderful and allows us to appreciate a deeper kind of “sight.”  Those who have been enlightened by Christ can never again perceive themselves in the same way as they did before. Faith illuminatesus with an inner radiance and helps us wend our way through the chaos, confusion and darkness of our modern world.  The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in “having new eyes.”

 Scripture Note

Our First Reading today tells us how Samuel utilized his “inner sight” when he was commissioned by God to look for a new king (1 Samuel 16:1-13.)Setting out, he pondered the qualities such a candidate should possess. In the house of Jesse, in Bethlehem, he was introduced to each of Jesse’s seven sons.  

 Observing that each one was tall, strong and possessed outstanding attributes, he was tempted to “settle” for one of them.  Yet, he was seeking something else—something not so obvious, but a quality he would recognize, if he found it.  As a mere afterthought, he was introduced to David—a not particularly impressive lad. However, David did possess a “fine and pleasant bearing,” which spoke to his having an “inner side,” a good heart.  

 Immediately, Samuel knew his search for Saul’s successor was concluded. (David went on to become one of the most important kings in the Old Testament. And, although he sinned grievously, he always repented; he always forgave his enemies.)  We note his qualities exulted several times in the Gospel, when Jesus is called the “Son of David”—meant as a sincere compliment.  

 David’s quality of a “good heart” set him apart from others.  Even today, this is apparent to us when we perceive a person with a “dark heart” as empty and soul-less; one with a “heavy heart” as wearisome; and we know a “broken hearted” individual suffers from the most painful of wounds.

 Light, so important to good sight, is prominently featured in our Second reading, wherein we hear Paul tell us, “Once you were in darkness; but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-14.)  

 In Biblical times, as today, the question of human suffering, like blindness, was a constant problem.  We see that plainly stated when we read of the ancients’ image of God found throughout the Old Testament—that suffering was punishment for sin. Whenever Scripture spoke of sorrow and misery it was a stark reminder of this “side” of God—a very negative view of the Creator—Who was seen as spiteful and vindictive. 

 Jesus rejected the idea that God displayed a negative disposition in the sufferings of man.  His healing of the blind man manifested God’s goodness.  In so doing, He revealed something about God’s character: His compassion in the face of human suffering.  Although the disciples may not have gleaned this in Jesus’ answers or actions, it was the perfect solution for the blind man!  (Merely talking about a problem can never solve it—only action will….)

 Today’s Gospel story is a lesson on growth in the light of faith. The climax of the story comes when the man makes his profession in Jesus, saying, “Lord, I believe” (John 9:1-41.)  His journey from blindness to sight symbolizes the journey from unbelief—darkness—to faith—light.  Our Gospel story about the blind man also serves to illustrate the ancients’ belief that God punishes sin with infirmities and disadvantages—something that prevailed even into New Testament times.  While we have no knowledge of the actual cause of the blindness—genetic, poor health, etc.—being blind was still seen as punishment for some evil—whether his own, or his parents’.  Meanwhile, while the blind man opened more and more to the light, the Pharisees, who were physically sighted, became more and more spiritually blind.  They didn’t understand that in giving sight to the blind man, Jesus showed us He is, truly,“The Light of the World.” 

Work While You Have the Light

Evil is a reality.  The best response to it is a posture of goodness.  A lecture on the origins of evil will not help one who is in peril, and Jesus saw the man’s plight as an opportunity to do God’s work:  his healing.  The suffering of others is important too,  presenting a prospect for us to show caring.  As with Jesus’ short life, the time for love and mercy is limited for us, too. We don’t know how much of life’s light is remaining for us, so we must make use of every opportunity that confronts us to do good work.   “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again” (Etienne de Grellet, Quaker Missionary, 1773-1855.)

Whenever we are “living in the Lord,” our scope enlarges--wherein:

  • We can “see” the needs of other people.
  • We will have a sincere appreciation of community.
  • We will step with confidence into the unknown.
  • We will comprehend life’s landscape, "the big picture."

These are conditions for a welcoming orientation—of having an attitude of giving—that lead to “living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord”  (Ephesians 5:10.)

 

We must guard against the notion that perception is more important that reality, where appearance is deemed more significant than substance.  Prudent people should consider judgment by mere exterior manifestation to be superficial, or shallow.  We all know outward displays can be deceptive, even misleading.  In fact, everything that comprises the “kernel” of a person’s life is really hidden from view.  In the memorable words of the Antoine de-Saint Exupéry, “One sees clearly only with the heart.  What is essential is invisible”  (The Little Prince, 1943.)  While it may be human nature to look mainly at outward appearances, a truly perceptive person sees what is within—as our faith teaches is the manner in which God sees us.  That is why only He can truly judge people. 

May God Richly Bless You!

      “When I come to the end of all the light that I have, and step into the darkness beyond,

 I must believe one of two things:  there will be something solid for me upon which to stand, 

Or God will teach me to fly.”  (Alpha Legg1995)

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.docx 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.mp3 

Edited by Father Michael
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