Sunday, March 30, 2014

To See

The rose vestments of this Fourth Sunday of Lent are meant to remind us to rejoice, because "it's beginning to look at lot like Easter"...but the very wintry weather this morning had us singing a slightly different tune around here.

   Fourth Sunday of Lent   A 

I got glasses when I was in the fourth grade.
I had been told for a long time,
“Don’t sit so close to the TV!  You’ll ruin your eyes!”
But I was only sitting so close
because otherwise everything was just a blur.
The eye doctor diagnosed me as nearsighted:
not able to clearly see things at a distance.
I distinctly remember the drive home
from picking up my new glasses:
looking out the car windows
at sights I’d passed hundreds and hundreds of times,
but which I had never seen before.

This Sunday’s gospel revolves
around the healing of a man born blind…
…but he’s not the only one in the story who’s visually impaired.
There are the Pharisees who clearly have a case of tunnel vision:
their self-righteousness and their preconceived notions
about who God is and how God operates
prevent them from recognizing the Lord
when he’s at work right before their eyes.
And Jesus’ own disciples, too, have some trouble seeing:
they’re nearsighted:
wanting to identify the man’s blindness as a divine punishment;
all they can see is the man’s immediate problem,
and not the possibilities of what God might accomplish.

Why is God punishing us?
No doubt, a few folks are asking that very question
as they wake up to yet another snowy morning!
It’s pretty normal for us to look at things
from such a cause-and-effect perspective—
and we do it with things much more serious
than a late winter storm:
Why did she get cancer?  Why did I lose my job?
Why did our marriage fall apart?
When bad things happen,
we search for someone or something to blame.
Jesus tries to change this kind of thinking among his disciples.
That’s not to say, of course,
that we don’t need to take responsibility for our actions.
But when challenges arise, when a crisis must be faced,
why start pointing fingers, finding fault,
and pouting, “Why me?”
Jesus wants to cure us of such nearsightedness.
He wants us see such moments as graced opportunities:
moments not for laying blame,
but for spotting new possibilities;
a chance to make visible the workings of God.  (cf. H Brock)
Faith in Christ ought to expand our vision
and change our perception of things.
That doesn’t mean that faith is a pair of rose-colored glasses,
which help us avoid looking at
the very real hardship, struggle, and pain
which are part of our lives.
No, faith is more like x-ray goggles:
it helps us to see right through tough times out to the other side,
where God can do unexpected and astonishing things—
not to mention walking beside us every step of the way.

One area where many Catholics
ought to try this hope-filled way of seeing
is when it comes to confession.
Most Catholics look at the Sacrament of Penance
and can see only a torture chamber,
filled with guilt, embarrassment, and shame.
What a pity!
Because if we were able to take the long view,
if we allowed Jesus to heal us of our short-sightedness,
then we could see confession from God’s perspective:
not as a means to dwell glaringly on the dark moments of our past,
but as an invitation to walk with Christ from now on
as a child of the light.

to return to this sacrament of God’s healing mercy—
and not merely by his impassioned words.
He’s said before that he confesses about twice a month,
but on Friday, on his way to hear a few confessions, 
the Pope himself stopped at an ordinary confessional
right in the middle St. Peter’s Basilica:
the first Pope in modern history
to be seen publically receiving the sacrament.
(Imagine what was going through the mind 
of that unsuspecting priest!)
Inserted in this Sunday’s bulletin,
you’ll find a message from Pope Francis,
a detailed examination of conscience,
and other helpful hints on going to confession.
A week from tomorrow,
we’ll be hosting a regional Penance Service for Lent.
Give it some real thought and prayer.
Allow the Lord to cure your nearsightedness,
and see this sacrament not as a matter
of harsh judgment and condemnation
to be feared and avoided,
but an opportunity for a fresh start given by God,
who wants to embrace you with his tender love.

We’re all visually impaired, in one way or another.
Which means that there are many amazing possibilities
we simply fail to see.
Jesus cured the man born blind;
he can certainly cure you and me.

Lord, open our eyes!
Help us to see!

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