Posts Tagged Lent

Who’s The Real Blind Man

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday,” which expresses the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection.  Today’s readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body and soul, and they instruct us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.

Michael Yaconeli wrote a book entitled God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. In the book he tells the story of a man recently converted to Jesus and how an unbelieving friend sought to “see” why he converted to Jesus:

“So you have been converted to Christ?”

“Yes.”

“Then you must know a great deal about Him.  Tell me, what country was He born in?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was His age when He died?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many sermons did He preach?”

“I don’t know.”

“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ.”

“You are right.  I am ashamed at how little I know about Him.  But this much I know:  Three years ago I was a drunkard.  I was in debt.  My family was falling to pieces; they dreaded the sight of me.  But now I have given up drink.  We are out of debt.  Ours is a happy home.  My children eagerly await my return home each evening.  All this Christ has done for me.”

Does it not sound like the answers given by the blind man healed by Jesus? (Jn 9:1-41)  It’s like watching Law and Order except no one wants to see the facts of the case.

They question the blind man:  “How were your eyes opened?”

He says:  “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

Then they take the blind man to the Pharisees for questioning.  He tells the same story:  “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

But because Jesus performed this cure on the Sabbath, the Pharisees don’t want to believe this “Jesus” is from God so they ask the man born blind:  “What do you have to say about Him?”

To which he responds:  “He is a prophet.”  So now the Jews don’t believe that the man was BORN blind so they call in his parents.  They say:  “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.  Ask him, he is of age, he can speak for himself.”

Still not satisfied, they call the blind man in again.  Now he says in reference to Jesus:  “If He is a sinner, I do not know.  One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”  Then in utter frustration the man says:  “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes.”

Today, I think he would say something like this:  “Come on guys, this is a no brainer!  I was blind from birth, this guy slaps some mud on my eyes and tells me wash it off in the pool of Siloam, and now I see.  Hello!!  Am I the only one who can see?”

To which I respond:  “YES!  You are the only one who can see!”

The Gospel is really very simple and clear.  Jesus is the light of the world.  He anointed the guy’s eyes; tells him to wash; the guy does it and sees and believes.  His story is really our story.  We may not know the answers, but this we do know.  We do see and we do believe in Jesus, the Light of the world.  And in our faith, we worship Him.  However, just because we believe in Jesus, we are not always free of blindness.  We have to struggle to see sometimes.

The real beauty of the man born blind is that the more they badgered him, the less he was blind.  We cannot be like the Pharisees and take up a refusal to see position.  Lent is such a wonderful time for us to recover from blindness.  We can easily lose our vision in our selfish choices or in our grudges, or in any number of other ways.  How about if we are always hanging around people that are cussing and telling dirty jokes?  All of a sudden we become blind to the sin and start doing it ourselves.

How about when we get so caught up in the TV or even a video game, that we are blind to the help that someone else in the room could use.  How about when we are constantly talking to someone who loves to talk about others and we become blind to this sin and start talking about others also.  The point is, the more we put ourselves in the occasion of sin, the more we become blind to the sin.  The more we dwell on anger and hatred, the more we are blind to forgiveness and love.  The real blind man is the one who can no longer see the truth and tries to justify himself and his lies.

On this Laetare Sunday, make the decision to be healed of your blindness by allowing Jesus to anoint your eyes with the grace of a good and thorough confession and then you can wash in the pool of truth and make the deliberate choice to avoid the occasions of sin that will lead you back into the blindness and darkness of being away from Christ.

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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No Such Thing as a Powdered Christian!

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance.

Biologists call it metamorphosis to describe such changes as when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly; the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

Fr. Anthony DeMello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man.  “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’  As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’  Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been.  My one prayer now is:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’  If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”

Now, this is the kind of transformation or metamorphosis that we are invited to during Lent.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives.  The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain reminds us that the way of the cross leads to resurrection and eternal life, and that the purpose of Lent is to help us to enter into those mysteries.

To have this reading of the transfiguration of Jesus on this second Sunday of Lent makes me think of the four last things:  Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment. The transfiguration of Jesus is like the sneak preview that we get at the movies.  It’s the preview of what Heaven really will be like and we can tell from the response of the 3 apostles that it left them speechless.  Peter didn’t want to leave; he wanted to build three tents so that they could just stay there and remain in the moment with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But, they are quickly reminded that they must come down off the mountain and live life with all of its suffering and trials and temptations.  On this second Sunday of Lent, those 4 last things are a good reality check for us to climb the holy mountain of the Lord.  It’s like what the old man recognized at the twilight of his life when he realized that his days were numbered and found that his one prayer was:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself,” so that he doesn’t waste the limited time that he has left.

The 4 last things and the transfiguration have a lot in common in this sense.  What is death?  The separation of the soul from the body.  Why does this matter?  Because of Jesus.  He is all that matters when we die.  While we are on earth, food and the opposite sex and bill collectors and the plumbing leak in the basement matter a lot.  When we die, there is only One Who matters:  JC our savior.

Did you die in sanctifying grace, (i.e. no mortal sins) obeying God’s commandments, and living in charity?  The point is that it’s not the case that we accept Christ once and then we are forever saved; once saved, always saved!  NO!  Our salvation is dependent upon our obedience to Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall out of grace – it only takes one mortal sin to do that!  Spending one’s life trying to have fun, seeking pleasure, and ignoring the commandments of God makes death a very unpleasant thought.  However, a devout Catholic living in the state of grace, without a habit of committing mortal sin, uses the thought of death and judgment to keep himself in check and to continue to transform his life for the better in preparation for Heaven and further distance himself from hell.

That’s what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about.  It is that glimpse of what we all want our eternity to be.  The problem is that we live in a society that wants instant satisfaction.  You may remember the comedian Yakov Smirnoff describing his arrival in the US from Russia and his lack of preparation for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores.  He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk; you just add water, and you get milk.  Then I saw powdered orange juice; you just add water, and you get orange juice.  And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, ‘What a country!’”  Smirnoff was joking, but we make these assumptions about Christian transformation – that people change instantly at salvation.  But, we as Catholics call it transformation through repentance and renewal of life, deriving strength through the word of God and the sacraments.

We need to be thinking about the consequences of our actions in this life.  We need to recognize that we will be judged and there will be eternity in Heaven or in Hell depending on that judgment.  Thankfully, there is purgatory to clear out the things that slip between the cracks so that we can eventually get to Heaven.

What better time than Lent for us to really ponder these things so that we can seek the mercy of God, especially through confession to begin the transformation that we need to get us to Heaven.  There is no such thing as a Powdered Christian. A true disciple of Christ is not born by adding water to Christian powder.  There is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born.  They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.  So, on this second Sunday of Lent, start working on being a first rate version of yourself and pray the one prayer that mattered to the old man in the story:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.”

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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What in the world is lent?

What in the world is lent? I was always confused when I heard about the season of lent. I would think, why are we observing “lint season”? What’s so special about that stuff in the corner of our blue jean’s front pocket? Or that stuff that gets caught in that screen on the dryer and prevents towels from ever getting dry?

Years later I found out that, “Lent” in the Christian tradition, is the 40 days leading to Easter, starting on “Ash Wednesday.” Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer — through prayer, repentance, giving and self-denial — for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many, including me, have been focused on “giving up something for lent;” I guess that would fall under self-denial. In the past I’ve given up coffee, candy, and two years ago I tried giving up talking on the cell phone while driving. I thought that I was pleasing God, but last year I asked myself, ‘Is Lent a time of self-denial? Is that what Jesus wants?’ I’m not so sure. Maybe if the things we are giving up come between us and God, but I’m not so sure that giving up coffee, candy and talking on the cell phone are on top of God’s list of priorities for us.

I think God would rather us look at the things in our lives that separate us from him and our family. Sometimes it may be something that seems harmless, but we can become consumed by it and suddenly it’s a barrier between us and God. Its something I struggle with, I can become consumed with fishing, golfing, hunting, and other things and find myself not focused on God or my family (don’t believe me, ask my friends, I’m Mr. Obsessive). I think some of these things are what we may want to look at cutting down on or giving up for lent (and who knows, maybe even longer). I’m not saying God wants us to give up fishing or golfing completely. I’m saying that if it’s coming between us and God or our family, maybe we need to re-evaluate how much we are doing it. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me”. Things that we put before God, can become like little gods.

Last Wednesday was “Ash Wednesday”, but it’s not too late for all of us to look at our lives and pick something that we can give up or cut down on for lent. But instead of coffee or candy, we can look at something that’s keeping us from God and our families.

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