THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
This weekend I am using the Readings from Year A, because most Parishes would be having candidates preparing to be received into the Eucharistic Community this Easter and they would usually use the Reading for Year A.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ When Samuel arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him,’ but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon this reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. This might take a few minutes, try not to rush it. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word, a bit like a short and sweet Text Message)
Psalm: Ps 22
R. The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit. R.
He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort. R.
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. R.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever. R.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:
Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday!
We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: John 9:1-41
As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’
Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.
They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man.
However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.
Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’
Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:
‘Blind? If you were, you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see”,
your guilt remains.’
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. see if you can see, and hear the links, connecting between the First Reading, Second Reading and the Gospel. After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases
He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.
The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.
Wake up from your sleep, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
To the point
The healing of the blind man is not complete until his physical sight becomes spiritual insight and he confesses that Jesus is ‘the Son of Man.’ Belief in Jesus comes to fuller expression when he ‘worshiped him’ as Lord. Ideally, Lent sharpens our own vision of Jesus and challenges us to more authentic worship.
Connecting the Gospel
Baptism is a ritual sign of coming to belief and admits one to full participation in worship. Initiation always leads to worship.
To Catholic experience
It is not enough just to be at worship. We must come with insight (faith) and participate fully, actively, and consciously.
Sight, faith, and worship
As did last Sunday’s gospel, this Sunday’s gospel tracks the coming-to-faith of an unnamed individual: like the Samaritan woman, the blind man comes to faith in stages. He begins by seeing only ‘the man called Jesus’ (9:11), then ‘a prophet’ (9:17), a man ‘from God’ (9:33), ‘the Son of Man’ (9:35), and finally the ‘Lord’ whom he worships (9:38). Both gospels involve water imagery: the Samaritan woman was promised ‘living water’; the blind man must ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ – a name meaning ‘one who has been sent’ (9:7). Jesus is the one who has been sent by God (9:4). To wash in these waters is to be baptised. Baptism is a spiritual enlightenment by which one comes to ‘see’ that Jesus is ‘Lord’ and to ‘worship him.’ These two gospels are appropriate for the final weeks of the catechumenate: they are a reminder that faith grows gradually, is expressed in baptism, and leads to worship.
The blind man’s journey of faith is difficult. The man starts in a darkness that is absolute: blind from birth (9:1), he has never seen the light. The end of the journey is Jesus who is ‘the light of the world’ (9:5). While the physical cure is instantaneous – ’he went and washed and came back able to see’ (9:7) – his vision of Jesus grows only gradually (described above). There are two features of this growth in faith.
First, the man faces repeated questioning, harassment, and judgment; yet, the harder he is pressed, the stronger grows his faith. The evangelist is addressing his community which is locked in struggle with the religious authorities (notice the ‘we’ vs. ‘you’ language in 9:24-34). Faith is hard work.
Second, Jesus is absent for most of the man’s struggle: from verses 8-34, the man is on his own. This, too, addresses the experience of the evangelist’s community after the resurrection-ascension of Jesus. Only faith can ‘see’ Jesus who has returned to the Father.
Recovery of physical sight was easily accomplished; spiritual insight is more difficult. But only spiritual insight attains the goal of faith: worship.
SEEING IN THE DARK. 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (from Year A for those in the RCIA process).
Dr Brian Gleeson, a Passionist priest, lectures in systematic theology at the Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne. He recently stepped down as the Head of the Department of Church History and Systematic Theology at YTU. He joined the faculty at the beginning of 2001. His previous appointments were at Catholic Theological College Adelaide (2 years); St Paul’s National Seminary Sydney (13 years); Catholic Theological Union Sydney (8 years); Pius XII Regional Seminary, Brisbane (1 year); and Good Samaritan Teachers’ College, Sydney (4 years). His postgraduate studies were with the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; the Gregorian University, Rome; and the Melbourne College of Divinity. Fr Gleeson is also an active member of ACTA (Australian Catholic Theologians’ Association).
You and I belong to a Christian community of stories and storytellers. Today’s gospel reading is the story of Jesus the Light of the World. It is the story too of the blind man. It is our story as well. Three stories are interwoven and interconnected. At first the blind man sees in Jesus a man with special powers, one who can smear mud on a blind person’s eyes and make the sufferer see again. Next he comes to see that Jesus is a prophet, a messenger of God. Finally he recognises Jesus as his Lord and King, and bows down and worships him. Where do we find our own story in all this? For each of us, old, middle-aged, or young, the blind man’s story is the story of our becoming Christians, by means of both faith and baptism. In the very early days of the Church, when far more people were baptised as adults than as children, baptism had the name ‘The Enlightenment‘. For those of us baptised as infants, our priest lit a candle from the Easter Candle, symbol of the Risen Lord, and handing it to our father or godparent for us, said: ‘Receive the light of Christ.’ Even as the story of the blind man’s enlightenment shows us the influence of Jesus on the blind man’s honesty, courage, determination, faith, hope and love, it also shows us what it means to ‘walk always as a child of the light‘ (Rite of Baptism). It means nothing less than seeing, feeling, judging and acting, as Jesus himself has done.
A realhomile from Fr.Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All,
One of the many hazards in driving a car along any road is when you are in the middle lane and another car sneaks up on your left hand side, and then sits in your blind spot! No doubt, you have been in a car or perhaps you have been the driver when this has happened to you. In responding to the situation, you indicate your intention to move into the left lane, and then suddenly you see the car in your rear vision mirror just in time before you collide with it. The feeling of shock and horror can cause a weakness in the knees, let alone a reaction to the breaks! If the unfortunate smash occurs, one could be tempted to say: “I didn’t see you there”.
The Gospel reading today is about the cure of a blind man. But the story has far deeper implications than just a person receiving his sight back…this story contains a great challenge to all of us, because it is about the ability to see with the eyes of faith! The whole Gospel story today is a Drama being acted out about the levels of seeing with the eyes of faith, and the various stages of growth within faith as well as understanding who is spiritually blind. So, let’s see if we can get a handle on what is going on in this story, let’s go for an everyday situation like driving the car. Has this happened to you that you are cruising along at about 80 K.P.H not knowing that there was another vehicle in your blind spot? Well, spiritually speaking, we all have our own personal blind spots. Lent is a time to have a look at some of these, and with the help of God’s grace, we can make steps to develop a clearer vision, so that we may see with more clarity God’s saving activity in our lives, and in those around us.
Let’s not skip over the actions that take place in the Gospel story because they all have a profound meaning for all time. In Paragraph one, let’s take note that it was Jesus who saw the man that had been blind from birth. Jesus always sees us; we may think that we are just one in the crowd; no way, Our Lord’s gaze is eternally on each one of us. That in itself can be a bit hard to realise, but it is true, and deep down we know that, but can we SEE it?
In the Paragraph two, Jesus makes a paste with the earth….how extraordinary? But let’s stay with this for a minute or two. In Hebrew the generic for ‘homo sapiens’ ( meaning wise man) is ADAM. Where does Adam come from according to the Book of Genesis? MANKIND comes from the adamah! In Hebrew that means the earth! It also implies that it is the ruddy earth, meaning the rich soil of earth. Now the Divine component within the earthen image is the ruah, in Hebrew, that means the creative breath of God. Water can also be a special sign of the Divine component of life, being alive. From the primeval waters, life comes forth. Let’s take note of this when the blind man is sent by Jesus to the Pool of Siloam. So, in a nutshell, we have especially in John’s Gospel the Sacramental experience of being born again, being re-made, being made new. Water also has an indelible mark on the corporate mind of our ancestors in faith, e.g. The liberating waters of the Sea of Reeds, the new life as received from the waters of Meribah, the new life offered to the Samaritan Woman by Jesus in last week’s Gospel. So here we are just scratching the surface of the deep spiritual significance that the elements signify in the Gospel. Now let’s get back to our blindness, and the new creation that God wishes to make in us, each time we respond to Christ’s invitation to see anew.
Our sinfulness can be a form of blindness; recognizing our inner blind spots is half the battle in getting rid of them. Today’s Gospel makes a very clear point that the blind man had no problem in admitting his blindness. The amazing thing about the story is that the blind man saw more than the religious leaders could; in the sense that he saw the goodness in Jesus, and had more faith in him than they had. The Pharisees had perfect eyesight. Yet, Jesus called them blind! And sadly, they remained in their blindness because they refused to acknowledge it, and seek the help, which Jesus was offering to them. There are many forms of blindness. These other forms of blindness are in some ways just as crippling to the human spirit as being visually impaired. Here are a few examples:
Selfishness: this blinds us to the needs of others;
Insensitivity: this blinds us to the hurt we are causing others;
Snobbery: this blinds us to the equal dignity of others;
Pride: this blinds us to our own faults;
Prejudice: this blinds us to the truth;
Self-centeredness: this blinds us to the beauty of the world around us;
Materialism: this blinds us and makes us numb to spiritual values.
All these things do to the window of the eyes what curtains do to an ordinary window; they prevent the person inside from seeing clearly, what is outside. It also prevents them from recognizing what needs to be healed by the Lord within their very selves. The most important eyes of all are those of faith. The smallest child who has faith sees more than the smartest scientist who has no faith does. Faith is all about seeing! It is about seeing the saving hand of God in our own lives, and within the lives of others. This kind of sight is insight; namely, the ability to really see not only what God has done, but is doing right now. May the words of the song: Open my eyes Lord by Jesse Manibusan help us in our Lenten response to ‘Turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel…’Open my eyes, Lord; help me to see your face. Open my ears Lord help me to hear your voice. Open my heart Lord, help me to love like you.’
God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer.
- The Disciples asked, ‘Who sinned?’ when they saw the man born blind. Contemporary believers like to think of ourselves as being above this kind of thinking, but thoughts of punishment and curse are never far below the surface when illness occurs or disability is experienced. ‘Why me?’ is a real question of despair. How have you faced or responded to this question in your life?
- The parents of the man born blind refused to be drawn into discussion about Jesus or their son. Sometimes it is wise not to be drawn into religious debate; on other occasions, it is crucial and imperative. How have you handled such situations and what did it teach you about your own faith?
- Jesus is the light of the world. What do you see as the darkness of this world and how does the life and teaching of Jesus offer an alternative to such darkness? What have been some of the moments of enlightenment for you in your journey of faith?
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Lent you might like to place some purple material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
Leader: Sometimes we even refuse to see or face
the wrong we do to God and people
Let us ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
(PAUSE FOR A FEW MOMENTS TO THINK THIS OVER)
*Lord Jesus, touch our eyes
and open them to our failures and sins:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
*Jesus Christ, touch our ears
and open them to the cries of the poor and the lonely:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
*Lord Jesus, touch our hearts
and open them to your love and trust:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Leader: Have mercy on us, Lord,
forgive us all our sins
and fully revive in us the faith of our baptism.
Lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to Jesus our Lord, our true light, that he may enliven in all of us a personal and committed faith, and let us say: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
• For the Church, the People of God, that we may help the light of our Lord shine in this world and proclaim his message of truth and love in the language of our time, let us pray: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
• For all those blinded by doubt or despair that they may see again the light of faith through the personal faith of dedicated Christians and the witnessing of the Christian community, let us pray: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
• For all who claim to follow Christ, that their eyes may be wide open to the injustice in which they share, and that they may help to restore the hopes of people in God’s values of truth, dignity, and justice, let us pray: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
• For victims of oppression and discrimination, for refugees and those struck by disasters, that we may not be blind to their needs but help them carry their burdens, let us pray: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
• For our beloved dead, that the Lord may take them into everlasting light and joy, let us pray: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
- Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and ipads….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord: R/ Lord, let your light shine on us.
Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, let us live in your light. Make us see you, in things and the people around us. For you are our Lord for ever and ever. R/ Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.
Leader: The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.