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3/22/20 Fourth Sunday in Lent - Fr. Reggie

Jesus gave this blind man two priceless gifts?

First, Jesus gave him the joy of physical sight. For the first time in his life he could see. All of the things that he had known just by words, sound, and touch suddenly came alive. Color flooded his mind and filled him with wonder; the visual symphony of the sky and the landscape; the subtle beauty of expressions on people's faces emphasizing the meanings of their words; the look of love and tenderness from his mother, which he had never seen...

Jesus had opened up to this man a new, glorious, awe-inspiring world of human experience. Joy, amazement, and gratitude filled the man's mind and heart. He experienced a hitherto undreamed of intensity of life.

But Jesus also gave him the gift of spiritual sight - the gift of faith. He enabled the blind man to recognize and see God in Jesus. He enabled him to encounter his Creator knowingly, face to face. And the man was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and awe - so much so that he fell down at Christ's feet and worshipped him, right there in the middle of the crowded Temple.

Which gift did the man value more? His actions give us the answer. He stood up to the powerful Pharisees, defending Christ's lordship, even at the risk of being expelled from the synagogue - making him into a social outcast. This man did not let the gifts of God blind him to the goodness of God.

We have also received two priceless gifts from God: our natural lives, with all that that entails, and our supernatural life, our knowledge of, faith in, and friendship with Christ.

Which do we value more?

Sometimes it is hard for us to admit that we don't follow Christ as closely as we should.

But we really need to be humble. Only the truth will set us free to live an abundant life. 

When we prefer the lesser gifts to the greater gifts, putting our faith in second place, it pains Christ and wounds our souls.

Jesus made this especially clear in his famous revelations to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun who furthered the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the 1600s. While she was in prayer, our Lord appeared to her, with his five wounds shining like five brilliant suns and his Sacred Heart burning like a furnace of fire. He told her how much he loves every single man, woman, and child, and how deeply he feels the ingratitude they show him by rejecting or belittling his friendship. He appeared to her two more times. On the last time, he showed his heart on a throne of flames, wrapped tightly with a crown of thorns, and topped with a cross. He told her, "Behold this heart that has loved men so much that it has spared nothing to testify to them its love. And in return I receive from most of them only ingratitude by their irreverence and their sacrileges and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in the sacrament of love." He then explained to her that he was speaking not only of great criminals and violent sinners, but most especially of those who claimed to be his followers but who had fallen into routine and empty ritualism.

It sounds harsh, but it is only because his love is so deep that our ingratitude is so painful to him.

His love, his friendship, our faith, the sacraments - these are the gifts we should value most.

This perspective helps us see things as God sees them.

For example, vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. From the world's perspective, a vocation is a waste. It trades in some beautiful earthly pleasures and possibilities for something vague and unsubstantial. Many young Catholics hear in the depth of their hearts the gentle but insistent voice of God inviting them to give their whole lives to his service. But because they are constantly bombarded by this worldly view of vocations, their first reaction is fear. They are afraid of what they will have to give up. And that fear can paralyze them, causing God's invitation to go unheeded - bringing sorrow to Christ, weakening the Church, and sowing regret in their own heart.

A vocation is not a cause for fear, but for deep joy! It is an invitation from the Lord himself to follow in his footsteps, to become special ambassadors of the eternal Kingdom, to be in an extreme way the prolongation of Christ himself in the here-and-now of history, to be, in him, the "light of the world."

David had a vocation, as we heard in the First Reading.  But those around him, even his family, discouraged it. It took the courageous determination of the prophet Samuel to help David discover, accept, and follow his vocation.

All of us here today believe in Jesus Christ and in the superiority of God's supernatural gifts.

Let's put that faith into action by praying for vocations, by encouraging those people who know who may have a vocation, and by following our own vocations, whatever they are, with courage, love, and trust.

If we do, we, like Christ, will open the eyes of the blind and bring light to this darkened world.


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