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The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Ash Wednesday four weeks ago, Pope Francis preached a homily at the ancient church of Santa Sabina in Rome, where the popes have celebrated the beginning of lent since ancient times. In that homily, in his usual terse and helpful way, he proposed three words for us as we make out Lenten journey. Three words, not three hundred, not 3,000. Three words to show us the way. Three words that speak directly to our readings today, and to the experience of what we need, and need to do in our own lives.

Francis encourages us to do three things, three things that Jesus did, and that the blind man did in today’s gospel.
The gospels give us three accounts of Jesus healing the blind, but today’s story of the man born blind is different from the other two. In the other two stories, of Bartimaeus the blind beggar and of the blind men on the road to Jericho, the blind folk call out to Jesus. They express their need: “Lord, that I might see…” and he heals them.  Here, though, the man blind from birth simply sits by the roadside.  It is Jesus who recognizes him. Jesus pauses. Jesus sees his handicap, his need, his isolation. Jesus spits on the ground, smears the man’s eye with the clay he made, and sends him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. And Jesus continues on his way, returning to his work of announcing the kingdom of God.

But Jesus is not the only one to pause, to see, and to return. The man born blind waits in the darkness, in isolation. There is no forward motion for him, little hope as he sits and begs. His life is entirely on pause. Jesus touches him, as God had once touched and given life to Adam’s clay, and the man sees. He goes to Siloam, to the pool called “sending,” he bathes his eyes, and he sees.

And he returns.  Harassed by authorities who were blinded by their fear want to condemn Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, the man born blind gives witness, calls Jesus a prophet, and is expelled from the Synagogue. He sees better than they do, and because of that he is an outcast anew. Yet Jesus returns to him again, and asks him if he believes.

 Encountering Jesus anew, the man born blind professes his faith in Jesus, the Son of Man, and worships Jesus.
Pause, See, Return; Pause, See, Return. 
If your life is anything like mine, you know how hard it is to pause. To unplug. To listen and not to talk. To see and not to just to glance at things. Our Moms taught us the most valuable life-saving lesson we ever got, and most of the time we blithely ignore it as we blunder into the traffic of life.  Mom said:  Stop, Look, Listen. Head down, we plow ahead, eyes fixed at our phone and not the human horizon in front of us. We don’t even use the phone to listen to people any more. A text is so much more efficient that actually talking to someone. Perhaps the fasting we need in these last weeks of lent is at least a little fasting from noise, from constant movement, from overlooking things and people rather than facing them in stillness.

Here in Seattle we live in a gray and dark green land most of the year. It takes an effort to see through the clouds, even to believe that there is a great mountain and a flowing sound out there. It takes time and effort to see and not just to look, not just to glance off the surface of life:  to see the beauty of our faith and the beauty and needs of our families and friends; to see the haunted eyes of our neighbors who live in tents under the freeway; to see how much we ourselves need, and need to do to lead happy and meaningful lives.

Today is easier, perhaps than most days:  the sun is shining, and there is the first taste of spring in the warming air. On a day like this we can, perhaps, believe, if only for a moment, that light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. So pause and see; let that be your almsgiving today and this week:  give yourself over to seeing how God’s grace has worked in your life, and how much grace we still need to live as Jesus teaches us to live. And as alms, give away some of that grace to others. Help them to see what we have seen, and rejoice in the very gift of sight.

 Finally, return. Return in prayer and thanksgiving.

Pope Francis bids us to return in these words:  “Return to the house of your Father. Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father. It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched. Persisting on the path of evil” he reminds us, “only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand to us. Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven. Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God.”
Pause, See, Return. Pause, See, Return.

But most of all, See.

Father Tom Lucas, SJ





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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303