Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homily for Today

It is amazing how there is always a passage in the Gospel Reading that touches the heart in a special way. Today, I was touched by the Sacred Words, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work." [Jn. 9:4] This verse blends beautifully with the Lenten Season, reminding us of our obligation to prepare ourselves for the liturgical celebration of the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus that is quickly approaching. More will be said on this later on.

Today's First Reading [1 Sam. 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13] gave us the account of the anointing of David as the king of Israel. The Holy Scriptures provide us with two accounts of David's association to Saul. The first account portrays David as a musician who was brought into the life of Saul to pacify him. [1 Sam. 16:14-23] The second account portrays David as a competent warrior who could be very useful to Saul. [1 Sam. 17:12-20]

In those days, Saul ruled over Israel as their king. Why then did God ask the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king while the Israelites had a living king who was ruling over them? It was because king Saul turned his back to God, not carrying out the Divine commands. [1 Sam. 15:11] Therefore God rejected Saul as king over His people.

Now Samuel was commissioned to go to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint God's newly chosen king. [1 Sam. 16:1] As we heard, all the sons of Jesse who were present in the household passed before Samuel. None of them were chosen by God. While Samuel would have chosen one of them because of his appearance, Samuel was reminded by God that a calling is not based on one's outward appearance. God looks on the heart of the person. [1 Sam. 16:7]

Consequently, Samuel asked Jesse if all of his sons were present. He quickly learned that the youngest one was missing. He was keeping the sheep. Samuel immediately sent for him. [1 Sam. 16:11]

When David came in, the Lord told Samuel to rise and anoint him. For he was the chosen one. [1 Sam. 16:12] In obedience to God, Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers. From that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David. [1 Sam. 16:13]

The lesson that we learn from this reading is that God is free to elect whoever He chooses. Divine wisdom far surpasses human wisdom. Human wisdom is limited to what it sees and what it hears. Divine wisdom searches the soul, knowing every thoughts of the mind. Divine wisdom knows those who are fearful of the Lord, those who are humble, those who will serve the Lord in obedience. It knows those who will live as children of the Light.

Today's Second Reading [Eph. 5:8-14] reminded us to live as children of the Light. It presented the contrast between those who live a Christian life versus the pagans. The Christians were compared to the light versus the darkness. Why did Saint Paul feel it necessary to remind the Ephesians of this truth? It was because some men had a tendency of allowing themselves to be influenced by Gnostic teachings. These individuals considered themselves enlightened and above all considerations of good or evil. Surely, pride must have taken over their reasoning.

Paul reminded the Ephesians that once, they were in the darkness. But now, in the Lord, they are in the Light and as such, they must live as children of light. [Eph. 5:8] How do we know the children of the Light? It is by their fruit. The fruit of the Light is all that is good and right and true. [Eph. 5:9] The children of the Light try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. [Eph. 5:10]

Not only must the children of the Light not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but also, they have an obligation to expose them. [Eph. 5:11] If something is not good, not right or not true, it must be exposed. For no one can serve two masters. He will be loyal to one and uncommitted to the other. No one can serve the Light and darkness at the same time.

The Ephesians were reminded that it was shameful to even mention what some people do secretly. [Eph. 5:12] Such a behaviour promotes gossip. It gives the appearance that sins such as adultery, promiscuity, divorce, etc... are permissible because these have become the norms of society. It does not mean that because a high percentage of people are committing adultery that adultery is holy and permitted by God. A sin is a sin, and it must be exposed. On this subject, the Book of Isaiah states, "If favour is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and do not see the majesty of the Lord." [Is. 26:10]

Paul completed his writing by stating, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." [Eph. 5:14] These words echo a similar passage in the Old Testament where it states, "Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." [Is. 60:1] In other words, it is time to snap into reality and to embrace a spiritual mind by doing what is holy. Christ does not shine on those who remain as sleepers, refusing to rise from the dead.

Today's Gospel Reading also spoke of the Light. [Jn. 9:1-41] As we heard, it was the story of the man who was physically blind since birth. This reading reminds us that by nature, we are all born spiritually blind. Our blindness ends when we were admitted into the Body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. By remaining righteousness through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist, we have maintained our sight. Should we choose to neglect our blessed hope and shipwreck, surely, we will quickly find ourselves blinded by the darkness that surrounds us.

Returning to the Gospel, as Jesus was walking along, He and His disciples came across a blind man. (v.1) Seeing man, the disciples asked Jesus why the man had been afflicted with blindness? (v.2) Was the man born blind because of his sin or because of the sin of his parents? Now some will ask, "If the man was born blind, how could he have sinned before having been born?" It is impossible! In this case, it is believed that the disciples reasoned that since God has the foreknowledge of all things to come, the blindness was afflicted upon the man for a sin that he was to commit during his lifetime. In other words, God punished the man before his sin was committed. This was not a common Jewish belief. The Jewish people believed that every affliction was the result of a sin that had been committed. And in some cases, the sins of the parents could fall on their descendants. [Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9]

Jesus did not agree with such beliefs. Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." (v.3) The reason why the man was born blind was to glorify God through the manifestation of a miraculous cure. Without knowing it, the man was to become an instrument of God's power.

Jesus continued, "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." [Jn. 9:4-5] From these words, three things are made known. First of all, through the miraculous cure of the blind man, Jesus was identifying Himself as the Divine Light. Secondly, through the words, "we must work," Jesus was reminding His disciples that it was also their duty to perform the works of God. Thirdly, by stating, "while it is day," Jesus was indicating that the grace of God was at work while the Divine Light was present, therefore facilitating the conversion of those who were present. When the grace and the Light of God are no longer present, nor the light that is being carried by Christians, there is spiritual darkness.

Having said the aforementioned words, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes. He then told the blind man to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam, which means "sent." The blind man obeyed and returned with his sight having been restored. [Jn. 9:6-7]

Imagine going to a doctor to have your eyes tested and the doctor spits in his hands, mixes it with something, applies it to your eyes and then tells you to go and wash yourself. I think 99% of us would not return to this doctor, finding him pretty gross. Why then did the people not react when Jesus did this? It was because in those days, it was a common practice. [Mk. 7:33, 8:23] The people believed that spittle had the properties of medicine.

During that situation, the actions of Jesus were symbolic of the Sacrament of Baptism. The original word that was translated into English to say "smear" literally meant "anointed." Since the earliest days of Christian history, anointing had been part of the ritual of Baptism.

Continuing with the biblical story, within hours, those who had known the beggar while he was blind had become divided among themselves. Some were convinced that the beggar had been healed while others rejected the truth, rationalizing that the man had to be a look-alike. [Jn. 9:8-9] Over and over, they asked the cured man what happened to him. He explained in details what the man named Jesus had done and commanded him to do before his sight was restored. [Jn. 9:10-11] It is interesting to note here the spiritual growth of the man who was previously blind. In his present reference to Jesus, he calls Him, "the man called Jesus."

Following this, the cured man was taken to the Pharisees (v. 13) who interrogated him. The man recounted again what had happened to him. (v. 15) Now at this point, the Pharisees should have been jumping with joy for this man could see for the first time in his entire life. But no, this was not the case! Instead, they were criticizing Jesus for having healed on a Sabbath. (v. 14) In their opinion, Jesus could not be of God because He had not observed the Sabbath. Contrary to this, others refused to believe that Jesus was a sinner because of the great power that He had manifested. (v.16) Once more, the people were divided.

So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet." (v.17) Note here that the cured man no longer says, "It is the man called Jesus." He now refers to Jesus as a prophet. Here we see the progressive spiritual growth of the man.

The Pharisees did not believe the man and so they called his parents. (v.18) Having been questioned on the subject, his parents affirmed that the man was their son who had been born blind. (v. 20) Fearing that they may be excommunicated from the Temple for confessing that Jesus was the Messiah, (v. 23) they said very little, indicating that their son was of age and he could speak for himself. (v. 21) Here we learn that religious persecution is nothing new. Even in those days, those who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah were rejected by the authorities. From this it can be concluded that in those days, many must have believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and they spoke openly about it.

For the second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." {v. 24) "Give glory to God" means "tell the truth." By telling the truth, the man was indeed glorifying God. But the truth spoken by the man for the glory of God was a truth that the Pharisees were denying. Frustrated with the Pharisees, the man said, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." (v.25)

Again, the Pharisees asked, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" (v. 26) The cured man answered, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" (v. 27) At this point, it is obvious that the man was tired of debating the subject with the Pharisees on the grounds of what is a sinful violation of the Sabbath. Rather, he redirected the subject to the one truth, that Jesus had done a work that was apparently miraculous. Therefore, can they claim Jesus to be a sinner? As can be perceived from this, as light does not produce darkness, a sinner could not have performed such a great miracle.

When the blind man asked the Pharisees if they wanted to become disciples of Jesus, he was reminding the Pharisees that Jesus was gathering disciples despite their efforts to stop him. This must have enraged them.

Following this, the man became quite bold in his answers, giving a perfect example of how Christian should testify fearlessly to the truth. (v. 30-33) Referring to biblical passages, [Is. 1:15, 59:2, Mic. 3:4, Prov. 15:29] the cured man logically proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus could not be a sinner. He had to be from God. That was the limit! The Pharisees excommunicated the man from the Temple. (v. 34)

The aforementioned shows that through faith in Jesus, the eyes of the blind can be opened, both, physically and spiritually. Contrary to this, while some may see the obvious, even possess unquestionable evidence to the fact, unless they have a sincere heart, they shall continue to remain blind.

When Jesus heard that the man had been driven out of the Temple, he went and found him. Jesus asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" (v. 35) To this, the man answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." (v. 36) Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." (v. 37) The cured man said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshipped Jesus. (v. 38) At this point, referring to Jesus as "Lord" which means "God," [Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:11] the man had achieved the fullness of knowledge as to the true identity of the Son of Man.

Then, Jesus stated, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." (v. 39) While Jesus has come to judge those who reject the truth, many shall condemn themselves. For some falsely believing that they possess the light, have and continue to reject the revelation of God that was manifested through Jesus Christ.

When some Pharisees heard the words of Jesus, they said, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" (v. 40) To this, Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." (v. 41) In other words, he who is blind cannot be guilty of sin for not knowing the truth for he is unaware of the truth. But he who is aware of and rejects the truth, claiming that his way is the way, he is guilty of sin. It is only when one realizes the extent of his blindness that there is hope of seeing the light. But what makes a case hopeless is when a person possesses self-satisfaction.

In conclusion, "We must work the works of him who sent (us) while it is day; night is coming when no one can work." [Jn. 9:4] As the blind man confessed Christ before others, through our Baptism we were called to plead the cause of the Light. If we are rejected because of our spiritual calling, let us rejoice, for it is Christ Himself Who is being rejected through our testimony. In the end, the words of Jesus shall be fulfilled, "For judgment I have come into the world." [Jn. 9:39]

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