“NOW I CAN SEE”
Fr. Alex’s Corner, March 26, 2017
Two men looked out from prison bars.
One saw mud, the other saw stars….
This little couplet, ascribed to Dale Carnegie, speaks of a reality we know very well: all too often, we see what we look for…. Two people view the same scene and see different things. Besides our vision, we also have a perspective which determines how we process what we see. One person can see a parade and enjoy it, another sees it as a traffic jam. Different perspectives can come from age, experience, values, or when you have a headache.
Today’s Scripture readings compare how God sees things with how we see things. It’s no surprise that there can be a difference. The miracle is that God wants us to share His vision.
In our First Reading from the Book of Samuel (1 Sm 16), God sends a prophet to choose and anoint a new king for Israel. He goes to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and sees seven regal-looking sons who might look good in crown and throne. But God says “No!” Jesse then calls his youngest, David, a shepherd-boy. The Lord said, “There – anoint him, for this is the one!” King David did some naughty things, but when he sinned, he repented, and God loved him. He was a good king. God saw something in him that others didn’t.
In the Gospel (John 9), Jesus’ cure of a blind man on the Sabbath day gets different reactions! Some were amazed at Jesus’ power; others were upset that Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath. Some people suspected the man was not blind in the first place. Even his parents didn’t want to get involved. But the man himself gave testimony: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I can see.” He later returned, professed his faith that Jesus was “the
Son of Man,” and worshiped Him. “Now I can see.” He gained sight and insight, or Faith!
The problem cited in this Gospel story is that some people believe, others don’t, or maybe can’t. Faith is a gift. A gift we must pray for, and a gift that we receive when we pray and receive the Sacraments.
A person who has Faith can share God’s vision. He sees things differently. God created us in His image and likeness and revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. When Jesus speaks that we must love each other as He loves us; that we must forgive seventy-times-seven; that we must help those in need, He is calling us to do what He does, and this He does because He is love. But to do that, we need that vision, that Faith. Too often, it’s very different from what our physical eyes “see.”
In 1888 a man was shocked to read the notice of his own death in the newspaper. It could have been funny except that the article said that he discovered a new way to kill people and he got rich on that. He invented dynamite. He envisioned this as a good thing, to help in construction and road-building. But when he “saw” this through someone else’s “eyes,” he was horrified. That very day he decided to devote all his energies to work for world peace. He left most of his estate to fund the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, he was Alfred Nobel.
There are different ways of looking at issues. Sometimes it’s a moral difference. Our politics can be that. So, do I choose the religion that fits my politics; or do I choose politics that fit my religion? It depends on whether my vision is God’s vision, Faith. It’s not easy. But the difference is very real: it’s like looking out the window and seeing mud - or stars.
BLESSED BE GOD IN HIS ANGELS,
AND IN HIS SAINTS!
Fr. Alex’s Corner, March 19, 2017
Take a bottle of water to church this Sunday because you will hear a lot about THIRST! Everyone wants water. Jesus also cried out on the cross, “I Thirst,” and I surmise that the greatest thirst in the world is Jesus’ thirst for souls. Everything else flows from that.
In our Catholic liturgy, Lent is a “privileged season,” meaning that we don’t celebrate the feast days of saints so that we can focus on the mystery of Jesus and the Cross. But our daily Scripture readings tell of epic heroes and their unswerving faith in God. Some are ancient prophets, some are apostles, and others encountered Jesus while He dwelt among us.
We do “celebrate” some significant saints’ days during this time. What makes these saints saintly is how they took Jesus’ message to heart and made it real. The Word becomes flesh in more ways than one.
March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick, and the Irish invite us all to be Irish for a day. Among my fondest memories are marching with Mater Dolorosa School in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Holyoke. I marched wearing my Franciscan Habit and when the crowd called out, “Fr. Alex,” my head and heart did swell! It was great.
It would be sad to limit our St. Patrick’s Day celebration to corned beef & cabbage and green beer. Patrick lived in the fifth century so little is known about him. But we know that as a 16 year-old, he was kidnapped from his home in Roman Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave. His parents were Christians, and so was he. For six years in captivity he tended sheep and lived with them, too. Then he escaped and was picked up by some sailors for a perilous 200 mile sea voyage back home. He later became a
missionary and returned to Ireland – not to avenge his captors – but to bring the story of Jesus to them. Imagine being inspired to share the story and teachings of Jesus with people who kidnapped and enslaved you!
And that’s no blarney!
Then, of course, March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph. What a story that is! Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Luke does it from Mary’s experience. Matthew tells it from Joseph’s perspective. Before the angelic messages, he and Mary were planning their wedding. They were probably very ordinary people chosen for an extraordinary task. Was he hurt when he found out that his fiancée was pregnant? Of course he was! According to law, he could have had her killed. But no, he would be kind. Another lesson for us who want to swing back whenever someone swings at us.
What a husband and foster-father he was! Not one word from Joseph’s mouth is recorded in the sacred writings. But his deeds speak volumes. He was father to God’s Son, a laborer, a provider. What faith he had! Every time he had a dream, he had to pick up and move. (That is why I never worry if you fall asleep during my homilies. St. Joseph got his messages from God while asleep! You can too!)
So, my friends, we encounter many good, holy people this week: Moses, Jesus, the Woman at the Well, and Patrick and Joseph, too. This is our family, you know. So, eat all the corned beef & cabbage you want. But most of all, when you march to the Altar to receive Holy Communion this Sunday, think of the members of your faith family who are marching with you.
What a Parade this is! March proudly! Make everyone else GREEN with holy envy!
THIS IS MY BELOVED SON; LISTEN TO HIM
Fr. Alex’s Corner, March 12, 2017
When my brothers and I grew up on Buffalo’s East Side, there were seven Polish Catholic churches within walking distance of home. (All but two are closed now. The old folks died and the young ones moved to the ‘burbs.) Two blocks from our parish was Transfiguration Church. I loved going there on Saturdays after Confession. The church was dark except for the huge mural of the Transfiguration behind the altar. Jesus was at least three times life-size, and his white and gold trimmed garments dazzled in the spot lights. It was awesome and I remember it to this day.
The Transfiguration in today’s Gospel (Matt 17) took place about six weeks before Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. That’s important to keep in mind. What the disciples knew and when they knew it are good questions. Yes, Peter proclaimed that “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Did they really know what that meant?Probably not, at least not until Pentecost. If they did, would Peter have betrayed Jesus three times; would the apostles have run when Jesus was arrested? Judas might not have betrayed Jesus had he any inkling of what “Messiah” meant to Jesus. They needed something to strengthen them for the shock and awe that lay ahead:the shock of Good Friday and the awe of Easter Sunday.So, Jesus took them up Mt. Tabor for an unforgettable experience.
For those three Jewish men to see Jesus in the dazzling white of his transfiguration; for them to see Moses, the Law Giver who spoke withGod! And Elijah! The greatest prophet who proved so dramatically that Yahweh-God was the only God (see 1 Kings 18). Then to hear the voice from the cloud: God Himself was speaking to
them: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. LISTEN TO HIM.
WOW! It’s a wonder they didn’t die of fright, of excitement, or just pure bliss!
Yes, it was good to be there. Once Jesus died and resurrected, their Mt. Tabor experience would strengthen them and impress the world.
Have YOU ever had a Mt. Tabor experience? Have YOU ever had an experience of God so strong, so profound that it left you speechless? Some say they felt that way on their wedding day, or the birth of their child, On Ordination Day, at a retreat. Or,watching a sunset….
This Lent Jesus is calling YOU up Mt Tabor! So: if you have the opportunity to make a retreat, DO IT! If your parish offers a Day of Prayer, DO IT. If your parish has Eucharistic Adoration, DO IT. Perpetual Adoration is big in the Church today, and it brings great blessings. Check if a church or monastery near you has Perpetual Adoration. Or, agitate for it in your own parish. In some places each church in a city takes turns, and everyone visits the churches. DO IT!
How about a “God Spot” in your home. Find a
place with a comfortable chair (not near a TV or computer. Those are false gods!). Maybe you have a family heirloom statue or picture to place there. Sit there. Talk to God. We have our prayer books and beads for God to LISTEN to us. But God said, of His Son, LISTEN TO HIM.
If there is silence, that’s ok. We need silence, too. I guarantee it. Sit with the Lord. LISTEN TO HIM. And just like those apostles in the Transfiguration story, your very own Mt. Tabor experience will fill you with joy, and prepare you for the shock and awe in your own life. Trust me. It works! DO IT.
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
Fr. Alex’s Corner, March 5, 2017
Pope John Paul II said that Jesus Christ did not come into our world to take away afflictions, but to assume them, and thus He gave our afflictions salvific value. Benedict XVI called the desert temptations of Jesus “a descent into the perils besetting mankind.” Pope Francis says that “even Jesus’ life was a battle: He came to conquer evil…, to conquer the devil.”
Those are my thoughts as I review the Scripture stories on temptation proclaimed on this First Sunday of Lent. My thoughts may not be as profound or as quotable as those of the popes cited above, but at least I’m in good company!
If there was too much negative emphasis on sin and temptation in times past, we may have swung to the other extreme and now rank these ideas as obsolete as rotary phones. Look at the world today. Pretty smart, aren’t we.
The common dictionary defines temptation as a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. The Catholic Catechism goes further and defines it as a solicitation to sin, whether by persuasion or by the offer of some good or pleasure. A wise old (c. 22 yrs) novice, who suggests he’s an expert on temptation, tells me that “it seems so good at first, but afterwards the feeling is so b-a-a-a-d.”
Our first Reading today, from the Book of Genesis, details the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The tempter is the devil, and he convinces Eve that if she eats that fruit, she will be as knowledgeable as God. That’s at the center of all sin. We think we know more than God, and choose to act in spite of His warning. We call it “original” sin, not because it was so clever, and no one thought of it before, but
because that is the ORIGIN of all sin: we think we know better than God.
The Gospel (Mark 10) tells that after Jesus was baptized He was led into the desert by the Spirit to pray and fast for forty days. At His Baptism a voice from Heaven declared Him the Beloved Son in whom God is well-pleased. The devil had to wonder, and so he came to test Jesus. After a forty-day fast, of course, Jesus was hungry. So why not change stones into bread? NO WAY, said Jesus. He would use His power to feed thousands in another desert, but He would not use this power for Himself. “Throw yourself down from the Temple,” says the devil. The Angels will protect you. NO WAY, said Jesus. He would protect the special delivery of the man being dropped from the roof for Jesus’ healing, but He’s not doing acrobatics for the Evil One. Then the devil offered all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship the devil. NO WAY, said Jesus. He came here to establish a different kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Earthly kingdoms didn’t interest Him.
So, how did Jesus fight temptations? He just said “NO” and told the devil where to go. That’s what you and I (and that novice!) must do.
Temptation is real. It’s an affliction that perils all mankind. If Jesus was to be human, He too had to face that. So do you and I. During this Lenten season we are invited to pray, make a sacrifice or two, and do serious almsgiving. The power of Lent is that the whole Church is united in prayer and sacrifice. We are not in this alone. It’s time to face our temptations and sins, our prejudices, our angers and grudges, and our disappointments. Sacrifice all of them to the Lord, and just tell the devil to go to …… Well, back where he belongs! God bless…