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When God Doesn’t Make Sense - Week IV

Light in the Darkness

Dear OLPH Family,

“May you live in interesting times!” an ironic turn of phrase from England (purportedly a Chinese curse). Boy are these interesting times?! From toilet paper shortages to school lessons at home, and even the suspension of public Masses: life is full of the unexpected!

One of our umbrella principles during this message series, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, is that our heavenly Father has everything in mind, while we cannot. No surprises for God. Given our limitations, however, it makes sense that God does not always make sense. We have also seen that our Lord expects us to use our freedom for good. And during these days it is especially important to abide by all the public prescriptions to slow the spread of the virus. 

At the same time, as Catholics, we admit our deep need for spiritual nourishment. We do not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God! I encourage everyone to set aside two 20-30 minute prayer sessions at home. First to read the daily scripture readings and to discuss them as a family. Second to entrust the world to the care of our Mother of Perpetual Help through the recitation of the Holy Rosary as a family, or at least offering the prayer Bishop O’Connell has provided (see elsewhere in bulletin.) Taking advantage of spiritual communion once or twice a day is a great assistance as well.

These days of limited travel and duties are a LOUD invitation to slow down! Granted, I am sure that these first days have been quite hectic and troublesome, as they have been for me. This period in our journey together will take some adjustment. Please be sure to add daily prayer to the new rhythm of your life - no matter the rhythm. God has pushed the “pause” button and so we pause with Him. Try to avoid filling the whole day with the noise of life.

I commend to you a beautiful prayer by Blessed Charles de Foucauld  Memorize it, pray it often, and share it with others!

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord,

and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands,

without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

 

And now let’s turn to focus on Sunday. It is Laetare Sunday: the day the priest would wear rose to signal a Sunday of rejoicing within the great violet expanse of Lent. Do you feel like rejoicing today? Might that be one small illustration of life not making sense (and a reminder of our second overarching principle in the series.) Yet at every moment, myriad causes to rejoice exist. We need only recognize them. It might be helpful to ask: what is God giving me in this moment?

For me personally, He is stripping my life to the essential and inviting me to go deeper in prayer. He is also challenging me to trust and to find innovative ways to share the Gospel with our parish family.

The readings chosen by the Holy Spirit through the Church for this Sunday serve as a wondrous reminder of the power of light, and the ability of light to conquer the darkness. Light wins! And life will win! Fear not. God is near.

Saint Paul admonishes the church of Ephesus, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light... Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” He is very frank about the powers of darkness trained upon us. Paul reminds us that we were once all in darkness, in the grasp of the enemy before we were rescued by Christ on the Cross and made to belong to him through Baptism. We might feel like these days of curfew are days of darkness. We know well that there is an enemy prowling and we must be protective and defensive in our struggle. This reality is true for the Wuhan virus and it is also true of the enemy who seeks to contaminate our souls with foulness and darkness.

We find encouragement in Paul’s words: live in the light. Christ’s own words ring in our ears and resonate in our hearts: “I am the light of the world,” (Jn 8:12).

In our Gospel, our divine Lord claims this unusual title. The Gospel of John contains several unusual statements of this sort: I am the resurrection and the life. I am the good shepherd. I am the vine; you are the branches. I am the way, the truth and the life. With each of these the Son of Man is identifying himself with a fundamental aspect of his mission. Each of these titles are rich for meditation.

In John 9, Jesus not only declares these words but also shows himself to be that light by healing the eyes of a man born blind. With his own spittle and some of the earth from which man was formed on his creation in the Garden (Gn 2:7) Jesus restores his sight. Go and wash is all the man must do, reminiscent of Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Syrian (see 2 Kings 5). Never before had a cure like this been experienced. Returning sight to one whose sight had faded or become impaired, yes, but curing someone born blind exhibited a new power and authority over creation. Jesus is the Lord who brings a new wholeness to humanity.

Yet the leaders, the Pharisees, were more alarmed that this healing had transpired on the sabbath than they were impressed by the wonder of the act. For them, the law - and more precisely its violation - outshined the brilliance of a complete restoration of sight. Their hearts are hardened. They refuse to admit that God could speak and act through his servant Jesus.

It is ironic: those who are supposed to see are blind, while the blind man sees! The blind man shows himself to be deeply open, open to the possibility of sight, and faith and even discipleship. By contrast, the Pharisees are closed to the new and the possible. What is unfolding before their eyes does not make sense to them. It does not compute! Their minds need a new algorithm, new categories to deal with all “the new” that Jesus is accomplishing in the world. 

During these days of social isolation, restricted movement, and absence of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the lives of the faithful, we are searching for what the Lord is doing. May our eyes - and the eyes of our hearts - be peeled to see how our God and Messiah is at work in the world.

Our world has been asleep. Can we admit to some blindness? Might we also recognize when our own priorities are not perfectly aligned with those of the Lord? These are the days of sifting and turmoil. My fervent prayer remains: Lord strengthen our trust. We abandon ourselves into your hands.

Jesus is the light of the world! And He continues to shine as a light in our darkness. Oh Lord, give us faith to see how you are working in the middle of the present moment.

Yours in Christ!

Fr. Joel Wilson

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