Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 24: Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings:  Acts 1:1-11; 2) Ephesians 1:17-23; 3) Matthew 28:16-20

FOCUS:  Jesus promises His disciples that He will be with them as they become His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

          In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that two men dressed in white ask the disciples, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

          It might be safe to assume that the Apostles were overwhelmed by what they had just heard and seen.  It just a few short weeks, they had witnessed the suffering and death of Jesus, their beloved friend.  They believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and they were trying to understand – and believe – that He was no longer dead after seeing Him, touching Him and eating with Him. 

          In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells them that He will send the Holy Spirit and that they will be His witnesses, not only to the Jews in Jerusalem, but to the ends of the earth.  Jesus then is lifted up on a cloud and disappears from their sight.  Just imagine those Apostles, standing motionless, staring up at the sky.

          It is reasonable to think that the Apostles were still overwhelmed from their thoughts and feelings about recent events.  St. Matthew’s Gospel confirms this.  When they met Jesus in Galilee as He instructed them, we are told, they worshiped Him, but they doubted.  Yet Jesus has confidence in them.

          His response to the doubting Apostles is firm and immediate:  All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.

          Jesus has total trust in the Father and in His plan for the world, and He commends that plan to the Apostles.  He entrust His power to them to be His witnesses to all the world – to go and make disciples, to Baptize them, and to teach all that He commanded.

          Jesus, however, does not leave them – or us – alone, staring up at the sky to question and doubt whether we can accomplish this great task.  He remains with us as we accept and embrace His mission, guiding and empowering us through the Holy Spirit.

          Jesus remains with us, nourishing and sustaining us for His mission in the celebration of the Eucharist, in His word and in His church, the community of believers.

          As Jesus trusted the doubting Apostles, He trusts us to believe in Him and His mission.  He trusts us to believe that He is the way, the truth and the life that leads and guides us until His return.  Jesus trusts us to believe that He is with us – always – until the end of the world.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 17: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 2) 1 Peter 3:15-18; 3) John 14:15-21

FOCUS:  We love God by keeping His commandments and through the grace of the Holy Spirit are filled with joy.

          The reading from the first letter of Peter today tells us to sanctify (or make holy) Jesus as Lord in our hearts.  What does that really mean?  In our relationship with God, how do we accomplish this?  Keep my commandments, Jesus says.  That is how He will know that we love Him.

          So simple, yet Jesus knows it is not easy for us.  He knows that we will be overwhelmed and at times struggle with doubts or guilt.  I will not leave you orphans, Jesus promises.  What He asks of us is not easy, but He also promises to send the Holy Spirit to help us.  We are never alone.  During these challenging days of living with COVID-19, more than ever, we need to remember that we are never alone….Jesus truly is with us!

          In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, when the people of Samaria accepted the Gospel message, the author reports that there was great joy in that city.  When we love Jesus, when we keep His commandments, then we, too, can be a people of joy.

          From this joy, we can offer a defense of our faith when it is needed, remembering the instruction from the First Letter of Peter:  to do so gently.  Pope Francis, many times, has urged us both to share the love of God in our hearts through lives of prayer and service and to be mindful not to do so simply to change people’s opinions.

          The reading concludes with an emphasis that our conscience should be clear and that we should live upright lives.  That keeping God’s commandments and loving Him is not only the greatest defense of our faith, but is, in fact, our sacred obligation.

          In Samaria, two thousand years ago, the Apostle Philip preached and healed people.  The city received the Gospel.  Then, the Scripture tells us, Peter and John were sent to Samaria to pray for them and lay hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 

          Samaria had heard the Gospel, but the people there were not left to strive alone to keep God’s commandments and neither are we.  The Holy Spirit comes to bind us to our good intentions, to advocate for us before God for the grace to live holy lives, and to teach us, how to love Jesus.

          In a message for young people that applies to us all, Benedict XVI, Pope emeritus, had this to say:  I want to invite you to dare to love.  Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death for ever through love.  (World Youth Day, April 1, 2007.)

          Let us leave here today with renewed intention to love God.  May the Holy Spirit give us strength and fill our hearts with joy.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 10: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 6:1-7; 2) 1 Peter 2:4-9; 3) John 14:1-12

FOCUS:  We are a royal priesthood, initiated by our Baptism, called out of the darkness to share our faith.

          Today’s Gospel is one that is often chosen by family members as they go through the often difficult process of planning a funeral liturgy for a departed loved one.  The Church offers many beautiful and meaningful Scripture passages to console us and remind us that just as Jesus died and came back to life, so will those who believe in Him.  This particular Gospel passage is one that I suggest people take some time to reflect upon, putting themselves in the room with Jesus as He tells them He is leaving them.

          Let us put ourselves in the room for a moment.  We have been following Jesus almost three years.  We saw Him work many miracles.  We heard Him tell us of a wonderful new Kingdom.  We learned about God’s tremendous love for all of us.  Now we hear Jesus saying He is leaving us.  Like the disciples, we also might wonder if we are ever going to see the Lord again.

          Jesus, knowing our thoughts, reassures us by telling us that He indeed is going away, but will come back again some day and take us to Himself.  We probably would not understand that, since, like the disciples, we had not yet experienced seeing the risen Lord.

          Jesus speaks of a dwelling place…a place where there is plenty of room.  The question has often been posed, “What happens when there is no more room in heaven?”  Today’s Gospel reminds us that there will never be such a time.  There is room for everyone in heaven.  That is good news!  The next question is “How do we get there?”  Thomas, the Apostle, asks the question and the rest of us in the room are intently listening for Jesus’ answer.

          “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one goes to the Father, except through me.”  What does that mean?  It means that if we wish to get to that special dwelling place Jesus is preparing for us, the place we call heaven, we have to go through Jesus.  We must see Him as the way, the truth and the life.  We must listen to what He has to say to us and put His teachings into practice in our daily lives.  He must be our top priority.  As St. Benedict once said, “We must prefer nothing to Christ.”

          We are beginning the fifth week of the Easter season, and, at least in our part of the world, new life is beginning to burst around us in the springtime energy.  Colors of gray and brown are replaced by green and other colors that remind us of warmth.  Grass is beginning to grow and perennials are breaking through.  Light is replacing darkness and life is replacing death

          As St. Peter reminds us today in the second reading, we are a royal priesthood that began with our Baptism.  We have been called out of the darkness to share our faith.  May we embrace our role and our hope as easily as the springtime flowers respond to the rays of the ever-increasing sunlight.

          May God’s grace today nourish us with all that we need to go out into the world, even remotely as we must do in so many ways these days, and share our faith, calling people, as the Lord has called us, out of darkness into His own marvelous light.  The message given us by Jesus is, “I am the way, the truth and light.”  Let that be the message we bring to others by our words and our deeds.

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 3: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 2) 1 Peter 2:20b-25; 3) John 10:1-10

FOCUS:  Hear and heed the voice of our Shepherd.

          Sheep who are left alone for a while will tend to wander off and get into trouble.  That is why the shepherd spends much time and energy keeping an eye on them.  When left by ourselves, we, too, have this tendency to wander off and get into trouble of all kinds.  When we allow the voices of temptation, for example, to drown out the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are headed for trouble.  Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and we need to heed His voice.

          What an awesome event is described in today’s first reading.  Peter speaks plainly to the crowd as to their involvement in the death of Jesus.  Some of them were no doubt the agitators in the crowd the day Jesus was condemned and crucified.

          Others stood by silently and let it all unfold.  Let us remember that 10 of the apostles ran away.  Only one remained at the foot of the cross with Mary and several other women.  Peter told them to repent and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  They were so filled with remorse and a desire to be forgiven and follow the Lord that they asked the all important and necessary question, “What are we to do?  What do we have to do to be in God’s good graces?”  Their own spirits were now ready to receive the Holy Spirit.  They were ready to put their sinful past in the past and would now life a new life in Christ.

          Those who accepted Peter’s message were Baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.  All the people repented for whatever role they may have played in Jesus’ death, and the community grew by 3,000.  Truly a gracious and blessed day in the life of the Church.  We can only say the heavens rejoiced at the sight of such a glorious event.

          This was not work of Peter, of course.  This was the Lord working through Peter.  Jesus is the gate protecting the sheep from the robbers – Jesus, who came so all might have life and have it more abundantly.  The crowds in the first reading heard their shepherd’s voice in the words and actions of Peter.  The Pharisees and others in the Gospel did not recognize their shepherd who was right in front of them.

          Let us hear the Good Shepherd’s voice this day.  We, like many in that crowd may ask, “What do we have to do?”  The answer is the same.  “Come to the Lord.”  We have already been Baptized.  Let us be worthy of our calling and allow Jesus in influence every aspect of our lives. Let us help others hear His voice through our words and actions this day as well.  For His voice, Jesus’ voice, leads us to life.  The Easter season is the perfect time to move from pain and suffering to glorious triumph in the risen Christ.  May we always hear and heed the voice of the Shepherd.

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 26: Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 2:14, 22-33; 2) 1 Peter 1:17-21; 3) Luke 24:13-35

FOCUS:  We need God, and the Mass gives us what we need.

          The Gospel tells us today, While He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.  Immediately, the despair of the two disciples turned to joy.  They were elated and rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord.

          It is likely that we can identify with these two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus.  We have all experienced times of despair and disappointment.  We have had some of our dreams dashed and felt overwhelming losses.  Especially in these difficult times, we may have experiences that caused weakness in our faith or left us questioning God’s plan for us and the world.

          Just like the two we hear about today, we need something to bring us out of our gloom at time.  We need our outlook lifted and our faith reignited. We need God.

          This is what brings us here.  We need God, and the Mass, even remotely, gives us what we need.  It is not unlike our own “Road to Emmaus.”  We enter the celebration needing to be fed.  In the Liturgy of the Word, God speaks to us.  The Scriptures feed us, teaching us God’s ways and His plan for us.

          We are nourished again in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Today’s Gospel tells us, He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  This is repeated at every Mass.  It is the perfect sacrifice, the perfect meal, the perfect nourishment for our souls.  If we open ourselves to all that it offers, we, too, can feel the complete joy that energized Jesus’ disciples to rush out and share the Good News with others.

          A closing prayer:  Dear Lord, even when we do not recognize you in our midst, you walk with us.  Thank you for your persistent love that never fails.  Open our eyes, so you may use all that you have given us to help feed others.  Amen.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 19, 2020: Divine Mercy Sunday

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 2:42-47; 2) 1 Peter 1:3-9; 3) John 20:19-31

FOCUS:  Jesus is the font of God’s Divine Mercy.

The central focus of our celebration today is the continued celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and the tremendous amount of mercy offered by our Lord. 

St. Peter tells us in today’s second reading, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

St. John Paul II, in his canonization of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, instituted this day into the church calendar, known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  In his homily at the canonization, he said, 

 “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’  In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while reestablishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings.  Christ has taught us that “man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: (as we hear from St. Matthew’s Gospel) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7)”

That mercy is easily seen in the many healing miracles recorded in the Gospels.  In each one, whether physical or spiritual, the power of Jesus to renew, forgive and heal enters into the life of someone and, at times, even turns upside down the very laws of nature.

In today’s Gospel, the ministry of forgiveness and mercy is passed to the disciples, when Jesus says, Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  This is truly Divine Mercy.

When the apostle, Thomas, broken up over the death of Jesus, cannot, or will not, bring himself to accept the Resurrection, Jesus gently moves him from stubborn refusal to a moment of faith.  Thomas, after this encounter with the Lord, makes one of the great confessions of faith:  My Lord and my God!  In that moment, Thomas is healed and changed – healed of his grief and pain, changed from doubt to belief.  This is Divine Mercy.

Having experienced that same forgiveness and healing in their own lives, the disciples now become carriers of these gifts for all who will hear and respond to their preaching.  For what they say about the risen Lord is no mere fantasy.  They witnessed His death on the cross, and now they witness with their very eyes and with the touch of their hands that He is fully alive.  This is Divine Mercy.

The need for those gifts of mercy and healing is as great today as it was in those early days.  Without it, we are lost.  So as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection, let us each open our hearts to those gifts and then commit ourselves to be instruments of them to others.

We all have been affected in so many ways these past few months by the Corona Virus.  In our prayers, let us ask God to extend mercy to all who have succumbed to this disease.  Let us also ask God to extend mercy to those who are caring for the ill.  This illness, in addition to great physical discomfort, brings loneliness – a real sense of isolation.  More than ever, people need to experience God’s mercy…a reminder that they are not alone and they are not forgotten.  Even if we cannot be helpful in physical ways that would be so normal for us in other circumstances, we can include those who suffer in our prayers.  We must remember the Beatitude:  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Divine mercy is extended to us.  Let us also extend mercy to our brothers and sisters.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday

Scripture Readings:  Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 2) Colossians 3:1-4; 3) John 20:1-9

FOCUS:  Let us surrender our hearts and our wills to our loving God, who offers us new life on earth and in heaven.

The good news we celebrate today is the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead.  I deliberately use the word fact because in two thousand years, no scientific expedition has been able to discover the mortal remains of Jesus.  That is because His tomb is empty and there is no body to be found.  The testimony of the eyewitnesses still stands.  These witnesses went to their deaths proclaiming what we still proclaim:  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

Today is a day of glory and a day of hope for all of us.  God’s purpose and God’s will cannot be undone by human sin and rejection.  In His Body here on earth, Jesus suffered terribly.  He was mocked, spat upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, died and was buried.  Today we celebrate the glorious fact of His resurrection from the dead.

We bear within us the hope that resurrection gives us.  Our faith brings to us the truth that God has not abandoned us.  God is brining us into new life, and brining new life to Christ’s body, the Church.  God is calling us out of our tombs, as Jesus called Lazarus into new life.

There is a reality, however, that must be faced when we enter into new life.  All the wonderful feelings associated with new life must be balanced with the fact that what is new comes from what is old.  To have what is new means we must let go of what is old, and this process can be painful at times.

Jesus has made that journey.  If we walk in His way, His truth and His life, He joins us in our journey, making His journey ours.

What was the key that unlocked the door of resurrection and new life for Jesus?  It was acceptance.  It was His surrender into the hands of the Father.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cried out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”  (Mark 14:36)  Dying on the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  Jesus’ last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

Acceptance means surrender.  It means letting go of a former way of life.  We are not going to escape our Gardens of Gethsemane, nor are we going to escape our crosses.  The key to our success is to do what Jesus did – to surrender ourselves and our lives into the hands of our Father in heaven.

Today we celebrate the joyful news that Jesus’ hope is our hope, just as His faith in God is our faith in God.  God our Father has given us power to enter into new, better and happier lives no matter what the forces of darkness and evil have or will throw at us.

The only thing that stands in the way of happiness is pride, our willfulness, our defiant selves who refuse to surrender control over our lives and place them in God’s hands.

This Easter most of us I am sure will be celebrating Easter in a way different from the traditions that we have come to treasure and look forward to.  Certainly we should keep in our prayers today all those suffering from the Corona Virus, those who have passed away from it and for all those courageous people around the world who are helping in any way those who are in need… we pray for medical professionals…scientists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, aides, civic leaders, police officers and fire fighters and so many others who put their own lives on the line each day so that others may be taken care of.

In spite of all of this disruption to our daily lives, Jesus still is with us.  He cannot be found in the tomb because He is not there.  He is with His people…the people He loves so dearly that He was willing to die for them.  Today we recall that the story does not end with Jesus’ death, but with His resurrection.  And in one way, we can say that the story continues…with us. 

Today, let us give ourselves all that God wants to give us by surrendering ourselves to His powerful love.  The forces of darkness, evil and sickness will throw themselves at us, but they cannot prevail.  The love of Christ conquers all things.

On behalf of the parish staff of St. James the Apostle, I wish each and every one of you a blessed and glorious Easter!


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

FOCUS: We remember the suffering of Christ and are called to accompany
others in theirs.

Each year on Palm Sunday, we recount the story of Jesus’ passion.
We hear about the events leading up to His arrest: the agony in the garden,
the passing of His back and forth between Pontius Pilate and King Herod
and the chief priests of the temple. We imagine what it was like for Jesus to
be judged by human beings. Each year, we are invited to enter into this
story, to remember it and to accompany Jesus during those trials.

It is not the pleasant escape that we might find when we watch a
movie or read a book. Rather, with His eyes we see the crowd whom He
loves, shouting for His death.

With Him, we witness His closest friends abandon, deny or watch
from a distance. We see the cruelty of rulers and soldiers, who mock Him,
beat Him and gamble for His garments. We are asked to remember the
horrible death He endured, a public and agonizing death of being nailed to a
cross.

It is an unpleasant business, the suffering of Jesus and of the world – for Jesus’ death and resurrection did not remove suffering from our lives or
the lives of those we love. And it can be terrifying to experience suffering
ourselves or to walk with someone who is in distress.

None of us has to go far to know something about suffering….either
in ourselves or in someone we love. These days we are all somehow
affected by the spread of a virus that plays no favorites, but only desires to
attack, because it does not know how to do anything else. Yes, this kind of
suffering brings fear, confusion, anxiety and despair and may even cause
some to question their faith in God.

But whether our suffering is due to the spread of the corona virus or to
something else, we have choices that have to be made. We can be like Peter
who denies, or the soldier who jeers. We can be an acquaintance who
watches, or Pilate who washes his hands of the matter.

Or we can be like Joseph of Arimathea, who refuses to participate in
an unjust persecution, or like the women who do not run from the agony of
Jesus’ death, but tended to His broken, lifeless body. Perhaps we will be
like the centurion who praises God even in the midst of darkness. (“Truly
this was the Son of God!”) Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47

It is much easier, in the midst of affliction and suffering, to find a
distraction…something that will help us escape from the situation. Yet each
year, Palm Sunday puts suffering squarely in our midst. Why?

Because our suffering, and the suffering of the world, are bound to
that of Jesus’ suffering.

We are asked to enter into our Lord’s passion – to walk with Him, to
accompany Him as He faces cruelty, injustice, pain and abandonment, so
that we may walk with others who suffer. We are asked to accompany them,
to be for them what some of the more admirable people were for Jesus in His
darkest hour.

We may feel we can do nothing much regarding the suffering of those
affected by the corona virus, for example. However, Jesus never turns away
from anyone who comes to Him in prayer. We can pray for others; people
we may never meet in this life. Jesus was certainly always there for others
when they needed Him. He is here for us today…and He does ask us to help
alleviate suffering when and where we can. We accompany Him to the
cross, but He is the one who is carrying the weight of the cross. Carrying
the cross by ourselves would crush us. With Jesus, the burden is lightened.

So as we enter into Christ’s passion and partake of His victory found
in the Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to see what is before us, to open
our hearts to those who need us and to accompany those who suffer…just as
Jesus did, and continues to do so, for us.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 29: The Fifth Sunday of Lent

FOCUS:  Faith in Jesus and the Resurrection helps every believer to live a life free of fear.

          The Gospel today tells us that Jesus wept when He learned of the death of His good friend Lazarus.  The tears of Jesus remind us that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.  We know that He walked on water and raised the dead, but He was also capable of feeling loss, pain and grief, just as we do.  Jesus experienced sadness, and our story today tells us of sadness experienced by others, particularly the two sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

          Their sadness is increased because they do not understand Jesus’ behavior during their brother’s illness.  They sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and at that time, our Lord was only two miles away.  Days passed and as Lazarus became more ill we still do not see Jesus coming to their aid.  What they do not know is that Jesus has a miracle in store for them, something they could not even imagine.

          Jesus seems to make no effort to be there to comfort the sisters during their brother’s last hours, nor during the funeral or the days that follow.  By the time Jesus does make the short journey from Bethlehem to Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for nearly five days.

          Martha and then Mary both confront Jesus about what they see as a lack of concern:  Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.   Martha also makes a profession of faith:  Even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you.  As upset as Martha may be both about her brother’s death and Jesus’ absence, she believes there is still reason to hope.

          When Jesus does arrive, he states:  I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.  Jesus then asks Martha, Do you believe this?   The answer to this question defines the life and faith of every believer.  It is the same question asked of each of us when we confront our own mortality or the death of someone we love.  Soon to face His own passion, Jesus has come to Bethany to show Martha and Mary that life does not end in death.

          With an authority that comes from God above, Jesus orders:  Lazarus, come out!  Indeed, Lazarus comes out of the tomb.  Once the wrappings that bound him are removed, everyone can see that he has not only overcome death, but the illness that caused it.  In the same way, all believers will one day be called forth from their tombs, and freed from the chains of illness, sin and death that make up so much of our lives here on earth.

          At Bethany, Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel (the first reading):  when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul gives all of us the hope that we can experience the same gift of new life given to Lazarus:  the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.  Once we understand that faith is stronger than death, we have nothing to fear.

          The hope of the Resurrection helps us to overcome death and reach out to the victory that awaits us in heaven.  Grief is the one emotion shared by every person at some point during life on earth.  Joy is the one emotion shared by every saint in heaven, all of whom have exchanged their crosses for the crowns of glory!

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 22: The Fourth Sunday of Lent

FOCUS:  Christ is the light of the world.  He shines for all who seek Him and He empowers us to live in that light.

There is something truly comforting and reassuring about the words of today’s Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd.  It seems to speak to us not just of the promise of one day sharing in the eternal life of God, but of the ongoing blessings of God in each one of our lives:  the blessings of family, community, material well-being.  At a time of difficulty and challenge, as we all struggle living with the effects of the corona virus, it is refreshing to hear once again these words of comfort and reassurance. Yet there are many whose lives are far removed from this picture of overflowing cups and verdant pastures.  There are many who truly walk in the dark valley full of fear, despair and in need, lacking courage and whose lives are more closely related to the blind man we hear about in today’s Gospel.

As we look all around us, it is difficult not to see a world broken and divided on so many levels.  So many of our brothers and sisters are suffering because of poverty, illiteracy, violence and inequality, not to mention the many millions who suffer under the effects of illness, natural disaster and famine.

In the face of such a world, we might be tempted to despair or, worse still, imitate the Pharisees in the Gospel by being shortsighted and concerned only with ourselves. Today, however, as we continue our Lenten journey with its emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we are once again challenged to live as children of the light, for that is what produces every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth.

Our Gospel today is the second of three great coming to faith experiences recalled in St. John’s Gospel and used during Year A of the liturgical cycle.  Last week we heard of the Samaritan woman at the well and next week we will hear the account of the raising of Lazarus. Blind from birth, the man’s disability removed one of the great joys of life: the gift of sight.  Not only did it exclude him from being able to appreciate the beauty of creation, but because blindness – or indeed any disability – was seen in the first century as a punishment for sin, he was also excluded from family and society at the very time that he needed their support and comfort the most.

He was all alone in life!  That was until he came into contact with Jesus, and what an encounter that was!   Through His healing touch, Jesus moves this blind man in a way that was beyond his wildest imagining.  Not only is he healed of his physical ailment but through His words and most importantly His action, Jesus elicits words of faith.

Asked by Jesus if he believes in the Son of Man, the newly sighted man responds, “I do believe, Lord” and worships Him.  By doing this, Jesus not only restores his physical vision but opens his eyes of faith.   In that one special and life-changing encounter the blind man moves from physical and spiritual darkness and exclusion to the land of faith-filled vision and renewed relationship with God and community.

It is into this same light-filled land of faith and relationship that each one of us has been invited by virtue of our Baptism.  Like David in our first reading, we have been chosen by name and anointed to be God’s instruments in the world.  And as our second reading challenges us:  You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness of faith.

Because we have the gentle touch of Jesus in our lives, and we recognize His light in our world, we seek to imitate Christ with our lives of faithfulness, prayer and service to our brothers and sisters.  We may not be able to bring about the dramatic restoration of vision but we can each shed the holy light of compassion and hope on the lives of those who are less fortunate than we are.

Lent gives us the possibility to express in a very public and tangible way, our faith.  It gives us an opportunity not to judge by appearance, but as God would see us.   This is our time to begin to lay the foundation for a more just world because only with these qualities can our fractured world possibly be healed.

Ways to Attend Mass from Home

EWTN.com has daily Mass as well as recitation of the Rosary and other devotional programs. Mercy Home for Boys and Girls also televises Sunday Mass (you can go to mercyhome.org/Sunday-mass for more information. The televised Mass is normally on Sundays at 9:30 AM on WGN – channel 9.) Relevantradio.com is also a good source of Catholic devotional material.  They also have Masses streamed from their website. For more local options from within our diocese, visit http://www.dioceseofjoliet.org/bishop/content1.php?secid=74

Act of Spiritual Communion by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri: 

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.