HOMILY – 4th Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2020
Today we celebrate LAETARE Sunday – the Sunday in Lent when we wear rose-colored vestments. Laetare is a Latin word that means “Rejoice.” … And it’s applied to this day as we find ourselves midway through this holy season of penance and sacrifice.
“Rejoice!” … I’m not quite sure rejoicing is on a lot of our minds today as we face a very uncertain and troubling future.
Maybe so. … Saint John Paul II was fond of saying that in life, there are no coincidences.
It surely seems to me that the scripture passages, particularly the gospel, that we just heard proclaimed today provide us with some very valuable lessons in the midst of this worldwide crisis. … Two lessons, to be precise, that I’d like to reflect upon briefly.
First – Jesus encounters a man who was blind from birth. And the first thing his disciples ask him is what on the surface might seem like an unusual question: “Who sinned here – the man or his parents?” … In other words, “We presume God punishing him for something he did or his parents did?”
And what was Jesus’ response to this question: “No – neither he nor his parents sinned.”
As we try to sort out this global pandemic and all of the suffering, pain, fear and grief that so many are enduring, the last thing we need to do is ask this question:
“Are we being punished for something?” … God doesn’t work that way. … God doesn’t think like you and I think.
Bad things happen because of accidents, poor choices/sins, the human condition, an imperfect world. … But they DON’T happen because of God. … But God is indeed very much present in the midst of our crosses and pain – responding to us in the most desperate of moments – loving and forgiving us when we so very much need his mercy and care. … And he’s here in the midst of this crisis!
Which brings me to the second lesson of today’s gospel.
The man born blind was healed by Jesus, wasn’t he? And do you know WHY Jesus healed him?
He was healed – not because he was righteous – not because he had perfectly fulfilled the laws of his faith tradition – not because he deserved it.
The man born blind was healed by Jesus because he understood that on his own, he was powerless to change his situation. … He had nowhere else to go and was humble enough to acknowledge his need for a power bigger than himself – the power of God!
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” … “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped Jesus.
In our weakest, most vulnerable and desperate of moments, God invites us to turn to him.
Less than three weeks ago, which now seems like an eternity, I conducted a day of reflection for our priests and deacons. And I reflected with them upon a passage from the scriptures that has much more to say to this moment than I would have ever imagined. It comes from Saint Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12:
“I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. … Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”
Brothers and sisters – in these moments in which we feel helpless and overwhelmed, may we not be too proud but humble enough to turn to Jesus – our surest and only hope for life and peace.