Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homily 4th Sun Lent Year B (2nd Scrutiny, Year A) - Man Born Blind

Jesus and man born blindA couple of weeks ago, while many of the priests of the Archdiocese were on their annual retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, I was on a retreat at St. Meinrad for recently ordained priests called, “Settling into Priesthood.” It was good to spend the week with young priests from the area, praying together, and sharing stories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There were also several speakers who addressed different topics in order to make sure we were starting off on the right foot.

At one point we were talking about which areas of ministry exceeded or came below our expectations and which areas still excited us or had become routine. One of the guys who had studied at the North American College, the American seminary in Rome, told an interesting story that stuck with me. He said that after studying in Rome for six years, he actually got to the point where he could walk past St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Church in Western Christendom, and not give it one glance. His eyes were not open to the beauty of faith, they were only open to the cobblestone at his feet, to his next destination, to the next task to accomplish. For this reason it was always a blessing, he said, to be able to lead a tour through St. Peter’s for some pilgrims seeing the Basilica for the first time. Seeing their eyes, physically and spiritually, open wide with awe and wonder at the grandeur of St. Peter’s always opened his eyes in a new and fresh way to allow him to see again the tremendous blessing it is for him to live, move, and have his being in Jesus Christ in the Eternal City.

Today the Church invites us to have this type of experience ourselves as we celebrate the Second of a three-part ritual called “The Scrutinies” with our catechumens. As they move closer and closer to Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion, and to continued study and reflection, they are called “The Elect” and move through the phase of Purification and Enlightenment.

This is a period of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction, and is intended to purify the minds and hearts of the elect as they search their own consciences and do penance. This period is intended as well to enlighten the minds and hearts of the elect with a deeper knowledge of Christ the Savior. The celebration of certain rituals, particularly the scrutinies, brings about this process of purification and enlightenment and extends it over the course of the entire Lenten season (RCIA 139). They are beginning to get excited as the joys of Easter draw near. We rejoice with them on this 4th Sunday of Lent and we wear Rose vestments instead of Violet to give witness to the fact that the joys of Easter are indeed close at hand.

But how often have you and I been like that seminarian studying in Rome? Our eyes become closed and the great mysteries of our faith no longer impress on us wonder and awe, they become commonplace. Especially if we have been raised Catholic since infancy, we can easily let our eyes close to the grandeur of our faith so that it no longer impresses us. Today, let us look again through the eyes of The Elect and of the Candidates who will be received into full communion with the Church. Today, look at the many aspects of our faith through the eyes of someone who has never seen them before. Look at the holy water at the front of the Church and see your Baptism all over again. Remember the joy of your children’s Baptism! That water is a sacramental, it gives grace! Look at the statue of Mary at the entrance, at the Infant of Prague in the cry room, at the depiction of the Holy Family here in the sanctuary. We are surrounded by the Communion of Saints! Look at the red candle by the tabernacle, Christ is truly present among us! Look especially at the Host and the Chalice when they are elevated at the Consecration – BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. These are things that our eyes should never become closed to.

After this homily we will celebrate the Second Scrutiny with the elect, but this is something that we can all benefit from. The scrutinies, solemn rituals reinforced by minor exorcisms, are rituals for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect – may our hearts be healed too. The scrutinies bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good in the elect – may these be strengthened in us too. The scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The rituals, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all. God-willing, we too will be delivered from sin, protected, and strengthened for our own ongoing conversion (RCIA 141).

Their spirit is also filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water – seen in last Sunday’s gospel of the Samaritan woman; the light of the world – seen in today’s gospel of the man born blind; and the resurrection and the life – seen in next Sunday’s gospel of Lazarus. From the first to the third scrutiny the elect – along with us – should progress in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation (RCIA 143).

The man born blind, in our Gospel today, had a heart that was open to God. Why else did he go, without hesitation, to wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam at the command of our Lord? Why else did he perceive that the water that flowed every day into that pool since the 8th c. BC would on this day be any different? Even Tobit whose eyesight was temporarily lost and later restored was not blind from birth. It was unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. Yet he did go and was healed. But the eyes of the Pharisees were closed to God and could not see the evidence before them (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Jn 9:32).

Our Lord enlivened the water and made it life-giving for the blind man. There is no reason this cannot happen for all of us too, in a deeply spiritual but no less real way. The gospel relates that the pool was of Siloam which means “Sent.” We have our own Pool of Siloam, our Baptismal font. Jesus Christ is the One Sent by the Father. He is the source of life-giving water. The eyes of the man born blind were anointed with clay. The elect will be anointed at their Baptism and Confirmation with the Oil of Catechumens and of Sacred Chrism. The man born blind washed in the pool and was given the gift of faith. They too will be washed in Baptism and infused with Faith, Hope, and Love. Just as Jesus became the light of the man born blind, so too our catechumens will be enlightened with grace and truth. When we gather at the Easter Vigil to behold these sacred mysteries, when we dip our fingers in the Holy Water and sign ourselves every Sunday after that, let us never fail to let these mysteries be relived in us and continually seen with the eyes of faith.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this....I was looking for more info on today's scrutinies and this is helpful.

Tina Hardy said...

I look forward to being able to read your sermons every Monday morning. You're right, us "cradle Catholics" might take too much for granted. Love you, Tina Hardy, Owensboro, KY