4th Sunday of Lent

I am the light of the world, says the Lord.  Whoever follows me will have the light of life.

The other night I was visiting patients at Saint Clare hospital and I met a young woman.  She was in her early 40s.  We had a nice visit.  She has some problems.  Obviously she had some health issues or she wouldn’t have been in the hospital.  Her boyfriend lost his job recently.  That’s a problem.


As we were talking she casually mentioned that she’d moved in with her boyfriend.  Now, I wasn’t particularly shocked at the revelation.  I mentioned in my homily yesterday/Friday morning that when I meet with young couples wanting to get married that I’m more surprised when they tell me they’re not living together.  The thing that surprised me about this young lady was that she wasn’t the least bashful about her situation.


I’m old enough to remember, and it doesn’t seem like that long ago, when cohabitation, what we used to call “shacking up”, was something that was usually kept quiet.  You didn’t brag about it.  And you definitely didn’t talk about it with a stranger wearing a Roman collar, visiting you in the hospital.  There was no need for this girl to tell me about her living arrangement.  In fact, it was off the subject.  She just kind of threw it out there.


It wasn’t like she was jerking me around or trying to shock me.  I truly believe she doesn’t think her lifestyle is a problem.


I thought about her as I was looking over the readings for today.  In the first reading the Lord tells Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” Our response is the 23rd Psalm.  “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”


Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Brothers and sisters:  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 and truth.”

I’m beginning to see a pattern here.  Light is good.  Darkness is bad.  Then, in the Gospel, Jesus gives the gift of sight to the blind man.


In all these readings light equals wisdom.  Darkness equals sin.  Especially in the Gospel.  In Jesus’ day, when someone had a physical affliction, they believed that either the stricken person or their parents were being punished for their sins.  The Pharisees think the man who Jesus healed must be some kind of fraud.  Besides, always willing to focus on the wrong thing, the Pharisees decided that Jesus couldn’t possibly be from God because he healed the blind man on the Sabbath.


Which brings me back to the lady in the hospital.  She’s blind!  Not physically blind, but spiritually blind.  She isn’t ashamed to say she’s living in sin because she doesn’t think that she is.  Oh, I’m sure, deep down, she knows that something is wrong, but she’s still blind.  The fact is, you and I are surrounded by blind people.  Sin is running rampant in the world because so many of our brothers and sisters don’t recognize it for what it is.  Why not?  Because the Church, and by “the Church” I mean everyone from the Pope on down to you and me, have failed them.


Sin is sin.  What was sin yesterday is still sin today and will be sin tomorrow.  I didn’t do that girl any favor by not telling her she should go to confession and move out of her boyfriend’s place.  That’s my bad.  I did suggest that she should come back to the Church and that Lent is a good time to do it.  And, maybe, just maybe, she’ll do it.  Hopefully, if she does, she’ll be moved to get her act together.  But those are some big maybes.


We all have our blind spots.  That’s why we need to help each other.  First, we have to remove the planks from our own eyes before we try to take the splinter out of someone else’s.  We lead others to Christ more by our actions than by our words.  But like Saint Francis said, sometimes we have to use words.  Sometimes we have to help someone else get through the dark valley.


If you and I sit back and wait for someone else to shine the light on sin, then we’re committing a sin of omission.  How often do we look the other way when we know in our hearts that we should do something?  When we see someone committing a sin and we ignore it, we’re enabling that person.  We’ve been given a great gift:  the gift of our Catholic faith!  But the gift comes with a price.  We’re called to share that gift with everyone we meet.


As a group, Catholics are lousy evangelists.  We don’t go door-to-door like some of our protestant brothers and sisters.  It makes us uncomfortable.  But I’ve looked all through the Bible and I can’t find anything that says that we’re supposed to be comfortable.  In fact, it says just the opposite.  “Take up your cross and follow me.” Isn’t that what Lent is all about?


I’m not saying that we should necessarily start knocking on strangers’ doors.  If you want to, that’s great, but it’s not mandatory.  What I am saying is that we’re called, as Catholics, to share our faith.  And that can take a lot of forms.  If you found a great restaurant, one with really good food, and friendly people, and reasonable prices, wouldn’t you tell your friends?  You might even invite them to join you there for lunch or dinner.  You wouldn’t be much of a friend if you kept the place a secret.  You’d be cheating your friends out of something good and you wouldn’t be doing the owner of the restaurant any favors either.


Isn’t your Catholic faith better than any restaurant?  We have the best food of all, the Eucharist.  We have friendly people.  And, the price is right!  What kind of a friend are we if we don’t invite others to join us?


You may not be aware that someone is trying to navigate the dark valley.  You may not realize that they’re blind.  But if you shine your light on everyone you meet, you’re bound to brighten someone’s life.

“Brothers and sisters:  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 and truth.”






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