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Friday, April 8, 2011

A Lenten homily

A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

          I shared the gist of last Sunday’s homily with Fr. John Joe Lakers, and he told me to write it up.

          The gospel passage is John 9, the story of the man born blind. I focused on the final statement of Jesus to the Pharisees: If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now that you say “we see,” your sin remains. The Pharisees were so focused on the letter of the law of the Sabbath that they missed what God was doing in Jesus. They could not see.

          We think we see when we really don’t.

          I started off with a story about my Uncle Jim, who had trouble seeing toward the end of his life. But he kept driving, so my aunt would sit next to him and say “Stop sign, Jim,” and “Turn right, Jim.” He thought he could see but he could not. I used that story as humor, softening the congregation up for a more challenging message. I got some smiles.

          Three questions. (I warned the congregation that I am aware that one can get in trouble for asking questions--Socrates drank poison because he asked too many questions.)

          1) Are Catholic Church leaders so focused on a rule about no women priests and no married priests that they miss what God is doing? Do they think that they see God’s will but are actually blind?

          Just a question.

          I asked the question because both Fr. Bauer and I are 75 years old, and we do not see other people coming along to take our places. Is God telling us that our rules are too restrictive? I asked this question first, because I wanted to be an “equal opportunity” challenger. If I am going to challenge things going on in the secular world, I shouldn’t spare my own religious world.

          2) Are the people who want to send 12 million undocumented immigrants back to their home countries so focused on a rule about our borders that they miss what God is doing? Do they really want to break up a lot of families in order to preserve that rule? Are people who hold to that position really blind to God’s concern for people, and thus blind to what God is doing in the lives of those people?

          Just a question.

          3) Are a lot of us so focused on a rule that says “Never raise taxes” that we miss how that rule can hurt people and thus miss God’s concern for those people?

          Just a question.

          This last one skirts the edge of getting into politics. There was a school board election two days after this homily, and one party running for school board positions were basically campaigning on the platform of “no new taxes.” But the issue is a lot broader than just schools, and I decided I had to raise the question.

         Conclusion: We need to be alert to what God is doing in our place and time, and not let our human rules blind us to God’s action.

          I got a couple of compliments, but no return challenges. The criticisms may come yet, like little time bombs resting out there ready to explode just when I don’t expect it. If they come, I’ll deal with them. Nobody says homilies can be perfect all the time, and not even some of the time. Homily writing is risky business. I hope that at least we’re past the days when critics would come after the homilist with a gun.


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