Thursday, March 17, 2016

Walkin' Around Like We're Dead...

Lent 5th Sunday Year C (Scrutinies) 2016
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

As thirsty and blind as we are, you’d think we’d be dead by now.
No matter who you are, your education, background or tax bracket – we’re all thirsty.  As thirsty as that woman Jesus met at the well.  Thirsty for love, understanding, justice, and peace – thirsty for holiness and freedom from sin; thirsty for a life of faith that means something, for a relationship with Jesus that is as real as what we hear other people talking about. Whoever we are, we’ve come here today thirsty… But Jesus comes to quench our thirst: ‘whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.’  We thirst – and Jesus satisfies. 
We’re thirsty and blind – like the man in last week’s gospel, we are born spiritually blind.  Our eyes might function, but we cannot see.  We’re blind to the dignity of the impoverished and imprisoned, blind to the healing available in the Confessional, blind to the sacredness of creation and the tender care Mother Church offers us in her traditions and disciplines.  We’re blind – but Jesus restores our sight!  He mixes a salve of his perfect humanity and complete divinity soon to appear on this altar in the form of bread and wine…and then sends us to wash – to wash in our service to the marginalized, to wash in our respect for the earth, to wash in docile receptivity to the Church and in the cleansing humility of Confession – and just like the man born blind, when we receive Jesus and go to the places we are sent, He restores our sight! 
As thirsty and blind as we are, you’d think we’d be dead by now…but we’re not, are we?  We feel like it sometimes.  Walking around under the burden of our thirst and blindness…carrying around what we know in our heads about the living water that comes from the One who can cure our sight, but somehow missing that reality in our lives. Desperately trying to live in the fullness of life in Christ, carrying the dead thirst and blindness around with us that we’ve been hauling around for longer than we want to think about…hauling it around like a dead limb…dragging it behind us…like…like… well.. like a zombie.
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I just can’t get into the zombie craze that has been rippling through our culture for decades.  Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, World War Z –Wikipedia lists more than 400 Zombie movies released from the 1940’s through today.  That doesn’t count the comic books, novels, video games and hit television shows like The Walking Dead.  Like them or not, there’s no avoiding the fact that the zombie phenomenon is a real and persistent part of our cultural backdrop.  And the premise is all basically the same.  There’s some illness, some mysterious contagion spreading through humanity – quietly at first, so sneaky and uncontrollable that it threatens to swallow up everyone around us in a strange sort of living death.  Those infected become blind to humanity – their own and anyone else’s; with a driving thirst for more – more money, more success, more – more – MORE – that turns them into creatures who appear to be living but are oppressed by the weight of the death they carry around.  Living creatures oppressed by the weight of the death they carry around…  Desperately trying to live in the fullness of life in Christ, carrying the dead thirst and blindness around with us that we’ve been hauling around for longer than we want to think about.
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Thus says the Lord God:  O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back…I have promised, and I will do it!
…But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness…the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his sprit dwelling in you.
‘Master, the one that you love is ill.’  When Jesus heard this He said, ‘This illness is not to end in death.’…’I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’…And when he had said this He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Come out!’ and said, ‘Untie him and let him go.’
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As thirsty and blind as we are, you’d think we’d be dead by now…but we’re not, are we?  We feel like it sometimes.  Walking around under the burden of our thirst and blindness…carrying with us all that we know in our heads about the living water that comes from the One who cured the blind man’s sight to show us He wants to give us the fullness of spiritual sight.  We may feel like we’re dead inside sometimes, but the One who calls us will not give up! 
The One who comes to quench every thirst of our hearts is pursuing us right now, in this very moment, and He isn’t going to quit.  The work of the water begun at our baptism is at work even today: it’s calling you, tugging at you, amplifying the voice of your conscience and thundering like Niagra Falls as it pursues you – patiently but persistently pursuing you so that you might drink more fully from the compassion and forgiveness and healing and eternally quenching font of love.
The One who gives us the healing salve of complete divinity mingled with perfect humanity and then sends us to so that our sight might be restored – sends us to wash in the pool of charity and service, in the pool of humble sacramental confession and the pool of discipline and obedience in the school of the Church – He is tugging at your heart even now, knocking gently but persistently to break through the stone rolled over the tomb of pride and shame and stubborn bondage to perceived comfort – and He won’t give up, doesn’t give up, all the way to the cross, to the altar where He comes even today to quench and heal and bring you back to life with His own body and blood that we break and trample with the death in us that tries to chase away the life He has come to give us.  But He doesn’t give up – isn’t giving up…
…and He will win.  Oh brothers and sisters, He will win if we just let Him.  If we’ll just reach out to find Him there. 
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The time is short, but it has not yet run out.  What thirst and blindness in your own life is the Lord Jesus working on today?  What new life does the Lord Jesus wish to bring forth in your life when we reach the Resurrection of Easter?  When we once again embrace the waters of our own baptism and revel in the light of the Easter Candle – the Light of Christ that chases away all our darkness and brings sight to our spiritual blindness?
Listen now…listen in the quiet of your heart…what invitation is Jesus speaking to you for these last days of Lent?  What illness is he speaking to you that He wishes to overcome with His own water, light and life?  Can you hear Him calling?  This illness is not to end in death.’…’I am the resurrection and the life…’  Can you hear Him calling to you, ‘Come out!...Untie him – untie her – and let her go – let him go!’  Come out into new life!!!

What invitation is Jesus speaking to you – and how will you respond?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thirsty and Blind...

Lent 4th Sun Yr C (Scrutinies) 2016
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

Thirsty and blind…
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Last week we encountered the first of the great images leading us out of the desert of Lent into the Promised Land of Easter – water.  Like the woman at the well, we all thirst:  we thirst for love, for understanding, for acceptance and a sense of belonging; we thirst for justice and peace, for comfort and rest, for holiness, faith, and freedom from sin.  And like the woman at the well, when we encounter Jesus authentically, with all of our masks removed and no longer attempting to hide our sin from Him, when we encounter Jesus authentically He quenches our thirst.  Whoever we are, whatever our background, age, gender, or tax bracket, we thirst – and Jesus is for us the water that completely satisfies: ‘whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.’  The water of the baptismal font and the holy water we use to bless ourselves and our homes and sacred objects – our sacramental use of water is a tangible reminder throughout our pilgrimage on this earth that we all have a basic, deep thirst that finds its satisfaction only and permanently in Jesus Christ. 
We are all thirsty…and blind
That’s right friends – whoever you are, whatever you do for a living, whether you’re in school, work full time, or are enjoying your retirement – boy, girl, man, woman, faithful or backslidden, confessing your sins or carrying them around bottled up inside of you – whoever you are somehow you managed to get here this morning though blind as the proverbial bat
The story of the Man Born Blind is truly an ‘everyone’ story, because you and I were born blind.  Our eyes might function, but we cannot see.  Everyone incorrectly assumed this man’s physical blindness was a result of his parents’ sin, but we know our own spiritual blindness actually is a result of our sin. 
Our spiritual blindness is so much a part of our vision that we hardly ever acknowledge it, but its there.  We see sloth, vice, and danger in the poor, downtrodden, imprisoned and outcast, blind to the human dignity as fundamental to their existence as yours or mine.  We see in the Sacrament of Reconciliation an antiquated holdover from a misguided age, blind to the workshop of humility and tangible encounter with grace that frees us from sin that confession truly is.  We mistake the beauty of creation for nothing more than a picture-perfect portrait meant for our casual and occasional pleasure, blind to the giant arrow pointing to the masterful Creator worthy of our worship who carefully crafted for us a paradise in which we can walk and talk with Him so that we can come to know Him intimately on our journey toward heaven.  We see in the ancient traditions of the Church celebrated faithfully according to the rubrics and rules and without innovation nothing more than empty ritual that binds us to the past and prevents us from doing what we want or what we have always done, blind to the beauty and freedom they represent and make real in our lives.  We see in the rules and disciplines of the Church nothing but chains that bind our preferences, blind to the spiritual freedom and authentic discipleship they lead us into.  We are BLIND!
Oh Father, we’re not blind to those things – others might be, but we’re not.  Isn’t that a convenient lie?  Friends, our actions speak louder than words.  Let’s be clear this morning – we’re blind in all these ways.  Our actions speak louder than our words.  We toss a little of our extra toward the poor, but that’s more to calm our conscience than to respect their dignity.  We don’t darken the door of the confessional no matter how often it is preached.  We don’t recycle, limit our energy usage to protect the earth’s natural resources, or give any thought to our gasoline usage apart from its impact on our checkbook.  We start our conversations about liturgy with our preferences and the customs we’ve grown to like rather than beginning with the millennia-tested vision handed to us by the Church that Christ made custodian of His sacred mysteries.  We plain and simply ignore the precepts of the Church that require us to Confess at least once a year and prohibit the reception of Holy Communion when there is unconfessed mortal sin – partly because we’re blind in our pride that rejects the reality of mortal sin and its impact on our relationship with God.  Just like the subject of the Gospel, we sit here today blind.
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Our blindness is a result of sin, a sin that has so captured our sight that we can’t see past it or through it to The One who frees us from our sin.
But Jesus came to give sight to the blind!  Notice, friends, how the Lord cures the sight of the man born blind.  A simple two-step process that He replicates in the Church even to this day if we’ll only humble ourselves to receive it.  First, he makes a salve of His incarnation to treat the blindness.  Did you ever stop to consider the meaning of mixing his own spit with the clay to form the healing salve he tenderly applied to those blind eyes?  A tangible manifestation of his own incarnation – the divine essence from within himself mixed with the same clay from which all mankind is formed.  Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, himself a sight restoring salve – the same incarnation that comes to us every time we gather around this altar:  the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  Every Sunday we receive the sight-restoring salve that is the perfectly blended divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ from this altar.  For the most part, we’ve got this first part down – receiving the incarnated humanity & divinity of Jesus Christ from this altar.
But…notice carefully friends…the man’s sight was not restored from the paste alone.  After smearing the clay on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus said to him, ‘Go wash in the Pool of Siloam – which means Sent.  So he went and washed, and came back able to see.’ 
Friends, our spiritual blindness cannot and will not be cured until we go the places we are sent and do as we’ve been sent to do.  Our blindness will not be cured until we go to the Confessional to be washed…and return there each and every time our blindness tries to regain its hold over our lives.  Our blindness will not be cured until we go to the poor and outcast to whom we’re sent, until we go the Church to receive with docility her teaching, instruction, and discipline (setting ourselves and our personal wisdom in obedience to the Church Jesus left to guide us safely to Him.)  We know all the places we’ve been sent by Jesus…but we’re just too blind to actually go there, aren’t we?
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Our Easter candle will soon make it’s way back to its prominent place in our worship, burning brightly as a beautiful testament to the Light of Christ that pierces the darkness and blindness of men and women everywhere who were born spiritually blind – blind like you and I.  That same light of Christ that will burn brightly again from our Easter Candle in a few weeks, and that burns at every baptism. 
You and I came here this morning as spiritually blind as the man in today’s Gospel…  Will we, too, receive our sight?  The salve of Jesus Christ – the sacred mixture of His humanity and divinty is offered to us on this altar.  After we receive it, will we go to where we have been sent – to the Confessional, to the world, to the poor, sick, outcast; will we go like beggars to the teaching and discipline of the Church – so that by going where we’ve been sent our sight will be restored?
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So they said to him, “What did He do to you?  How did He open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you want to become His disciples, too?”