Father Madden's Sunday Reflection (Part 2)
Father Madden's Sunday Reflection
Part 2: Thoughts on the Mass Readings
St. John's Church
March 22, 2020
4th Sunday of Lent
Father Madden had hoped to include thoughts on the Mass readings in the first email this morning, but time did not allow it.
Fr. Madden's Sunday Reflection
Thoughts on the Mass Readings
Dear Friends in the Lord,
None of us have experienced anything like this COVID-19 pandemic and the significant, even devastating effect it is having on so many people in so many ways. Those who are on the frontlines are of particular concern. First, of course, those who have died. May they rest in peace. Plus, the others who have contracted the virus. Followed closely by those treating and caring for the infected. As well as so many who find themselves in a precarious situation whether we mean medically, economically, emotionally and, certainly, spiritually. The decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass is understandable and prudent. Still, it has exacerbated the challenge we are now facing. It is a fasting of considerable difficulty. As I mentioned in an earlier message, I am celebrating Mass every day. This has been for over thirty-five years a singularly grace filled activity for me. It still is. But it is different without you here present. It’s interesting that in confronting the time of pandemic all of us are reminded how much we need God. At the same time, praying in a period of social distancing reminds us how much we need each other.
Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent. It is also called Laetare Sunday.
(A little aside, if I could – both Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd of Advent and Laetare, the 4th of Lent – allow for the use of “rose” colored vestments as a lighter shade of the seasonal violet. Our friend, Fr. Armey often expressed his “disappointment” that St. John’s did not have a rose-colored vestment. Finally, after Gaudete Sunday, 2019, I remembered to order one. In our last conversation, I told Fr. Charlie that it had arrived. He was quite pleased! I wear today in his memory and honor.)
The name is derived from the first few words of the Introit, the traditional Latin entrance: “Laetare Jerusalem” (Rejoice, O Jerusalem). As with Gaudete Sunday in Advent, the Church’s liturgy – halfway through the penitential season – invites us to rejoice, to remember that Easter is close. Today, given the givens, we will give the call to rejoice our best shot!
The Scripture readings are, of course, a great assistance. In the first reading from the First Book of Samuel, we hear of the call of David. It will prove to be a critically important moment for the people of God. An unexpected moment since, as the youngest, David is considered the least important of Jesse’s sons. This moment occurs because Samuel trusts that: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” In order to be able to rejoice in the time of pandemic, we need to see as God sees. To walk by faith and not by sight. To be open to the unlikely, the unexpected, the unimportant as God’s favored means of working.
The Gospel story of the Man Born Blind is the second of three great stories presented to us this Lenten Season. Last week was the story of the Samaritan Woman and next week the Raising of Lazarus. Yet another great contribution from Vatican II, the three have been placed in the Sunday Lectionary to guide us to a renewed experience of Christ’s saving gifts and the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit. They lead us as, especially in these days, we thirst for light and life. I encourage everyone to spend some time with, pray with this story. It is found at John 9:1-41 and offers much for our reflection. There is also humor when the blind man asks the Pharisees; “Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
Please allow me a couple of brief reflections. On one level, the story is Jesus’ cure of a blind man. This level addresses the question, whose fault is it? Jesus’ answer is critically important: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so the works of God might be made visible through him.” Too much of life is spent trying to affix blame. We see this happening today. I hope that as we endure this pandemic, we learn many lessons that can be used in the future. At this moment, though, we, like Jesus, “have to do the works of the one who sent me.” To do God’s work in the time pf pandemic and to rejoice in the doing we need to be able to see as God sees, with the eyes of faith.
On another level, the story points out that the blind man’s openness to and engagement with Jesus gifts him with an ever-deepening faith. He becomes a disciple, a child of the light and, as Paul says in Ephesians, this “light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” This unique Lenten season might afford us the same grace to rise above our conventional expectations. We, too, can open ourselves more fully to the teaching of Jesus; to engage him more deeply and to live in his light.
On Ash Wednesday, my personal hope for this Lent was to “unclutter” my life. Never did I think that this season would unfold in the unlikely and unexpected way that it has. I am not a fan of social distancing. I prefer to celebrate Mass in a full church. And, yet, this present situation could not be more ideal for some serious uncluttering. Once again, all of this we experience is “so the works of God might be made visible.”
In Christ’s Peace,
Fr John Madden
4th Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16
The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed David in the presence of his brothers;
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul. [R]
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage. [R]
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. [R]
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come. [R]
2nd Reading: Ephesians 5
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.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
Verse before the Gospel: John 8
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Gospel: John 9
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he.”
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
on Sunday, March 22 at 8:00PM