29 March 2014

FROM BLINDNESS TO SIGHT

IV SUNDAY OF LENT
1 samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; ephesians 5:8-14; john 9:1-41

when helen keller was seven, ann sullivan, her mentor, took her to a water pump and signed the word «water» repeatedly as the water flowed into helen’s hands. after sometime, helen made the association between the word and the reality. that was a breakthrough. it opened the world to helen. she wasn’t cured of her blindness, but she could «see»!

the blind man’s story in today’s gospel is similar to helen’s. it starts with a breakthrough—JESUS cures him of his blindness—which is the beginning of a long journey of growth. the man goes from being an outcast and a beggar to becoming someone with self-confidence, independence and spiritual maturity. he grows in his knowledge of JESUS—«the man called JESUS,» «a prophet,» «a man of GOD»—till finally he makes a simple act of faith: «LORD, i believe.» 

the blind man’s journey parallels our own faith life. we have been anointed and washed in the waters of baptism. 

have i grown in my faith response to JESUS? do i «see» JESUS as my LORD, or is he merely a man, a prophet, a god-man? 

«some people have excellent eyesight but do not see further than their noses.  some have good vision yet choose to see only a little of the way, the truth and the life.  and some have no physical sight yet see brilliantly along the path of CHRIST» (bruce prewer).

22 March 2014

LIVING WATER: THE THIRST QUENCHER

III SUNDAY OF LENT
exodus 17:3-7; romans 5:1-2, 5-8; john 4:5-42
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032314.cfm

water is one of the principal constituents of the human body. it satisfies and refreshes, revives and cleanses.
we die without it. this is our condition: we thirst.

thirst! this was the condition of the wandering israel.
it was thirst that made them grumble against moses; made them lament their liberation from egypt; made them question GOD’s presence among them and test the lord.
GOD’s response? he gives them life-giving water in the desert… a reminder of his continued and powerful presence among them

thirst! this was the condition of the samaritan woman.
it was a physical thirst that made her come to the  well in the noon day sun; an emotional thirst which took her through six relationships; a spiritual thirst which made her dialogue with JESUS.
GOD’s response? he gives the woman live-giving water. he satisfies her deep yearnings, her longing for love and understanding; he treats her as a human person with respect and dignity. through a seven-part catechesis, JESUS guides the woman from ignorance to faith; she grows progressively in her knowledge of JESUS’ identity: «a jew,» «sir,» «prophet,» and «messiah.» she goes from being a social outcast to becoming a disciple and a missionary!

thirst! this is our condition.
we, too, have our physical, emotional, spiritual thirsts... which drive our striving for something new/more. GOD’s response to our thirst is similar to his response to the thirst of israel and the samaritan woman. he fills us with living water… which alone can satisfy our thirst for something new/more.

do i still go to other wells or do i allow the living water to be my thirst-quencher?
in what way can i, like the woman, invite people to «come and see» and encounter JESUS, and drink of the living water that i have drunk?

15 March 2014

LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONES… DISCOVER NEW LIFE

II SUNDAY OF LENT
genesis 12:1-4a; 2 timothy 1:8b-10; matthew 17:1-9  

my father was in the air force; from the time i can remember, my life has been one of leaving the comfort zones and known factors—people, friends, surroundings—of one place, and moving to another. this moving is painful; it also brings the richness of discovering new people and places.

so it is with life! it consists in leaving behind comfort zones, moving through pain and suffering, and experiencing the joy of new life. 

today’s readings emphasize that we need to constantly leave behind our comfort zones if we want to experience the new life to which GOD calls us.

in the first reading, GOD tells abram (later abraham) to leave his homeland and his father’s house—everything he knows and with which he is comfortable—to leave total security, and journey to the unknown. while abram experiences many difficulties, setbacks and sufferings because of this «leaving», the result is a life of blessing and glory.

in the gospel account of the transfiguration, surrounded by magnificence and glory, peter wants to remain on the mountain! but even as he speaks, a voice tells the disciples «to listen to him».  listen to what? to JESUS’ teaching that the way to glory and fullness of life is through suffering and death, through a scary unknown (read the verses preceding this narrative and the last verse of today’s text).

am i ready to leave behind my comfort zones; am i ready to journey through uncertainty, difficulties and trials? what are the comfort zones i must leave behind if i am to experience the joy and richness of a new life?

08 March 2014

BE WISE LIKE JESUS, NOT STUPID LIKE ADAM

I SUNDAY OF LENT
genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; romans 5:12-19; matthew 4:1-11

calvin (of «calvin and hobbes» fame) tells his dad: «so long, pop! i’m off to check my tiger trap! i rigged a tuna fish sandwich yesterday, so i’m sure to have a tiger by now!»
dad replies: «they like tuna fish, huh?» 
calvin walks off and says: «tigers will do anything for a tuna fish sandwich!» 
the final frame shows hobbes, hanging by his foot from a tree, chomping a sandwich and saying: «we’re kind of stupid that way.»

adam and eve were kind of stupid that way! they wanted to be like GOD… and made a foolish decision: instead of enjoying all that was «very good», they chose the forbidden. 
temptation came to them at three levels: physical—«good for food;» emotional—«a delight to the eyes;» and intellectual—«to be desired to make one wise.» but the foundation of the temptation (and the fall) was the doubt about GOD’s word that the serpent sewed in eve’s mind «did GOD say?», and the blatant denial of that word «you will not die.»

like adam in the garden, JESUS is subject to temptation in the wilderness. but unlike adam, JESUS does not succumb. after his baptism, JESUS is clear about his identity as the SON of GOD, and does not make stupid choices which prevent him from living his identity.
the three temptations in matthew’s account reflect the three tests israel faced. while israel—called «son» by GOD—failed each test, JESUS is obedient son, rejects the devil’s short-cuts, and remains steadfast to his father.
JESUS
- refuses to mistrust GOD; refuses to exploit his power to provide himself with bread instead of waiting for bread from heaven; manifests his total dependence on GOD. 
- refuses to seek proof of GOD’s presence with him. 
- affirms his uncompromising and undivided loyalty to GOD. 

our needs and desires—physical, emotional and intellectual—could become channels through which we may be drawn into temptation. we will fall if we fail to nourish ourselves with GOD’s word… which comes to us in the scriptures, in the teachings of the church, in the advice of parents and elders, in the innocence of children, and through life-events and nature.


what is my «tuna-fish sandwich»? whom do i imitate: adam or JESUS? what ensnarement and temptation prevent me from living as GOD’s son/daughter?

01 March 2014

FORGET YOUR WORRIES BECAUSE GOD DOESN’T FORGET YOU

VIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 49:14-15; 1 corinthians 4:1-5; matthew 6:24-34

a clock was ticking two ticks a second. it began to calculate how many times it would have to tick: «two ticks to the second means 120 ticks per minute. that’s 7200 ticks per hour; 172,800 ticks per day for 365 days; a total of 62,899,200 per year!» it was horrified, and had a breakdown. it went to a psychologist who asked it what its trouble was.
the clock started: «i have to tick so much. i have to tick two ticks a second; 120 ticks per minute; 7200 ticks per hour…»
«hold it! how many ticks do you have to tick at a time?»
«oh, just one tick at a time.»
«then you go home and tick one tick at a time. don’t think about the next tick until its time. just tick one tick at a time. that you can do.»
the clock did just that. and it ticked happily ever after (cf. ralph phelps, «how to worry»)!

often we’re like the clock. we worry about doing our tasks. we worry about fulfilling our needs and wants. we worry about uncertain tomorrows. and this worry neither gets our tasks done nor fulfils our needs. 

in the gospel today, JESUS urges us to stop worrying by focusing on the present and by living now. we can do so when we trust GOD. he, who looks after the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, loves us and cares for us, his beloved sons and daughters. he knows our needs and provides for them. we need to do the «bare necessity»: «seek first the kingdom of GOD» (which, from the «our father», is doing his will completely).
in the first reading, GOD assures us he will never forget us.
we can forget our worries because GOD never forgets us. 


a salesian story which highlights don bosco’s trust in providence and «proves» GOD’s care!
in the same month that he bought pinardi shed, don bosco decided to build a church to st francis de sales! mamma margaret dropped the clothes she was mending in shock and said: «where will we get the money? we can hardly give bread and clothes to these poor fellows, and you talk of a new church…»
«mamma, if you had any money would you give it to me?»
«of course i would. but i have nothing left, you know that.»
«and GOD who is more loving and generous than you, do you think he won’t give it to me?»
GOD gave! the church was consecrated exactly 11 months from the laying of the foundation stone.

do i trust in GOD and his providential love for me? if so, let me—in the words of the hymn and following the example of don bosco—cast all my cares upon him [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh8EeID7H-8].
and having experienced his providential love for us, let us be «heralds of his tenderness» (evangelii gaudium, # 88)

«every tomorrow has two handles. we can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith» – henry ward beecher.