Varia – a number of unrelated items
On the Gospel. Continuing with the Gospel readings in cycle A, as with last week’s Gospel, today’s Gospel comes from the Gospel of John. As with the gospel of the Samaritan woman, it is filled with symbols. The blind beggar is never identified by name and the word John uses to denote him implies the blind condition of humankind in general. This blind beggar (blind humankind) never asks for a cure, never asks to see. Continuing the work of the Creator, Jesus molded clay and touched the man. This new sight that is about to be given (not restored, because the beggar was born blind) is a free gift from Jesus. Using mud as if it were an oil of anointing, he smears it on the man’s eyes and sends him off to wash (the waters of baptism) and having washed, he returns able to see. Eventually, after two run-ins with the Jewish leaders, he encounters Jesus again and now Jesus offers him the chance to believe. And the man responds that he believes, much as the Samaritan woman did in last week’s gospel.
I turn again to the Lenten Gospels. I have mentioned many times that the Church uses a three-year cycle of readings for the Sunday liturgies. These are generally identified as the year of Matthew (Cycle A), the year of Mark (Cycle B) and the year of Luke (Cycle C). We are in the year of Matthew, Cycle A, and have been reading from Matthew since the end of the Christmas season. The themes of the first two Sundays of Lent, no matter what cycle is read, are always the same, the temptation in the desert (1st Sunday) and the transfiguration (2nd Sunday) and we read Matthew’s recounting of these events on the last two Sundays.
Today, we continue on our Lenten journey. Every 1st Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading always relates the Temptation in the Desert. Whether from Matthew, Mark or Luke, the Gospels on that 1st Sunday call us to enter into the Lenten season facing the devil and all the temptations he throws at us, so that we may use this time as our own desert fast (like Jesus), to reject the devil, and all his works (the baptismal promise we will renew on Easter Sunday) and live more faithfully the Christian calling that is ours.
I hope everyone made a good beginning of Lent by their observance of Ash Wednesday. Today is the 1st Sunday of Lent. We all know about Lent. When I think about Lent, I think about “giving up,” about fasting, about the “color purple,” about A & P Catholics (ashes and palms, and for folks my age, “hot cross” buns (remember them?). Lent is filled with so many images.
This weekend is Pledge Weekend throughout the Archdiocese – Pledge Weekend for the Annual Appeal, now called Sharing God’s Blessings. Pledge Weekend, everywhere but here at OLMC, because we did it last weekend. (If you didn’t guess why we did it last weekend, you might have guessed by now that it was because I am away this weekend, enjoying, I hope, what looks like Spring Skiing in Vermont. But I want to write again about the Appeal because many seemed to be away last weekend because of the start of the winter break in the schools.
As you entered the church today, you saw a familiar scene. Actually it’s been three years since we used the TV monitors to show the video for Sharing God’s Blessings. And the delivery method is not all that’s changed. Sharing God’s Blessings used to be called the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Maybe one day it will be renamed, “The Cardinal’s Annual Appeal.” It used to be done on Super Bowl Weekend and I could joke about the TV’s as being an attraction for those who wanted to pray for their favorite team at the Sunday night, 6:30 Mass. But this year, it has been delayed to re-do the video to account for the presence of our new Archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Tobin. And finally, we’re doing the Appeal here at OLMC a week early because I will be skiing in Vermont the weekend (2/25-26) when it’s being done in the rest of the Archdiocese. Nothing is ever simple, without complications.
With so much of our daily news filled with hopelessness, I quote from Pope Francis’ General Audience of January 18th.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In Sacred Scripture, among the prophets of Israel, a rather anomalous figure stands out, a prophet who attempted to avoid the Lord’s call by refusing to place himself at the service of the divine plan of salvation. It is the prophet Jonah…
Jonah is a prophet “going out” and also a prophet in flight! He is an “out-going” prophet whom God sends “to the periphery,” to Nineveh, in order to convert the people of that great city. But Nineveh, to an Israelite like Jonah, was a threatening reality, the enemy which placed Jerusalem itself in peril, and therefore was to be destroyed, certainly not saved. Therefore, when God sent Jonah to preach in that city, the prophet, who knows the Lord’s goodness and his desire to forgive, seeks to avoid the task and flees.
“Who are you”? A short question that opens to a great number of answers. The first response of most people would be to simply give your name. But what comes after that. “But who are you”? The next responses could be as varied as the people answering the question. Some might continue by giving details about their life. Married, five children, a physician, a plumber, a financial analyst. Some might say where they live, where they went to school, their ethnic background. And did you ever attend a workshop where you were asked to introduce yourself? Without guidelines, the answers given by the first responder tend to set the pattern for all the responses that follow.
Interesting thing, that question – “who are you”? Now, before you go on, stop for a minute and answer it for yourself.
In light of the tumultuous celebrations (demonstrations) of the last few days, I thought I would reproduce the Homily of Cardinal Joseph Tobin at the Mass of his Installation as the 6th Archbishop of Newark. It shows us a path in these conflicted times. I present it in two parts, beginning this week and concluding next week.
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m.,
11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.,
3 p.m. (Spanish), 6:30 p.m.
Monday thru Friday,
6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m.,
and 12 noon
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. only
Eve: 7:30pm (anticipated)
6:30am, 8:30am, and 12noon