Suffering: Homily for Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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Readings for Today

Nothing can cause us to have difficulty in how we treat others and ourselves like death and suffering.  Yesterday we got a picture of the type of person Tobit was.  Faithful to God, concerned for the poor, ready to commit to his faith and in God even to death if necessary.  But today we encounter a different side of Tobit.  He has lost his sight when birds poop on him.  Scholars think that Tobit actually developed some type of infection similar to Pink Eye (conjunctivitis) only with much more serious consequences.  Not treated this more severe form of the disease can cause blindness.

However, what we see here in the story is that he does not react so well to his wife.  We know that Tobit was a wealthy man, one who had many accomplishments.  How hard it must have been, as a blind man, to now rely on others for his care, his basic needs, and his mobility.  When his hard working wife comes home with a goat as a bonus, Tobit gets quite angry, to the point of accusing her of stealing.  How common this is in the spiritual life.  We too can find ourselves quite close to God one minute, and frustrated and angry at another moment.

Homily for Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Readings for Today

Whenever we read or hear about water in the Bible, our minds should immediately turn to baptism.  Water is the profound symbol for baptism because it can both give life and deal death.  In baptism, by dying to sin we become open to the new and real life of God.  The gospel stresses this.  The man at Bethesda has no one to get him into the pool when it is stirred by the spirit.

But for Jesus, it is not necessary to wait for even a second for such action.  By word, Jesus heals the man.  But much like Sunday’s story with the blind man, the Pharisees cannot see a man healed by Christ, but only a man carrying a mat on the Sabbath, something not permitted on the Sabbath. Because when we think of our own baptism, it is always first and foremost about hearing the words of Jesus that lead us, because Jesus is the Way.

Do we consider the impact of our baptism?  Do we associate with people and engage in activities that are likely to help us become closer to Christ?  Do we see any responsibility to helping others learn about Jesus and to experience the profound new life God longs to give everyone?  Have we used this season of Lent to fast from those things that keep us from God?

Ultimately that is what our season of Lent is all about.  We do not do penance because there is something innately good in suffering, but because through this suffering we are able to focus on those things that are really important.  It is not about willpower, but rather doing those things so that we can come to profound new life.

Homily for Friday, December 7, 2012

Today’s Readings

If you’ve ever been to a desert, such as in Arizona or in another part of the world, you understand the power of water. You can see the effects of the lack of water by observing the plants and vegetation that grow there. They are not lush, and often in a desert there are not too many things that are green.

So to help understand in yet another way how God gives us life in extreme ways, we encounter yet another image. Imagine how lush an orchard seems. Imagine how precious is the fruit that is produced in a climate where it is surrounded by dryness.

While we are not describing a climate when talking about our souls, we probably know what it feels like to be dry in a spiritual sense. Great saints had periods of spiritual dryness that sometimes lasted for years. It seems the closer they got to God, the harder it became to see God as he is. When St. Teresa of Calcutta, commonly known as Mother Teresa, wrote about this dryness and her words were published, some took this to mean that she must not have believed in God.

But they missed the point. Wile certainly faith can give us good feelings, and can be a consolation, faith is not simply defined by feelings. Rather, faith is an assent of our will to do God’s will. We do not pray just to feel good, in the same way that parents do not simply care for their children only when it feels good. In the middle of the might, when they would rather sleep, they awaken to care for their children.

It is in this context the gospel can be understood. Certainly the blind men had not been able to see for some time, indeed all of Their lives. They come to Jesus, and he asks them about their faith. It is clear why they approached Jesus. They believed he could cure them. Jesus asks this question not because they needed good feelings, but he needed to know they were open to what he could do for them. Maybe he needed to remind them of what he already knew was true. But in their answer they also became powerful witnesses to the God who can make the dry land fertile.

In other words, when we experience spiritual dryness in our lives, by seeking God we enable Him to feed us, to make the dry land of our soul fertile once again. Advent provides us the time to seek the fertile ground of a deep spiritual life with God. You just need to answer the question of Jesus: “Do you believe I can do this?”