Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Lent has often been seen as a time of renewal for us in Body and Spirit and in the world. After a long and dark winter things begin to grow again. Flowers pop up, trees begin to bud, the endless cycle of Winter and Spring Wheat, of planting and sowing, shows God’s light shining on the nearby hills of the beautiful Palouse, Beauty in the dark brown soil and in the dark greens, golds and yellows.
As the world renews its wonder, our souls are on their way to renewal as well. The signs are all around us. Lent is a powerful time. Six weeks our Church gives to us. First to remember, then to move forward.

We use this Season to check on our spiritual life and hopefully look for things that are very good, and some things that are not so good. A good question to ask during Lent begins something like “Do I remember?” Do I remember how I heard about Jesus for the first time? From family, Catholic
School, reading the Bible, friends talking about a Man named Jesus… There are any number of ways that we come to know the Christ.

I remember the Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to the door at our house in Reno. They had gone to school and the University with my dad and had been his classmates. So I would take the Watchtower magazine and show it to my dad when he got home. He wasn’t very interested in religion, but he did tell me to say hello to the ladies when they stopped by again.

Then, there were the Mormons. I had gone to school with a bunch of Mormons so I knew that Mormons were religious people and wanted to talk about God. Then, I had a friend named Carl. He was Episcopalian. And whenever we had a sleepover (they had a big house with a pool, so he was quite popular) his mom would make us go to Church on Sunday. To this day, I say I made my first
communion in the Episcopal church! I can’t think of any other time when that was given to me as a kid in grade school.

My grandparents were furious. They had told my parents to baptize me at three years old, but somehow mom and dad missed the part about taking us to Church. So, my grandfather, a good old Irish Catholic, began to take us to Church and my two older sisters ended up at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic School in Reno.

Faith has a way of progressing in a person’s heart whether they realize it or not. The next thing I remember was going quietly, unnoticed, into the non-denominational chapel at my boarding school. I never told my parents about it because I didn’t want them to think I was “religious.” I really didn’t know what a Catholic was… I just knew that I was one.

And then the Bible, in the form of “Good News for Modern Man” made its way into my lap and I was hooked. I remember being fascinated by the person called Jesus. After hearing about him for all this time, I was now able to fill in the details. The characters were great, the settings were exotic and no doubt, this man Jesus was special… God was his father and it seemed that whenever he wanted anything he would ask the Holy Ghost… which I didn’t understand, but I thought it was kind of cool to have a ghost around that was helpful, and not scary.

A crazy story and coincidence happened to me in college when I had a fraternity brother in the Campus Crusade for Christ. When Father Nathan Dail was ordained, I went to his house to meet his family. After talking about our faith journeys, his mom, Becky, said “Fr. Joe knows Uncle Nick!” Uncle Nick was Becky’s brother. Nick and I went to the same University, we were fraternity brothers and he brought me the Gospel, by his lifestyle and faith at American University. I also found out that Fr. Nathan’s grandmother was the receptionist at the front desk in my dorm. She would talk to me about Jesus. So, in many ways I guess I have Father Nathan to thank, for helping me come to know Christ!
Over the years, one thing led to another. And here I am!

We all have our story about how we have come to know Christ. The one constant is that we start off in the dark of winter and end up in the light of Spring. We are protected and surrounded by Jesus, even if we don’t know it. And when we look back we can see. See how it all happened. And over the years, one thing leads to another. And here we are!

The gospel story from John is a great example of how our faith journey may have occurred. It seems like a simple story. Jesus heals… he does that in all the gospels. But this time he heals a person born blind… It is obvious that John wants to take us from the dark to the light. If we think about it, we know it can happen.

The man is unnamed, he is healed without asking and following the miracle is the process of coming to know Jesus. Six times the man professes who Jesus is. At first he does not know him or why he was healed. He also cannot figure out why he, or the man who healed him would be in so much trouble. Miracles come from God… What is so difficult to understand about that?

And what is it that brings us to know Christ? The neighbors in the story knew the man was blind

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, yet did not want to profess that. They ask “how?” The Blind man says “The man called Jesus did this.” The Pharisees then question how a simple man, obviously not of God could heal on a Sabbath. The formerly blind man says “He is a Prophet.” The Jewish people present were afraid they would get kicked out of the Synagogue if they acknowledged the miracle. So they ask his parents, who also knew they could not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. So as not to get in trouble they say: “Ask him!” and the one who can now see says fiercely that this man is “From God!”

After he was thrown out of the synagogue, he is puzzled as to why this miracle would cause so much anger. And Jesus asks if he believes in “the Son of Man.” “Who is he, the Son of Man, that I may believe in Him?” “I am…” and the man says “I do believe Lord!” The gospel then talks about what the man sees. At first it is “The man called Jesus”, then “He is a prophet.” Next he calls him “the Messiah” and “this man is from God” He acknowledges Jesus as “The Son of Man” and finally calls him “Lord”

We could be anyone in the story – the man who can now see, the neighbors, the parents, the Pharisees, or the Jewish people who were not allowed to acknowledge that the Messiah had come. We can be those in darkness who now see the light, proclaiming Jesus is from God. Or just being ourselves, remembering the first time we came to know the Son of Man – knowing now how grateful we can be when the Lord finds his way into our lives.