Sunday March 30, 2014 / Lent, 4th Sunday of Lent @ 11:30 am Mass – Mass of Pastor Installation
Title: Advantages of Darkness
[__01__] The Gospel this Sunday is about blindness and vision, darkness and light.
I am grateful to the parish staff of Our Lady of Lourdes, to our Trustees (Dan Galate and Peg Shelley), our Finance and Pastoral Council to shed light, to illuminate me … to our Parish Anniversary Committee under whose leadership we marched together 2 weeks ago in our West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade… and in honor of Monsignor Joe Petrillo’s dream of celebrating 100 years at Lourdes.
To you, Bishop Donato, as a mentor and pastor to me both in the seminary and at St. Henry’s in Bayonne … where I learned many valuable lessons about our ministry …and to Archbishop Myers and to Msgr. Emery, our regional vicar for Essex County and Father James Manos, our dean, for their direction to me and for their care and concern for our people after the sudden loss of Monsignor Petrillo. Father Edson and I will always be grateful.
To my family, by whom I am often led from darkness to light… Thank you …
The Gospel this Sunday is about blindness and vision, darkness and light.
[__02__] Is darkness an advantage or a disadvantage?
In the Gospel this Sunday, we are read about a man born blind and this man’s encounter with our Lord and Savior. This man is an adult, say at least 20 years of age, perhaps older. For 20 years, 30 years, 40 years or more, his eyes have been closed.
Regarding this man without sight and regarding others who do have sight, Jesus says,
“I came into this world … so that those who do NOT see might [be able to ] see … and … that those who do see might become blind.” (John 9:39)
In other words, those in darkness would have the advantage over those who claim to be in the light, to be illuminated, to be enlightened.
Sometimes, darkness gives us an advantage.
- Students in classrooms, trying to answer difficult questions on final exams, we would close our eyes.
- Players, Olympic athletes or anyone about to make a complicated move or turn … they close their eyes just before the race starts
How was the darkness an advantage to the blind man of the Gospel? How could darkness be an advantage for you and me?
[__03__] 1. SAFETY. Darkness gives the advantage of safety. There is the cover or the safety of darkness. This may be literal darkness of night falling or just the figurative darkness of a secret being kept.
In the NCAA basketball tournament, each team tries to keep the other in the dark about their offense and defense and press.
In our own lives, we feel safer knowing certain accounts and files and information are locked up. We may discuss this information very selectively, very carefully with certain people. We feel safer, knowing we can close our eyes during horror movies... Darkness = safety and security.
[__04__] Darkness brings us closer to other people. This is not only true for blackout conditions and power outages.
Darkness brings us closer to God’s presence.
Recently, we gathered for 9 nights of prayer in our annual St. Joseph Novena and for 3 nights in our Triduum to Our Lady of Lourdes.
We were gathering at these times to examine our lives …
[__05__] Many of us here remember our beloved pastor, Monsignor Joe Petrillo – Father Joe Petrillo - for his commitment to prayer and God’s presence…
We knew …but not everyone always knew what Monsignor and Father Joe was doing..
He told me this story … and perhaps you may have heard it too … it was at a family gathering – in the house – where he was celebrating Mass. He brought the altar and sacrament to his family at home. His mother, father, aunts, uncles cousins were adjusting to this special environment for Sunday Mass…
But, Father Joe was just being himself – right after Mass started and during the first reading, he sat down to listen and he closed his eyes…which provoked questions from his very “observant” family ….
“Joe… Joe…what are you doing…why are your eyes closed? What’s happening? What are we supposed to do… now?”
Father Joe was only trying to bring them closer together in prayer.
Darkness can bring us closer together… but it is sometimes misinterpreted.
[__06__] Darkness can also bring us closer to God and to a better understanding of the Gospel.
In darkness, in solitude with God, we need not fear.
As we read in Psalm 27, The Lord will conceal me under the cover of his tent (Psalm 27:5). In this darkness, we can reveal our plans to him and know his for us.
The man born blind displays this same faith.
Meanwhile, those with sight and light behave differently.
- The Pharisees – apparently enlightened – feel threatened by the presence of Jesus.
- The parents of the man born blind – also with 20/20 vision physically – are afraid to be associated with Jesus and are afraid of the Pharisees.
The man with the greatest confidence in God is the one who cannot see.
Darkness brings us closer to our Savior.
[__07__] Do we, however, always experience “darkness” as an advantage…. ?
Sometimes, darkness puts at a disadvantage …
Sinfulness – our personal sins – can turn the lights out, cut us off, leave us in the dark.
Discovering our faults can be a time of doubt, uncertainty …or if we were hurt / injured by the sin, the fault of someone else, we may be in the dark.
Yet, this dark place is exactly where the Lord meets us. It is from an emotionally dark place in another country, the Prodigal Son returns home. It is well after closing time… at night, when the Messiah is born in
…from the darkness of the tomb, Jesus rises. Bethlehem
In our faith journey, it is darkest before the dawn.
Also, the darkness of sin invites us to consider God/Jesus Christ as the real light of the world.
If we continue in a particularly sinful, selfish way, the lights may be on…but, as we say… is anybody home?
Continuing down a path of sin, could I not be blinded by the brightness of comfort, convenience, or a false independence?
Meanwhile, repentance …which sometimes requires closing our eyes, reflection… darkness… is what offers us real light and Jesus as the light of the world, your world, my world. This is mercy and grace.
I offer you the words of Psalm 139..which remind us, of the constant light of Christ within us … this was the light that the blind man of the Gospel knew as his real advantage, as his salvation.
We read in Psalm 139 this prayer to God, “even darkness is not dark for you and night shines as clear as the day.” (Psalm 139:12) [__fin__]