Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture


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Homily 26 March 2017 – I Can See Again


Fourth Sunday in Lent A — 032617 – I Can See Again!

Click here for today’s biblical texts

I have often wondered how ophthalmologists interpret this gospel. When my father’s vision became more and more blurry we persuaded him to have a cataract operation. My dad could not believe the change. He could see again, clearly and in color. He called the doctor a miracle worker.

Would’t it be wonderful today if we had a miracle, something astonishing to open our eyes to the world around us? Our awareness of spaces and people is so confounded by distractions competing for our attention. Also, because, it is said that in this part of the world, we develop just two senses for getting information, we can easily overlook a lot.

The stories we hear during Lent serve to grab our attention and draw us more deeply into the life of Christ. Jesus had a keen sense of awareness so much so it seemed like he could look right into people’s hearts and minds. He was aware of their physical needs, their mental anxieties and spiritual cravings. Because of his acute perceptions he knew how to respond to people all the way up to the end of his life.

Last week Elizabeth [Simcoe] helped us imagine how Jesus looked right into the Samaritan woman’s heart and mind and recognized her desires. Once the woman, whose name [Photina] means seeker of wisdom, learned something more about who Jesus was, her eyes were opened, she saw the light and became one of Jesus’ earliest female disciples.

The one born blind in today’s gospel is another example of what an expanded vision can do. Once his eyes were opened the man also became a disciple of Christ and testified about Jesus being the One. The healing occurred at the pool at Siloam, a word that means “messenger.” People touched by God become God’s messengers.

In both readings Jesus moved people with touches and glances, words and actions. Just as the living water in Jacob’s well reminded us of our baptismal commitments, today’s text reminds us how the flame of the Easter candle spreads among us filling you and me with the light of Christ. 

As we approach the Easter feast these biblical texts are invitations to examine our sensibilities, sharpen our senses, broaden our perspectives about our lives and those of others around us. 

Scholar Guerric DeBona suggests it is also a season to scrutinize how “culture colludes with blurred vision by covering up the truth.” [1] John Martens adds, “the true light of Christ cannot be faked.” [2]

Fifty years ago today Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical on the Development of Peoples. He wrote, “We must make haste. Too many people are suffering. While some make progress, others stand still or move backwards; and the gap between them is widening.” [No. 29] How prophetic!

Taking action, speaking the truth, are important characteristics of being a disciple. Resisting laws that jeopardize health care for people, the protection of our environment, liberty for strangers, help for struggling families, can produce results.

The NETWORK Advocates of Justice Inspired by Catholic Sisters insists that “Catholic social justice teaches us to look at reality through the eyes of those who have been made poor by oppression and injustice.”

Both the Samaritan woman and the one who was blind took action once they sensed the presence of God in their lives. We are urged to do the same, to be aware of the irresistible light of Christ glowing within us. When that happens we become the light for everyone around us to see. We do not put it under a bushel basket.

At the Easter Vigil we will initiate Christopher Dean into the church. Bathed in baptismal waters and the light of Christ, Chris will join us in giving new life to others. Walking with him on his journey has inspired us to renew our own commitments to the gospel. 

Christopher, we continue to pray that your eyes, and ours, will be opened wide to see the radiance of Christ shining in our midst.

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  1.  DeBona, Guerric. Between the Ambo and the Altar: Biblical Preaching and the Roman Missal Year A. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2013, 76
  2.  Martens, John W. The Word on the Street. Year A (Collegevile: Liturgical Press) 2016, 31
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Homily – 5 March – Giving Up Sin for Lent


First Sunday of Lent A — 5 March 2017 — Giving Up Sin for Lent

Click here for today’s biblical texts

Lutheran pastor Dawn Hutchings, wrote these words about Lent: It is a season when we are reminded over and over how sinful we are. So, we thank God that Jesus died that bloody death on the cross to redeem us.

Where did we get this notion that we are such bad people and that Jesus had to die to save us? As I look around this church I don’t see any really bad people. Go ahead. Look around. Do you see any really bad people here?

The English philosopher, John Locke, like other later Enlightenment thinkers, believed that humans were born clean and pure, and that it was society that caused evil. We are innately good human beings until, of course, using a free will, we make bad decisions that can be sinful.

As we embark on the season of Lent — forty days of fasting, praying, reconciling, almsgiving — we ask ourselves why exactly was Jesus’ death on a cross the only way for us to be saved from our sins? This season focuses on that teaching. Commentators tell us that without this sense of personal and corporate sin we will fail to grasp the necessary role that Christ plays as redeemer. 

But why would God, who stopped Abraham from slaying his son and who established a motherly covenant with the Israelites, send Jesus, God’s only son, to be sacrificed? Couldn’t the all loving and merciful God who created everything and everyone come up with a better plan? 

This perplexing question begins with Adam and Eve in that familiar but non historical narrative about creation. Eve is often blamed for the sins of humanity but it was not her fault. If you read the verses before the ones we heard today we learn that Adam was warned by God to stay away from that tree of good and evil. 

But Adam never told Eve! So Adam (a name that means “humankind” or “of the earth”) was the problem. That act of disobedience set the stage for a history of salvation whereby we would have to be saved by someone other than ourselves.

The second reading provides further clues about why Jesus had to die to save us from our sin. Theologian Kevin McMahon wrote that Augustine developed the notion of original sin in the 6th century. He did so after reading Paul’s discussion of sin in the letter we heard this morning. Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve, was obedient to the will of God. He died on the cross not so much because he chose to do so freely but out of an acceptance of God’s will.

It wasn’t until the 11th century when St. Anselm reasoned that redemption could only be the work of a sinless man who was also divine. This is called atonement theology. It teaches that Jesus’ life and death makes it possible for us to be “at one” with God. By following the life of Christ as an exceptional model of human behavior we can restore our relationship with God and live in harmony with each other.

Jesus knew first hand how difficult it would be for us to continue his mission. He himself struggled to overcome temptations like the ones listed in today’s gospel. New Testament scholar Audrey West, suggests Jesus beat the devil, a symbol of the cultural pressures of his time, because he refused to be distracted from his mission by alternative temptations. 

No doubt we are both saints and sinners. We cannot negate the Catholic theology of atonement and the importance of Jesus’ redemptive life or our reliance on the grace of God given freely to us. Our prayers and song lyrics during this season are infused with that language. 

We can however look for ways to focus less on our potential for being bad. Instead we can concentrate on the goodness of God’s creation and the innate goodness of humanity. It is not to ignore the need to forgive and be forgiven but to recognize that God is still at one with us. 

Through our faith, our hope and our social action we can appreciate and celebrate that, fundamentally, we are really good people who occasionally make bad decisions.