Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Through Things Simple and Humble, God Comes to Us"
Homily for the
4th Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

3 April 2011
Year A 

It must have been an amazing experience for this blind man to have met Jesus and be healed by Him. Yet, who would have thought that a paste of clay – made with spit – applied to one’s eyes and then washing it away in ordinary water would restore this man’s sight? Here, Jesus used ordinary elements of nature to convey His healing power. He gave the gift of sight by using matter. The blind man could feel the paste of clay on his eyes, he could hear Jesus, and he felt the water washing off the clay – and then he could see. In the first reading, God worked in a similar way. Samuel, under instructions from God, anointed David with oil and when he did so the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. The readings of today show how God’s power and healing were conveyed through elements of nature applied to the body.

During the course of this Season of Lent, I have been talking about changes that have been made in the language of the Mass and how to understand the changes we must first better understand the Mass itself – the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which there are three specific elements – food, presence and sacrifice. Here we see, once again, how Jesus conveys His power through the use of simple bread and simple wine.

There is still one more aspect of the Eucharist yet to be discussed – that is the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Here, we have come upon the great mystery – the paradox – of the Eucharist in that it is both the remembering of a past event and making present that same event, which is none other than Christ’s saving sacrifice on the Cross. It is to this climatic point that all of Christ’s life on earth is directed. He revealed to His disciples His desire to give His life for us – leaving us with a testimony of the true meaning of love – total self-giving. In this sacred context, a sacrifice is to offer something to God to honor Him, to thank Him, to gain communion with Him and to make atonement for our sins. Since Jesus is both God and Man, His sacrifice achieves these aspects of the nature of a sacrifice in the most perfect way, has an eternal significance and gains mercy for the entire world. Jesus confirmed this when He gave us the Eucharist as food at the Last Supper, saying: “do this in memory of me” and then offered Himself on the altar of the Cross. It is this very sacrifice that is remembered and yet at the same time made present to us on this altar. By His grace, He makes this mystery a reality through the prayers, gestures and rites of the Mass – which are carried out through His minister, the priest, who is called “alter Christus,” another Christ.

At this mid-point in our Lenten journey the Church invites us to rejoice. Today is known as Laetare Sunday and we where the rose vestment as sign of our joy. Why are we called to rejoice? Because we are that much closer to Easter – that much closer to celebrating the sacred event of Christ’s saving sacrifice on the Cross. We are reminded, then, that joy is completely compatible with sacrifice and penance – these acts of self-denial are not performed in sadness but rather are meant to increase our love and joy for Christ.

For it is in this saving action that we find our full identification with Him – giving deep meaning and value to all of our own personal sacrifices and acts of penance and where we find the source of our true happiness and joy. By refusing to perform acts of penance and self-denial, by holding on to things that do not matter leads to a spiritual and moral blindness that distances ourselves from Christ. Only by carrying out and uniting our sufferings and penances to His cross do we find the strength and support to carry our own. It is through the mystery of the sacrifice of Jesus – remembered and made present on this altar – that way we are given that spiritual vision for which we all long – the light, as St. Paul reminds us, that exposes that which lies in the darkness, the ability to see clearly the path that leads to God and the way of life that is pleasing to Him. This is not the same as the restoration of physical sight – this is an interior vision of faith, a light that shines within our hearts, minds and souls.

This is what we experience here, at Mass, if we but open our hearts to God’s grace, lose our fear of sacrifice and banish from our minds and hearts the fear of drawing closer to Him because it is too challenging or too difficult. Then, through our prayerful participation in this saving sacrifice, through our acceptance of the cross, through our small acts of penance, our hearts will be opened to His grace and we will see that in this, the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, the Eucharist, this is the gift that God gives to unite us to His heart.

It may all seem too good to be true, it may all seem too simple – but that is precisely how God works, in simple ways. He uses those elements of nature that are most familiar to us (water, oil, bread, wine) in order to speak to us, to convey His message, to show us His power and majesty, to draw us closer to Him, to heal and forgive – and there is no greater way than through the mystery of the Eucharist, given to us in the simple elements of bread and wine – transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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