Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
March 30th, 2014
Year A

Last week I led a group of 10 students to Southeastern Kentucky, to the mountains of Appalachia on a spring break mission trip. Some of the poorest of the poor in our country live in this area. We went there to work with an organization call the Christian Appalachian Project – CAP, for short. CAP assists families that live under the poverty line by helping fix up, repair, and rebuild homes. The families have to qualify for CAP’s help, they have to purchase the materials to fix the house – within their means – and they have to take courses in money management and budgeting. It’s the “teach a man to fish” philosophy. CAP provides the labor free of charge.

To say the very least, it was an intense week. First, the drive down – 14 hours, not including stops along the way. We broke up the trip by stopping north of Pittsburgh to stay the night at a friend of mine’s parish in Beaver Falls, PA. We did the same on the way home. The drive was not so bad considering this year the weather was on our side – unlike last year when we had to drive through two blizzards! Mostly, I would say, it is a hands-on Gospel experience. It is putting the words of Jesus: “whatever you do for the least of my brethren you do for me” into action. I can honestly say that all of us had a blast. We worked hard. We saw poverty like we have never seen before. And we walked away from it all with a good feeling: “I did something for someone else, I helped a person in need.” This is a very important part of the Gospel message.

There is more to it than this, though. This is an eye-opening experience. The blinders are lifted in a “miracle of the blind man” experience. And in one week, one of my favorite lines in the Bible, comes to life, at least for me. It comes from the first reading: “not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” So very often we can be critical of the poor. Why can’t they help themselves? Why can’t you work? He dresses nicer than I do. I don’t have that video game or the newest iPhone. CAP encourages us to get to know the people we serve. We don’t just show and punch our time cards. We get the chance to talk to them. One of my most memorable experiences was taking a ride to the hardware store with Phil – the dad at the home where I was assigned. Phil told me all sorts of stories about how he used to drive fast around the winding corners and his buddy, who was the town sheriff, pulled him over. He also shared why he couldn’t work. He shared with us his physical ailments. Sometimes you could see on his face the quite cries from within his heart, desperate for a better life. In other words, I began to see what God sees. I began to see past the appearance and see the heart of man broken and bruised. My spiritual vision was kicked into high gear.

I wonder if this is what Jesus saw in the man born blind – weighed down due to his infirmity. The question the disciples pose to Jesus echoes the Jewish views on the causes of misfortunes and illnesses – they regarded them as punishment for sins of parents. Jesus makes it clear that this is not the case. Certainly, the origin of man’s misfortunes has its root in original sin and our personal sins. At the same time, however, God does not inflict evil on a person as some sort of sick punishment for sins committed. God uses the bad in order to make His glory known. Every misfortune then, has some element of good hidden beneath it. How is this so… because Jesus sees past the infirmity. He sees the heart, the soul, the true dignity of the blind man.

I wonder if this is what God sees in us – men and women broken and bruised because of our sins. He sees past the hurt we bring upon ourselves, the sins that weigh us down, the darkness that blinds us to His grace and truth. For example, the living conditions of the people whom we served in Appalachia were terrible. Some of the conditions they brought upon themselves, some of it could not be helped due to illness and cultural situations. It was like something you see on TV. God used our talents – or lack thereof – to show His love to a people weighed down. He used us to bring about some good in the midst of a bad situation. He took their horrific conditions in order to show that there was good underneath it all. Through them, through us, the works of God were made known. Their dignity was affirmed, their burdens were lightened. He brought light into their darkness. But even more so, He brought light into mine.

I don’t know if I will always have this grace to see more deeply into the heart of my neighbor…probably not. I do know this, that I learned something on this mission trip, I experienced something deep: in the midst of poverty, desperation, darkness and people on the verge of despair, the light of the Gospel can break through giving meaning to man’s suffering, to his life, and even more evidently… His joy. And that joy is seeing God within the heart and soul of another human being.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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