Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, March 10, 2013, 4th Sunday of Lent, "No Turning Back", Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ


St. Mary of the Angels Sunday Lent IV A 3/10/13

I Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

My Brothers and Sisters,

As we sang strongly and movingly in our opening hymn: "We have decided to follow Jesus." For most of us that decision was made long, long ago. And, despite our failures along the way, we still affirm, "no turning back, no turning back!"

Last night we turned our clocks forward an hour, an indication that we are beginning the long, slow march to spring. Despite the foot of snow this week (and maybe more to come!), still, spring is coming! "No turning back, no turning back!"

If you have read Donna Stiglemeier’s email to us from Bolivia, you will know that last Friday was International Woman’s Day and you will have read of Valerie, a Bolivian woman, beginning to claim her voice in the community. For her, for Donna, for their community, there’s "no turning back, no turning back!"

It reminds me of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious who, no matter what the bishops may say or do, are determined to stay the course and fulfill their mission from God and to God’s people. For them, there’s "no turning back, no turning back!"

Yesterday commemorated the 48th anniversary of the first of three civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The first was turned back at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by police batons and vicious dogs. We call that day, "Bloody Sunday." On the second, the marchers themselves turned back at the bridge to comply with the law. But, on the third, with an escort of U.S. Army soldiers and the Alabama National Guard, they marched boldly into Montgomery and so spurred the government to approve "The Voting Rights Act." For these heroic people, there was "no turning back, no turning back!" And even if today the Supreme Court should decide to prevent federal supervision of the states’ voting process, there must, for the conscience of the nation, be "no turning back, no turning back!"

Meanwhile, in Rome this week, the cardinals are gathered for the election of the next pope. Tuesday, the conclave begins. No matter who is chosen, something radically new has taken place with Benedict’s resignation. The next pontiff will have to listen much more to the people of God whose voices, in this interim moment, are clamoring for transparency, reform and dialogue. For us, who are the Church, there will be "no turning back, no turning back!"

And you, Jasper, as you, with the guidance of your godparents, Jerrolyn and Alvin, prepare to be received into the Catholic faith, will you also say with all your heart, "no turning back, no turning back?"

The above mentioned anniversaries and present events fit our readings today. In the first reading, God sent Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel. It was a critical moment in Israel’s history. God wanted to form his people into a just and righteous nation. God, who looks to the heart, chose young David to be shepherd of his people. And so, from that moment on, for Israel, there would be "no turning back, no turning back!"

In the Gospel, we have a man born blind whom Jesus singled out to give sight. In the ensuing struggle, the man came to see, not only physically but also with the eyes of faith. First, he saw Jesus as a prophet, but at the end, he saw Jesus as Son of God, calling Him "Lord," and worshiping Him. No matter what the Pharisees might say or do, for this man, there was "no turning back, no turning back."

"No turning back, no turning back." What does that look like for us?

Well, Jesus tells us today in the gospel that He is "The light of the world." St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, encourages us to "live as children of light, for," he adds, "light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth."

What is the goodness we are to practice this lent? Am I called to some specific act or acts of goodness during these weeks? Can I name just on for this week?

What is the righteousness we are called to live? Righteousness means right relationship with God, with oneself, with others. Am I at peace with everyone? Or, do I need to forgive someone?

And what is the truth we are to believe? Is this a time to learn more about Jesus and my Catholic Faith through Scripture, prayer, or study?

This Sunday marks the mid-point of Lent. Jesus and we are halfway to Jerusalem. For Jesus, there was "no turning back, no turning back." What about us? Will we continue to walk closely with Him and accept more and more the efforts and challenges to live a faithful, committed, Christian life before God and this community? Can we, too, once again, proclaim for ourselves: "no turning back, no turning back?"

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