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Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

We can sometimes be deaf or blind to many realities before us.

By Bishop Larry Silva
March 27, 2022

[Sacred Heart Church, Waianae]

Perhaps some of you remember the late Father Eli Carter.  He was my classmate in the seminary, and I remember his telling me about how the town of Nanakuli received its name.  It means, “to look at your knees” or “to appear to be deaf.”  It was an extremely poor town, with little fresh water and very little food to spare.  It was customary for the Hawaiian people to offer hospitality to weary travelers, and when people walked from other parts of the island to this area of Waianae, they were very tired and hungry by the time they reached Nanakuli.  But the people there were so poor that when visitors came they looked down, pretending to be deaf, and not hearing them, because they were so embarrassed that they had no food to share.  A visitor might judge the people to be stingy or selfish, but if that visitor could see the reality, he would know that it was not a lack of hospitality but lack of the means to offer it.

So it is that we can sometimes be deaf or blind to many realities before us.  And it is the risen Jesus who wants to heal us of our blindness just as he did to the man born blind so long ago.  As we celebrate the Second Scrutiny with our Elect (those who are to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil), we ask them to scrutinize their hearts and their lives, to open their eyes to see the reality of sin wherever it may lurk within them, and to thus be better prepared to see the glorious vision of the risen Lord, who is sacramentally present today in his Church.  We who are already fully initiated members of the Church can often have our eyes so filled with mud that we, too, fail to see our sins or fail to see the goodness and light that comes from our faith in Jesus.  We, too, need to have our eyes washed so that we can see more clearly what the Lord wants us to see.

First we must see our sins, because they are the disgusting spittle and mud that we put in our own eyes.  Yes, we are aware of our obvious sins, the ones for which we know we have done wrong.  But there are so many hidden sins.  Just as God gave the prophet Samuel the ability to see not just outward realities but to see what is hidden, so the Lord wants to give us the same grace.  Very often the most hidden sin is the sin of pride, by which we thank God that we are not like the rest of people, that we are so devoted to God.  This pride can lead us to simply being content with keeping the Good News of Jesus to ourselves without taking the risks to reach out to those who do not yet know him.  Or it can make us possessive of some ministry that we begin to think belongs to us and us alone.  It can be the hidden toxin that ultimately destroys a marriage or a friendship.  So the Lord wants us to wash this filth of hidden sin from our eyes so that we can be sent as authentic messengers of his merciful love.

Perhaps our sin is turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to the plight of our brothers and sisters.  We can easily pass by the homeless and lament that they detract from the beautiful scenery rather than looking for ways to assist them.  We can be blind to the suffering of someone who has lost a love one and is overwhelmed with grief.  We might encounter someone who seems angry all the time without seeing how little that person feels loved.  And so we are called, along with the Elect, to scrutinize our lives, especially during this Lenten season of purification, so that our eyes can be open to see even our hidden sins and to beg for the Lord’s mercy.

Of course, we can also be blind to the graces God gives us.  We can take our spouses, children or families for granted, instead of thanking God for these great gifts in our lives.  We can be blind to the grace of our Baptism muddy the reality that God loves us so much that he allows us to be soaked in his very own Name – in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We be come to Mass every Sunday and see only the priest and people, hear the songs, prayers, and Scriptures, but be totally blind to the fact that the risen Jesus is here present with us today in the breaking of bread.

And so, as we invite the Elect to scrutinize themselves, to open their eyes more widely to sin and to grace, we all have the privilege of being touched by the Lord, so that putting the disgusting dirt of sin right before our eyes, we can be washed to see clearly enough to repent and to see, hear, feel, and taste the goodness of the Lord.