Lord, let our eyes be opened.

As they left Jericho, a great crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “[Lord,] Son of David, have pity on us!” The crowd warned them to be silent, but they called out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!” Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight, and followed him.

Matthew 20:29-34, NAB

As I read this pericope tonight, the plea “Lord, let our eyes be opened” really caught my attention. I think this is because I’ve more often seen the phrase rendered as “Lord, we want to see!” And there is a difference, I think. To me, saying “Lord, let our eyes be opened” in some ways is a plea for a correction to a willful problem. In other words, if they were merely blind, Jesus giving them sight would be a correction to a problem that came through no fault of their own.

But saying “Lord, let our eyes be opened” implied to me this evening that their eyes were willfully closed. Jesus implies this in John’s Gospel in the healing of the man born blind. He tells the Pharisees, who asked him to clarify whether he was inferring that they were also blind: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”

But the two blind men here have a bit of an advantage, I think, over those Pharisees. The Pharisees insisted that they could in fact see, where these two acknowledge that they cannot. Spiritually, they are in a better place because they know their blindness and further, they wish to have it corrected, although it seems they cannot do so on their own. Still, knowing that one needs help is far and away better than insisting there is no problem. So these two blind men do indeed have their eyes opened, while the Pharisees in John’s pericope remain culpably blind.

I could ruminate about the areas of blindness in my own life, and they are legion to be sure. But I don’t think that’s the message this time. Instead, I think the message has to be that it’s important to know when we are in spiritual danger and seek help in that time of need. We cannot deny that sort of blindness, as the Pharisees did, or we have no hope whatsoever of being healed.

Is it only Wednesday?!

These first few days have seemed like an eternity. We’ve had classes (yes on Labor Day too, and neither of the professors I had on that day beleived in a brief lecture for the first day), and far too many meetings. We had our third annual liturgy meeting yesterday (translation: “how to go to Mass meeting”) and I want that hour of my life back.

But in general, getting back to the seminary has been good in the sense of reconnecting with my friends here. I’ve been able to hear about a lot of their CPE experiences … some good, some bad, some “medium” (that was his own word, not mine). I think all of us are richer for the experience and will be better priests.

There is a meeting tonight for next year’s CPE students. I am the student speaker for it, giving the “I did CPE and you can too!” talk. I have to keep it brief, which will be hard since I have so much good material from those eleven weeks! But since I really do believe in the topic of my talk, it will be an easy one to give, I think.

I’ve decided to be like John the Baptist when it comes to music ministry: I must decrease. There was a meeting for those who wanted to be musicians this year, and they have something like 30 cantors already, so I decided not to go. It will be hard to give that up, but it’s a busy year, and I’ve felt called to do other things. In fact, I was asked to help by leading a small group of second year guys in their formation discussions. I didn’t think I was going to do that, but God (and Fr. Ciomek) called, so I said yes to that. I’m also editing the school magazine for one more issue, and continuing my work as Fire Chaplain, so that will be enough for one year, on top of studies, prayer, dozens of meetings, and God knows what all else.

So another year begins, and I’m only less than two months to diaconate ordination. All holy men and women, pray for us!

Hurricane Katrina

Katrina refugees make their way to safety

 
 
 

Being on retreat kept me a bit out of the loop of the disaster in the south at the hands of Hurricane Katrina. They did tell us about it and we kept the people of the south in prayer. It’s just hard to imagine all the death and destruction one storm can create. All we can try to do is help and pray.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

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Being a pastor doesn’t mean you can be an ass.

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion — it’s free of all of those things now,” Shanks says. “God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there — and now we’re going to start over again.”

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans

Shame on him.

Three Promises: A Reflection on Diaconate Retreat

It’s been a crazy week/weekend so far. I finished my retreat Friday morning, and left Friday afternoon for my friend’s diaconate ordination in Springfield, IL. I stayed there overnight (free lodging is a goooooood thing!) and am finally back and getting ready to return to Mundelein sometime tomorrow night.

I should probably be packing things up, but … nah! plenty of time for that later!

But a little about the diaconate retreat. I had probably the most significant retreat of my seminary time, and that was a really cool thing. The retreat director was an oldish (70’s) Jesuit who has been doing this retreat for Mundelein for 20 years. Unfortunately, that kind of showed in his presentation, as it was full of a lot of cliche things that he’s probably been using from time immemorial. But the bulk of his stuff was actually pretty good. The retreat house was very nice — lots of good scenery, well maintained and very clean. I was with a lot of my classmates I don’t usually hang out with, and had a great time. So all in all, it was cool.

The best part, though, was that there was plenty of time for long walks and time to reflect. One of those was after the talk on celibacy, and I took the time to pray over my three promises. It was incredibly consoling to know at the end of the walk that I feel ready to make those promises now.

I feel like my work in seminary on dealing with conflict has made me more able to make a promise of obedience in the best sense of the word: to follow my bishops’ orders with generosity, but able to make my own needs known and not pretending they’re not important. As far as the prayer promise goes, I know that prayer is central to my pastoral ministry and that pastoral ministry is central to my prayer. I can’t do one without the other. And as for celibacy, I have to say that probably the reason I feel ready to live that promise is the time I spent discussing it with my CPE group. It was either TV or SM (maybe both) who said that having that discussion was like being on holy ground. Well, it was for me too. And I have come to know that healthy relationships with others — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — is central to living as a healthy celibate man in the world.

It was a great retreat, and it helped me to solidify my vocational call, which after all is the whole point of a retreat. Thanks again for your prayer support. Diaconate ordination is something like 62 days and counting! 🙂

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Conflict is one of the hardest things for me. When I am presented with an issue of conflict, my own Irish Catholic heritage says, “we shall never speak of this again.” For me, being silent in the face of conflict is a way of hardening my heart.

Because sometimes when we hear God’s voice, that voice tells us to speak out and say things people may want to hear. But as difficult as that call can be, we must never turn away from that call — and it’s not easy. Because conflict is the least of our problems. Not mentioning what God calls us to say results in not only the death — spiritual or actual — of others, but in our own death as well. So what’s a little conflict in the face of that?

Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The truth is sometimes difficult, but as Christians we are always “on for” the truth, to use the words of one of my moral theology professors. We are called on — mandated, as this quotation from Sunday’s Gospel tells us — to speak the truth, proclaim the truth, insist on the truth, and live the truth. We are called to bind each other to the truth, and loose each other from the other nonsense to which this passing world would bind us. Indeed, only by binding one another to the truth can we truly loose each other from sin.

Lord, grant that when we speak, we may always speak the truth. Grant that when we hear your voice, no matter how difficult the call, we would never harden our hearts.