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Sunday Readings for Apr. 3, 2011 (4LentA)
By Fr. Joseph Pellegrino
I grew up in Totowa Borough, a suburb of Paterson, New Jersey, which itself is really a suburb of New York City. Like all New Yorkers or wanna be New Yorkers from New Jersey, I grew up with the distinct attitude that people from the Northeast were “in the know”, or, simply put, the smartest people in the world. Actually, there are plenty of New Yorkers who think that intelligent life ceases west of the Hudson River, including New Jersey. There are also plenty of people in the rest of the country that are convinced that intelligent life never came into existence east of the Hudson River. That second group just might be correct.
The concept of “being in the know” is an unfortunate attitude of many people throughout the world who are convinced that their view of something or other is the only reasonable view. You particularly see this in politics as some people are absolutely convinced that anyone who sees things different from them have no clue about what is best for the country. So you have radio commentators on one side and editorial writers on the other side each presenting themselves up as great intellectuals, and treating those they disagree with as absolute morons.
Thankfully, the intellectual arrogance of the talk show hosts, pundits, editorial writers, and columnists does not have a tremendous effect on our world, at least, as long as the arrogant intellectuals stay within their minimal spheres of influence. However, when these people take steps into that which really matters in life, our relationship with God, then we face a horrible situation: the intellectually arrogant belittle people of faith. After all, they are convinced they are “in the know.” In reality, they are blind. They are blind to the Presence of God in their own lives and in the world. They cannot see God standing right in front of them. And the common everyday woman or man, the elderly lady who devotes her life to prayer, the young family who makes tremendous sacrifices to provide a Catholic home for their children, the Teen who stays away from the party everyone is talking about because he or she knows there is going to be abundant amounts of alcohol and drugs there, those people the arrogant call blind, well, those are really the people who have sight.
The drama of John 9, the Man Born Blind, is the story of a simple man open to God’s presence and arrogant men who cannot see the Christ standing right before them. The blind man is the one with sight. The Pharisees, those great illuminaries and self-proclaimed intellectuals, are blind.
Little has changed in the world. You go to work, to school, and the so-called intellectuals belittle you because you are a person of faith. But they cannot answer the questions that matter: What is life really about? What is the purpose for all of our struggles? Can lasting happiness ever be found? Does it exist? Where is it? These self styled intellectuals cannot answer these questions. But we can. Life is about God who gave us life. We exist to love, honor and serve Him. With God as our center, every aspect of our life has meaning and purpose. His love is experienced in the love of our families, of our marriages, of our Church family. We experience His Love in each other. There is so much more to life than the physical, the here and now. The spiritual is real. Happiness does exist. It comes from union with God. No one can take this happiness from us. Even those who are persecuted for their faith, people like St. Maximilian Kolbe starving to death in the concentration camp, or Ignatius of Antioch waiting for the lions to be released in the Roman Coliseum or each one of us when we are mocked for our Catholic lifestyle, we still remain at peace with the Lord. We possess the happiness that lasts. We pray everyday for the strength and courage to keep us from sacrificing this happiness, His Happiness, to the empty promises of those who do not know God.
We cannot allow others to put us down for our faith. We know what matters in life. We need to shake off the concept that we are insignificant, members of the mindless masses. Like the blind man who refused to deny what he saw, what he experienced, we need to be passionate witnesses to Jesus Christ.
Remember the story of the man born blind, and don’t be concerned with the snide comments and attacks of others. Instead pray for them to be delivered from their blindness and thank God that with Christ we can see.