In my first assignment as a priest I regularly visited an elderly man in his nineties, Jose Holguin. Jose insisted on playing a little jazz piano after I would give him communion. At his age he could not hit all of the proper keys on the piano, but you could still recognize the tune and understand that once this was a very good musician. One day, I was called to the hospital to anoint Jose before a serious operation. When I arrived he was being wheeled into the operating room. The nurses allowed me to quickly anoint him and he was miraculously healed and no longer needed the operation. Jose lived a few more years to enjoy his music and family.
Saturday, April 2, we celebrate the Anointing of the Sick during the 5:15 Mass. As a priest, I have all seen wonderful miracles through the reception of this sacrament. The most powerful miracle is witnessing God’s grace working through this sacrament bringing true healing of the soul and often preparing the recipient to live in peace with the gift of their illness. The spiritual healing is always more powerful than the physical healing.
The healing of the man born blind from birth in today's Gospel is a deeper story than just the bringing of sight to a man who could never see. Jesus is bringing about a spiritual healing, giving spiritual sight to him and opening his eyes to the presence of God. The disciples ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (Jn.9:2) His parents later in the story reveal their spiritual blindness. Like Adam and Eve, after their sin in the Garden, they are afraid and unwilling to witness God’s work received by their son.
The man born blind from birth, does not asked to be healed, yet on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of creation, Jesus brings him new life. Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay, just as we were originally formed from dust. The blind man is then sent to the Pool of Siloam (which means "sent"), just as the gift of creation is made complete when we are brought to new life through the sacrament of Baptism and sent into the world to awaken into a life of grace. Just as the eyes of an infant are not able to grasp the world around it from birth, so the eyes of the man born blind from birth are slowly opened. The first awakening comes for the man when he encounters his neighbors who witness something totally new. He is only able to say to them that the “man” named Jesus brought him sight (v 11). Later when confronted by the Pharisees he calls Jesus a “prophet” (v 17) and later acknowledges that he has become a disciple of Jesus (v 27). Finally, when he meets Jesus again he is able to fully recognize Christ, acknowledge his faith and worship him.
The Pharisees, in this Gospel, are going to remain in their spiritual blindness. Jesus will tell them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains” (v 41). The physical blindness of the man born blind was never a matter of sin. In the story of creation God uses darkness to bring forth light. The sin of the Pharisees is their stubborn attachment to darkness. Sin for us is calling blindness sight and stubbornly refusing to see God’s work's manifested in our lives. Many in our world remain in the darkness of their sinfulness through their refusal to accept God’s presence in their lives. They know and acknowledge God and his Son, Jesus the Christ, but they prefer to live in the darkness of the world and refuse to come to the faith that will bring them true light in their lives. Many of us approach this light every Sunday and still live in darkness. We come to church, but we still live in the blindness of our vices, angers, envies and selfishness.
Our Journey of faith is a constant awakening to see Christ more clearly throughout our life until finally we are able to see God’s presence in all things, good and bad. Our journey will not be complete until we are in the fullness of this light in the presence of God in heaven.
These final weeks of Lent are times for us to come into this light through the sacramental life of the Church. For all those who will receive the sacraments during this Easter Season, this is a time of true light and grace. On Easter Vigil we will have a large group receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Our Children, who just received their First Confession, are preparing now to receive this light in the Eucharist; and many of our Teens are preparing to receive the light in the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are invited to again share in this light through receiving the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
Jesus desires to open our lives, to touch us and allow us to live in the fullness of His light. We hear the admonition of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (5:8)
On January 1 of this year, John Olguin, “Mr. San Pedro” died. John worked tirelessly for the Cabrillo Aquarium, the Point Fermin Lighthouse, the Salvation Army, the Whale Watch Programs, Beacon House and the First Presbyterian Church of San Pedro. One of our treasures from Mary Star of the Sea Parish Vito Giacalone received the First Annual John Olguin award last Thursday, March 31, 2011. We are very proud of Vito and his dedication to the poor in our community through our Christian Care Program. Congratulations, Vito!
Please place on your calendar our Annual Parish Lenten Mission. Fr. John Paul Forte, O.P. will be speaking on Forgiveness and Reconciliation Thursday Saturday, April 14-16 at 7:00 P.M. I invited Fr. John Paul because first of all I know he is an excellent speaker; second, he is a friend from High School and college. I know you will love his presentations. He will also give a short talk following the morning mass on April 15 and Saturday April 16.
We have placed envelopes for The Msgr. Patrick Gallagher Scholarship in the pews. During the last few years we were able to assist directly a number of students from our parish through this scholarship. I think this is a great way for us to continue to honor Msgr. Gallagher and his dedication to our Catholic Schools.
Rev John F. Provenza