I’ve tried… seriously – to allow myself no more than 15-20 minutes of News coverage a day. For the most part all week I was good. Got the latest updates and then turned it off. If I watched TV, I was watching it on delay so I could even fast forward the commercials because all I would hear: “STAY TUNED FOR OUR LATEST FREAK OUTS TO GET YOU TO FREAK OUT AT 11.” But Friday night I was working on something, had the TV on in the background and I wasn’t even paying attention and I got sucked in…. Here’s the latest updates…. Today’s numbers of cases…. This order by this governor… Here’s some video of lines of people waiting to get tested – here’s our reporter interviewing people (6 FEET wearing a mask that’s the previous report JUST SAID wasn’t going to do anything) and then hearing how scared this woman that they were interviewing was and how scared her husband is and how frustrated they are sitting in there cars in these lines waiting for these tests…. Before I knew it an hour had passed. And now I was feeling anxious, depressed, fearful.

Hi everyone here’s my homily for MARCH 22, 2020- FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT.   During this time of public Masses being suspended, I invite you to pray with us as we pray for you on our FACEBOOK PAGE cick here  (Sundays at 7 PM, Mon-Thurs at 5:30/Fridays at Noon which are followed by a Eucharistic Holy Hour.  If you miss it live, the videos are all their archived so you can watch them later)      Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even ore for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

That turned to discouragement and frustration as I thought about how here at Red Hawk Catholic we were having a really great year, lots of terrific momentum that was grinded to a halt. Then I started going looking at different websites and reading more and more information. And you know how this goes. You look at one website, see one video and then that leads to another one – and there’s all those suggestions on the side…

It was overwhelming. That’s when I happened to stumble upon a few religious sites and articles that were joining in on the coronavirus with their own takes on things.  To various degrees saying:   One saying this is the end times. This is the apocalypse we’ve been waiting for. Another saying this is God’s wrath or punishment on people. To the complete opposite saying this is the anti-christ at work – look, he even got us to suspend public Masses. Thankfully, thats where the devil overplayed his hand. When I saw that stuff I said to myself “screw you Satan.” And Mom (who I know is watching) I’m sorry I know you’re going to be upset I said “screw you” to Satan… but being an Italian from New Jersey that was the most cleaned up way I could share what I actually said in a homily.

Seriously though. That was the jolt I needed… to ask myself Are we Christians or not? Do we believe in Jesus or do we treat him like a life insurance policy – something we know that inevitably we’re going have to use (because inevitably we all will die) but we don’t think about, don’t want to talk about -let me just make my payments and keep it over there. Sadly I think a lot fall into that category. Jesus has become a life insurance policy.

Jesus is not a life insurance policy… That’s not who He is. Who is Jesus? I had been praying and working on a project for a couple of months that hasn’t come together yet, but Friday night, I pulled out my notes as I sat with that question. Who is Jesus? – Here’s 50 descriptors, names, titles that come from different places throughout the Bible in rapid fire:

My notebook… aren’t you glad I type out my homilies now 🙂

Almighty one (Rev 1:8) ;

the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13);

our Advocate (1 John 2:1);

the Author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2);

Authority (Matt 28: 15)

Beloved Son of God (Matt 3:17);

the Bridegroom (Matt 9L15)

the Chief Cornerstone (Ps 118:22)

Deliverer (1 Thess 1:10)

Faithful and True (Rev 19:11);

the Good Shepherd (John 1011);

the Great High Priest (Heb 4:19)

the Head of the Church (Eph 1:22);

the Holy Servant (Acts 44:29-30);

the Great I AM (John 8:38);

Emmanuel – God with us (Is 7:14)

Indescribable Gift (2 Cor 9:15)

our Judge (Acts 10:42)

the King of Kings (Rv 17:14)

Lamb of God (Jn 1:29);

The Door (John 10:9)

The Way (John 14:6)

The Word (John 1:1)

The vine (Jn 15:1)

The Truth (Jn 8:32)

The Light of the World (Jn 8:12)

The Victorious one (Rev 3:21)

The lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5)

the Lord of All (Phil 2:9-11)

The Mediator (1 Tim 2:15)

the Messiah (John 1: 41)

the Mighty one (Is 60: 16)

The one who sets free (John 8:36)

our Peace (Eph 2:14)

our hope (1 Tim 1:1)

Prophet (Mark 6:4)

Redeemer (Job 19:25)

Risen Lord (1 Cor 16:4)

Rock! (1 Cor 16:4)

Sacrifice for or sins (1 John 4: 10)

Savior (Luke 2:11)

Son of Man (Luke 19:10)

Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32)

Supreme creator over all (Col 1: 16-17)

Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6)

This is who Jesus is. That is who we follow. That is who we say we believe in. He’s not a life insurance policy – We have to let all of those titles snap us out of this haze of fear and worry – we have to let these descriptors from scripture take root and let that faith rise in our hearts. And when we do that, reconsider what we just heard in this Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Lent:

Here was this man who was born blind – so people have known him his entire life. It’s not some random person who just came on the scene that no one ever met, no one ever knew before – the family, the neighbors, the friends, the townspeople all knew him. After being blind his whole life he has this one brief interaction with Jesus and he is able to see. So either this was the greatest of con jobs ever that he faked his entire life being blind hoping he could be of use in some great conspiracy, great hoax – or it’s an astounding amazing miracle… it’s a sign that Jesus is who He says He is (do I have to read the 50 titles again?)

But if you think about what we just heard – the entire miracle took about 5 verses of scripture. The bulk of the 41 verses were all about the doubts, the hedging, the disbelief, the skepticism, the picking apart of the miracle to somehow explain it in any other possible way then Jesus being who He says He is – anything that could keep the status quo of the world as it was. What was that world? – It was a world that time was filled with corruption among both political and religious leaders – a time where the Jewish land had been occupied by the Romans so for all intents and purposes they had fallen back into being enslaved… They might not have liked the way things were, but people had gotten accustomed to it. Maybe didn’t expect that anything could happen to change it. So it had become something they knew and had adjusted to.

Jesus – in this brief interaction completely upends things. How does this man born blind – suddenly see? Because Jesus is who He says He is.   So we should pay pretty close attention to what He has to say. And it’s interesting if you think about it that in the whole story with the miracle, in the back and forth after it happens and the debates and skepticism that follows the miracle – what is lost? Jesus says what’s more important – the more miraculous thing is that He forgives sin. He was clear at the beginning of this Gospel – the young man, his family didn’t do anything wrong that caused the blindness – so it wasn’t his sins or their sins that caused it to happen (just like this coronavirus isn’t God sending his wrath or punishment on the world because of whatever list of reasons people want to propose). So again, Jesus is telling us that God doesn’t inflict physical suffering on people whether it’s a virus or physical limitation like blindness because of sin.

Then Jesus instantly, immediately, completely heals and restores the man. The sins that the man has committed – that every man and woman has committed – the evil that causes destruction and division and discord, and fear and panic – all things which are even more destructive than physical blindness – Jesus has power over that too and offers His healing, His mercy, His forgiveness.

That needs to be where we put our attention our focus right now. Personally, for the most part I’ve felt pretty much at peace the last couple of weeks with the news and social distancing, and quarantining and lock downs or whatever we want to call of this. But I’ve had my moments (like on Friday night) – and I know that many, many others who have and are still struggling with a lot of those different fears, feelings and emotions.

Jesus is speaking to us all in a direct and personal way. He who is the light of the world shines in this darkness… He who restores the physical sight of this man born blind comes to restore the sight of our souls- calling us to not let irrational fear, loneliness, isolation blind us – cause us to fall into despair and hopelessness.   We are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Jesus has gone to hell and back to make that so. Its our decision how we wish to live.

For the people who were closest to the man born blind – the friends, the neighbors, the townspeople – all people who knew him and know his story – even his parents – all of them are so anxious about the reaction of those who wish to remain with eyes set on the world as it was, a world run amuck by sinful, limited men they dismiss this miracle, diminish the freedom this son of theirs has received after a lifetime of bondage, they reject Jesus . And so not only was He not going to be able to change their present situations and circumstances… even more the freedom, the new life Jesus could offer all of them they miss out on that.

May we not be that foolish… and miss the gift that He offers us.   Jesus right here in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of this anxiety and fear – is calling us to deeper faith and trust that He is with us – both here and now and into eternal life. He is bigger than any virus, more powerful than any fear.   He will not only see us through this global crisis, more personally, He wants to transform each and everyone of us… By forgiving us of our sins, remove the things, the failures, the obstacles, the things that blind us from seeing ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. May we allow him, so that we can do as St. Paul begged us in the second reading: live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth…”