Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3 Sermon (April 18)

Lord, open our eyes that we may see You in our brothers and sisters. Open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Open our hearts that we may love each other as You love us. Amen.

Open our eyes that we may see you (Mother Teresa)
Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work (Collect)
Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. (Eucharistic Prayer)

Open our eyes - It is an exercise in trying to see the world as Jesus would have us see it and to notice Jesus in this world already working. Martin Smith priest & retreat leader puts our seeing in the context of prayer,
“By taking our questions directly to Jesus [in prayer], instead of talking around him, we open ourselves to being influenced and enlightened by what Paul calls simply, “the mind of Christ.” Not instructions to obey but a mindset to adopt, a whole way of looking at the world through his eyes.”
Such work is not easy. Its hard work. But it is what Jesus expects of us as his followers. In the Gospel reading, Jesus appeared to his disciples again for they had returned to their old ways, they had gone finishing. And in the miracle of the large catch of fish, the disciples realized that they were seeing Jesus even if they didn’t voice it. And in a shared meal, Jesus became fully present to them. And then Jesus addressed Peter three times, do you love me (feed or tend my sheep). Each time I can imagine with greater emphasis, you love me? Feed my sheep. Because out on their boat, Peter could not feed the sheep. He wasn’t reaching out to others.

Then Jesus called them to follow me as he did when he first called them to be his disciples. Jesus once again opens their eyes to their ministry. They had seen Jesus after the resurrection but they failed to see how it changed their lives & what they were supposed to do. They did not look for his redeeming work.

A young nun went to the back of the chapel and was praying earnestly that she longed to see God’s face, after a while she opened her eyes from her silent prayers and looked smack into the face of Jesus on their large crucifix. O well never mind she said to God and went back to her prayers. Years later she would remember this event after having worked with many different suffering souls and realized that God had answered her prayer.

In our prayers, we can miss God if we don’t take the time to listen and open ourselves to see as God sees. And like the disciples we can avoid what Jesus asks of us and not see what we already know.

A young woman had been diagnosed with a condition that causes a gradual and permanent loss of vision. For some time she was able to function without any assistance - But as her vision slowly deteriorated, she could not accept the reality that she would have to make some adjustments in her life. She worried how others would perceive her: She did not want anyone's sympathy or pity. She kept a white cane in her brief case - but was too self-conscious to use it. So she ran into walls and doors and signs all the time; on the subway and on buses, she would often stand because she could not make her way to an open seat.

She was content to continue bumping into things rather than being recognized as a blind person - until her perspective changed. She was walking alongside a building she was familiar with. When she sensed the corner approaching, she moved away slightly so her shoulder wouldn't brush against it. Suddenly she realized her feet were no longer on the ground. When she felt she was again on the sidewalk, she stopped and looked back. What had changed around the corner? Then she saw him: She could make out the shape of a homeless man who was asleep on the pavement. He was unaware of what she had just realized - that she had walked right over him. Fortunately, she hadn't hurt him. But she knew that if she had used her cane, this never would have happened.

She now recognizes the absurdity of her fears and pride about her blindness. She now uses the cane. She not only accepts her condition but she is secure with herself and her abilities to deal with it and "see" her way through her life. [Foundation Fighting Blindness.]
The Easter Season is our time to see Christ at work in our world and in our lives. Hearing his call to come follow him, and not to be blind to what is all around us. I think of Saul & Ananais – Saul whose vision is clouded with hate for the disciples until he encounters Jesus on the way to Damascus. But he still can’t see until Ananais ministers to him and scales fell from his eyes. Together we help each other in opening our eyes to God’s work.

For just as Christ lifted the disciples from their nets to embark on their new ministry and like the woman who finally accepts her blindness and transforms her life in the process, in Easter it is Christ who lifts us all up to envision new life. Scales can fall from our eyes if we are ready to live that new life that Jesus calls us to. As Mother Teresa put it,
"People are hungry for God. Do you see that? Quite often we look but do not see. We are all passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see."
Indeed, may we “open our eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world about us” and join in. Amen.

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