Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Quinquagesima Sunday ~ Christ Heals Spiritual Blindness

IT IS ROUGHLY FIFTY DAYS UNTIL EASTER. Lent begins this week. On the old calender, today is Quinquagesima, the last of the three Get Ready Sundays. The traditional gospel is Luke 18: 31-43 ~ Jesus cures the blind man on the road to Jericho. The blind man of course is all of humanity, fumbling in the dark world of  ignorant unknowing, pretension, power-grab and selfish consuming.

Some people will emphasize the human blindness in terms of not knowing the saving doctrines of Christ. With all this talk of the New Evangelization these days I don't think the world is able to hear the Good News of the Gospel because there's no felt need for Christ. One Cardinal even questions if it's possible for Christ to be made attractive to the world today.

Instead, I'd suggest the global blindness takes the form of hatred. The account of Cain and Abel suggests it has been this way since the earliest days of the human story. Rather than rehearsing it all, anyone who pays attention to the news is aware of how deep, ugly and persistent hatred is.

Fundamentally, hatred is strong feelings against the other. Hatred needn't necessarily wish someone dead. Hatred feels, we could do quite well without you. Hatred at least secretly believes we are not all equal. That could mean: straight people over gay people, Americans over Mexicans, me over my in-laws, Christians over Muslims, my people over the people down the road.

Alice Herz-Sommer was referenced here in a post on February 25. Upon her death at 110 years of age, she was the oldest known Holocaust survivor. She lost all of her relatives, but her son, to the Nazis, and was only kept alive by them because she could play the piano. The Nazis liked to be able to put on concerts for the International Red Cross as proof of how well-off the Jews were under their care. Alice has left us some rather amazing quotes to ponder, as we remain behind, living in a world often saddened by hatred.

After the war German journalists tracked down Alice hoping for an interview. Expecting she would hate them, they stayed in the outside hallway. Instead she invited them in and offered them hospitality. She said:

"Hatred only feeds hatred. I try to find the best  in everybody. Behind each person is hidden a  life story and I like to listen to it and learn from the experience."
"We are all the same. What the Germans did, any group could do. There's good and bad in  every person; I have chosen to pay attention to the good."

Some people never admit to their hatreds. Or they minimize, rationalize or defend it. Some are simply blind to themselves. I'm putting myself on a news blackout for Lent. It's almost all agitating bad news anyway that makes me opinionated and negative. I have a feeling that television news weakens us.

Instead, I'll read more this Lent. Ah! maybe I"ll listen to Chopin. Alice played and mastered Chopin after the Nazis took her  relatives away and the neighbors stole everything right from under her, everything but the piano. She played Chopin while in the Terezin camp. She likened Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven to religion, as their music kept her from bitterness and  hatred.

Maybe for Lent we could put Alice's quotes on the bathroom mirror and other strategic places around the house. Perhaps we could listen to Chopin. Or Mozart. It's said that for all his personal troubles, Mozart was an angel in disguise.


  1. I would have equated hatred to wanting harm to come to someone, even death. In your definition it would seem that I hate more people than I thought. I find this unsettling. There are many people who I could do without, but wouldn't say that I hate them. I am sad to say that I am in that denial or blindness that you point to.

  2. Thank you for your humility and honesty. Hate is strong feelings against someone. It COULD mean that I wish them harm or death - but that is not the definition. I wonder if somehow we have made hate to mean the wishing of harm or death to give ourselves a back door out of it. Of course we hate people - and that's why Jesus speaks about it. Wish them healing, mercy, salvation, growth in goodness. Name them as you come into church and at the Consecration say: "Jesus, give them what they need for salvation." That's a kind prayer.

  3. Why is it in the human nature to hate? We should subscribe to "Kindness breeds kindness" instead. How will you put yourself on a news blackout? It is harder than we think to shelter ourselves from unwanted input.

  4. Not too long ago, when I was the only priest living in the rectory, I cancelled the newspapers and had the television taken out of the house. Anything I absolutely needed to know seems to have come to me through parishioners. When I sat in front of the news on TV a year later I was struck by how same it all was - the wars, the bitter political divides, the scandals, the silly entertainment news - as if I'd never been away. It isn't hard to not listen to or watch the news - instead of sitting in front of the TV, read a book. I look forward to it. Someone will tell me what's going on that's most urgent.

  5. Hooray for your news blackout! I have very happily and contentedly lived without tv , radio, or newspapers for over 37 years. Being an active member of an anonymous fellowship all these years, I have continued to have a vital connection to what God wants me to know about. In Fr. Gobbi's book, Our Lady Speaks To Her Beloved Priests, one of the Blessed Virgin's messages says to throw out the tv. There are valid studies that show that the tv does actually weaken people. Also, C.S. Lewis in his book, That Hideous Strength, tells of the evil use of newspapers. Personally, I plan to increase my Bible reading and study during Lent, hoping to let that become a regular daily practice.