4th Sunday of Lent - homily
There was a man who lived in Ireland many years ago by the name of Matt Talbot. Matt went to school as a young boy and then began to work as a teenager for a liquor merchant. It was in this job that he was introduced to alcohol, and he liked it…a lot! He would spend the next several years of his life drinking excessively – about fifteen years as an active alcoholic.
Finally, Matt said to himself, ‘this is crazy. I need to change my life’. He made a pledge to quit drinking for three months, went to Confession to make a general confession, and started to go to daily Mass. He continued with sobriety; the first seven years of sobriety were very difficult for him. It was difficult not going to the places where he hung out with his drinking buddies so much. It was hard settling up with people from whom he had borrowed or even stolen money from in order to drink. He prayed as intensely as he used to drink.
I remember reading the story about when Matt went to Church one day, but the Church was locked. So, he knelt on the sidewalk and prayed. Very cool! Every day, he went to Mass, prayed the rosary, and read Scripture. He worked as a laborer for many years, but eventually his health failed him. He died on his way to Church at the age of 69. Pope Paul VI gave him the title of “venerable” in the early 70s.
I don’t know if Matt Talbot ever asked the questions of ‘why?’ ‘Why am I an alcoholic? Why do I have a drinking problem?’ This is the question the disciples ask Jesus – why is the man blind? Is it because of him or his parents? Jesus says it’s neither; “it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him”. We can see that, with Matt Talbot, it is the works of God made visible through him. We know how potent a force alcohol is in the world. We know many people who are addicted to alcohol; we also know people who, with God’s help, have overcome their addiction to it. We know that it’s not them; it’s the work of God! With whatever addiction people overcome, it is an amazing witness to the works of God.
Each one of us has blindness, weakness, an Achilles heal, sin. We are tempted to ask why. ‘Why is this sin in my life? Why can’t I get over this?’ One wise priest once told us in the seminary that the question is not why, but ‘what can I do about it?’ One thing we can do is take our blindness to God so that his works might be visible through us. This is our mission. Matt Talbot embraced the mission of making the works of God visible through his sobriety. The blind man embraced the mission of making the works of God visible through his sight. For each one of us, our mission is to make the works of God visible through our sin.
One thing we can do is come to the Eucharist. We can come to the One who has power to make the blind see. In a few minutes, Jesus will come to us in Holy Communion the same way he went to the blind man. We bring our blindness, our weakness, our sin to Him today so that His works of God will be visible in our lives.