Live in the Light – Father Dennis’ Homily for March 26, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxGod knelt on the clay of the earth and slowly formed some clay into a man, but it was just clay. Then God blew into the nostrils of the man he formed and the man became a living person. Since that day every person conceived and born has received the breath of God. You are alive because God has blown his Spirit into you. Jesus took clay and with his saliva he made a paste that he rubbed into the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash. The man was able to see for the first time in his life. We often forget the point of the story: this was the first time he was able to see. His seeing led to believing in the person of Jesus Christ, his healer. The ability to see—it truly is a gift and what a gift it is!

Seeing is more than just seeing with one’s eyes, although, just this is a precious gift. Seeing with one’s heart is also important because this kind of “seeing” keeps one from being blind. The Pharisees in the gospel story of the man born blind suffered from this type of blindness. Jesus told the Pharisees, who could see, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” The blindness Jesus was referring to is of the heart. John did not include this story to inform us that there were some Pharisees who were blind to Jesus, the Son of God. He included the story to remind us how easy it is for any of us to lose sight of Jesus.

Understanding the gospel from this perspective invites us to look within and ask ourselves if we have lost sight of Jesus. Our ability to see Jesus lies in our willingness to embrace the gospel. When an object lies off in the shadows of a lamp, it looks perfect. One can begin to see the flaws and imperfections as it is gradually brought into the light. Lent is a time when we draw close to Jesus, our Light, so that we can see more clearly our own blindness. Do we have the openness of the blind man who was able to believe in Jesus? Do we have the wideness in our visions that allows us to see that God works outside the box as He did in choosing David, a youth, as king? Neither Samuel nor Jesse expected God’s choice would be David. Do our actions tell others that we are children of the light? Are we willing to walk by the light of the Lord?

His invitation is always for us to walk by His light. There is a line that came at the beginning of the gospel when Jesus was asked by his disciples for the cause of the man’s blindness. Jesus answered them saying, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” God wants to manifest His works through us. Of course we think that we are the most unlikely choices, but not in God’s eyes. He sees beyond our sinfulness and beholds the possibility of what His light can accomplish through us. Live in the Light!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

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Experience Living Water – Father Dennis’ Homily for March 19, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxWhen I was in the Dominican Republic, every morning around 6:00 a.m. the women and children from Barrio San Francisco would walk a few miles to a roadside well to fetch relatively clean water for their families that day.  It was the first task of the day.  They went at this time of the day, early morning, because it was cool.  By noon the temperature would be over 100 degrees.  The journey to the well was also a social time for them.  These women always reminded me of the story of the Samaritan woman who went to the well at noon—the hottest time of the day.  All the women of Sychar were at the well very early in the morning when the temperature was still cool.  The Samaritan woman found it necessary to go at noon, when no one would be there, so she could avoid being the object of gossip.  She probably learned after her first husband that it was too painful to go to the well in the early morning.

She came to the well as usual, but there would be nothing “as usual” that day.  A Jewish man sitting there asked her for a drink of water.  In the dialogue’s interplay she found something that her five husbands plus one could not give her—she was accepted for everything she was, just as she was.  This encounter fulfilled a need that no affair of the flesh or the mind could ever quench.  The fact that he was Jewish and she was a Samaritan; the fact that she had five husbands; the fact that she had been looking in all the wrong places; the fact that Samaritans and Jews worshiped on different mountains, were not important in Jesus acceptance of her, just as she was.  His acceptance of the Samaritan woman was not focused upon her sinfulness or her willingness to repent.  In his acceptance of her she became the apostle to the people of Sychar:  “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.  Could he possibly be the Christ?”

Her story is a powerful one for all time and all people.  It is about God’s thirst and our thirst.  It is about God seeking and finding us—the beloved.  We see ourselves as sinners in need of repentance and this oftentimes becomes the reason why we stay at a distance from the One who pursues us–God.  We think we see what God sees in us—our sins.  How wrong we are to have such thoughts keep us at a distance!  St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “God sees nothing in us that He has not given.  Everything is empty until He places what He wishes into it.  The soul is like an uninhabited world that comes to life only when God lays His head against us.”  (Taken from his poem, Whenever He Looks At You.)  To experience this kind of an encounter is to experience living water that becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Once the Samaritan woman tasted this water, her life was transformed.  This personal encounter with Jesus at the well not only reveals him to the woman but it revealed her to herself—the beloved, one who was accepted for who she was, just as she was.  We have this same opportunity every time we come to Mass and receive his Body and Blood.  We have this same opportunity when we come to spend time before the Lord in adoration.  We have this opportunity when we gather in our small faith sharing groups—to experience Him accepting us for who we are, just as we are.  There at the well to come to know once again we are loved for who we are, just as we are.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Strength for the Journey – Father Dennis’ Homily for March 12, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxWe always think that the call of Peter, James, John and the other disciples is so different from our call to follow the Lord, or even the call of Abraham to journey to land the Lord God was going to give him.  In reality the call to follow is exactly the same.  The difference lies not in the call but in our response.  Abraham responded to God’s call by packing up all that he had and moving his family to a foreign land God was going to give him.  Peter, James, John and the other disciples left everything and followed Jesus.  This pattern of responding to the Lord’s call is seen in the manner in which all the men and women from the time of Abraham until our day have answered—they left everything behind.  By doing so, those who said “yes” were free to give a 100% response.

As we enter into the second week of Lent let us do so with the realization that we are called to follow the Lord.  We must heed the words of God spoken to Peter, James and John:  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  In listening we will hear the call of the Lord.  By these words God the Father is trying to redirect our focus from ourselves to a focus upon His Son, in order to make this journey of a lifetime like that of Abraham and Sarah’s journey.  Once the focus moves from ourselves to the Lord Jesus, we can begin to respond to the call.  The call to follow is a personal one—tailor made just for us.  God knows beyond a doubt that we are capable of answering the call.  There are two important things we must keep in mind as followers of the Lord.  First, we have to remember that answering the call has as its final destination the Kingdom of Heaven.  Second, there will be challenging times in following the Lord, but we must always remember the words of St. Paul.  “Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

We get hung up on the idea of leaving everything behind in order to follow Jesus.  Abraham and Sarah did not leave everything behind but they did leave something behind.  The question is, “What do we have to leave behind so that we can answer the call?”  This has more to do with attitudes than possessions, but in listening to the Lord He will let us know what it is that we must leave behind.

The journey begins with a “yes.”  Along the way of the journey the Lord gives us the strength we need.  Jesus in the Eucharist offers us food for the journey.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can seek the healing forgiveness of the Lord so that we will have greater strength to make this journey.  It is amazing what people leave behind in the confessional!  Do you have a Bible in your home?  It has been a source of strength for millions and millions of people, both saints and sinners, down through the centuries.  We always have looked upon the Liturgy of the Word as a source of nourishment for the journey.

Peter exclaimed to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here!”  Wherever we find the Lord, it is good that we are “here”—with Him.  Be still and let the Lord find us waiting to follow.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis