Sunday, March 2, 2008  Salvation Through Sacraments

Homily, March 2, 2008

In the First Reading today we hear of David's anointing to the kingship service of God's Chosen People. The reading goes on to say that “From that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” Here we see the efficacy of the rite of anointing as we have it in our many sacraments.

In the Gospel, Our Lord uses spittle (saliva) to heal a man born blind. It says he “spat on the ground and made clay with saliva and then smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” ----which means Sent.”

Cooking Example:

Everyone who cooks will agree that when your finger gets burned, the first thing to do is dip it in your mouth. That almost instantly makes the pain go away. You might think you are doing it for no apparent reason. But the fact is that saliva has medicinal properties. It's so designed by God.  Saliva protects our teeth from decaying. This is appropriate, because through our mouths we come in contact with the outside world of foods of different kinds and some are not good for our internal organs, including our teeth. Saliva neutralizes toxic substances at least to a certain degree.

In the ancient world it was even believed that spittle/saliva of an especially distinguished person possessed even more potent and curative properties. Pliny, a famous Roman collector of what was then called scientific information, says this about spittle: “It is a sovereign preservative against the poison of serpents. It is a protection against epilepsy. Ophthalmia (conjunctivitis), lichens and leprous spots can be cured by the application of a fasting spittle.”

Grandma's apron and tongue: 

When I was two to three years young, my grandma used to take a tip of her apron, moisten it with her tongue and then rub my eyes with it whenever there were some dry tears around my eye lids. I tell you that was the most soothing touch I could ever have. I could instantly see better and feel better.

She would also do even more extreme things with her tongue. Whenever I had some specks of dust or a mosquito blew into my eye, grandma would use her tongue to clean my eyeball with it. An eye is an extremely sensitive to touch, but there was no problem at with grandma's tongue. It is the most less irritating touch to the eye, you have ever seen.

Our Lord did not have to go to all that length to finally cure this man. He could have simply said a word and the blind man could have been opened. But he did go through the whole process of spitting, mixing up clay with his saliva, smearing, and then requiring that the man go and wash in the specific pool of water.

To generate/elicit faith:

Our Lord did all this for the sake of the man being healed -- to elicit the sentiment of faith in the man. That period of waiting for the spittle to mix with dirt, then feeling the process of smearing on his blind eyes, and then taking the journey towards the Pool of Siloam was intended to create positive expectation in the man's heart. All this long process was meant to build up the sentiment of hopeful expectation.  During the interim period the blind man could already imagine himself seeing for the first time.

It was Our Lord's style to always require faith on the part of the beneficiaries of his healing. Faith sentiment was his prerequisite before a miraculous healing. As soon as he saw a speck of faith in the person requesting a healing, Our Lord rewarded that with a miracle. His miracles were not for any other purpose of eliminating suffering but of eliciting faith in God present in Our Lord. He was not doing the work of a physician. He was doing a religious ministry.

Neither was Our Lord. In magic you are not required to believe in the magician. Magic will happen even when you are skeptical. Faith is immaterial to magic and magician. But miracles are like sacraments. They are meant to raise our hearts and minds towards God. They are done in, with and through faith. That's only when they are effective. This is where our sacramental life originated. Sacraments are those very miracles, Our Lord performed to raise people out of suffering towards God.

The Pool of Siloam:

The Pool of Siloam illustrates this idea even more. The City of Jerusalem had no water supply within its walls. It got its water supply from a spring outside of its walls. During war and invasions, the city was laid under sieges, and without water supply, results were devastating. So, to solve this problem engineers dug a 600-yard underground conduit in rock. It was an engineering marvel of its time. That water was gathered in the Pool of Siloam.

He did them for the sake of those who were on the receiving end, and those who witnessed them.

By what He did, Our Lord was speaking symbolically to us, His listeners and those who observed him. Every symbol is a visible sign of an invisible deeper reality. As a symbol, what Our Lord did on the blind man effects or illustrates the deeper healing within the man cured of his blindness. This is what every sacrament does to its receipients. Sacraments are necessary for our sake. Even though Our Lord does not need them, He nonetheless, uses them for our sakes, because we need them to have miraculous healings take place in us. We need them to arouse faith within us.

Sacraments as the Work:

Today Our Lord speaks to us symbolically through the seven Sacraments. Sacraments are those visible, audible, tangible processes of healing and salvation. Sacraments are those acts of Our Lord, that affect what they purport to bestow and effect upon our souls. They are visible icebergs/symbols of the deeper reality that happens deep down in our souls when we go through them. It is by doing them that we get their effects on us. When we don't do them, we don't get the effects. If the blind man did not allow Our Lord to smear his eyes or refused to proceed to the Pool of Siloam, he probably would not have been cured.

Sacraments are curative. They are preservative. They are potent. They remove our original sin, our personal sins. And they are u.

The reason Our Lord asked this young man to go bathe in the Pool of Siloam was to symbolize that flow into the city of our lives from outside of us. We have to go to them, to bathe.

Without sacraments we are like Jerusalem.  We are from the water supply of Grace, the Divine Life.  But when were receive the Sacraments, (Divine) Mercy, and we are healed, no matter how chronic or congenital our disease state of sin is. And Sacraments are the Jesus is quoted as saying, “We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is approaching when no one can work.”

These (the Sacraments) are the very works that the Reformation movement tossed out the window because they claimed we are saved by faith alone (sola fide) and not by works. By so doing their did away with the Pools of Siloam. Yet Our Lord says,
“We the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is approaching when no one can work.”

And it says, “When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes...”

So, when he spoke of doing the works of the one who sent him He must have been referring to that symbolic acts of making clay and smearing. It is crucial  We have to. There is no going around it. Our Lord did these works because as he says, “We have to...” --  and as we have seen for a good reason. Sacraments in us, the recipients, and also that takes place within us when were participate in the sacraments with faith.

As for David in the First Reading, we learn that from the moment he was anointed.  The Holy Spirit seized him, moved him, and worked wonders in and through him. He had the courage to single handedly take on Goliath, a man 10 times his size. Prior to that he had killed lions barehanded. Twice during his fugitive days, running away from Saul, right when Saul had David cornered, David and his men all of a sudden became invisible to Saul.

These were signs and fruits of David's anointing. These were examples of what happens when the Holy Spirit rushes upon you. They are signs of the deeper reality of the Spirit of God dwelling in someone, below the surface. What was visible was oil pouring down upon David's head and beard. But the underlying reality was the outpour of the Holy Spirit of God.

Invitation to Sacramental Life:

Let's avail ourselves for the sacraments, including that of anointing and confession.  Without them, Satan has us under siege, cut off, with no supply of water and provisions from outside ourselves, from God. Without them we cannot beat Goliath.  Without them lions prowling seeking someone to devour, could have us for a snack. Without them Saul who is hunting to get us, we identify our hideouts. Without them Herod will catch on us.

Tonight at 7:00 we have the opportunity to bathe in the Pool of Siloam of Confession. As the 2nd Reading says, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness--- like light, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes light.”

We profess to be Catholics with these Pools of Siloam and underground conduits of Divine Life all around us and available to us. Being a Catholic means that you are not a protestant. Make sure then that you don't live like one ... living as though there are no Pools of Siloam (sacraments) available around you to bathe in and get the miracle happen to you. It is by participating in these sacraments that we get what Our Lord came to do on us.

In Confession, we expose to the light of Christ, our sins which are works of darkness.

see other homilies

visitors since September 2001