There is no place like home

Readings: 1 Sam. 16.1-13; Ps. 23; Eph. 5.8-14; Jn. 9.1-41

I'm happy to be back home with you. My trip to Paris was wonderful, but there is no place like home. I want to comment on my trip, and then comment on the scripture readings.

The purpose of my trip was to participate in a two-week study program for Young Vincentian Authors. Now, I am not young, but the other ten Vincentian priest-participants were in their 30's and 40's. They came mostly from the Third World: one each from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Spain, France, Colombia, and I was the only participant from the USA. It is wonderful to see that vocations are booming in the Third World. Vocations in the first world have been dropping for the last forty years, until this year 2008, when coast to coast in the USA, vocations dramatically rose. The dominant operative languages were French, Spanish, and English in that order. In the larger Vincentian House where we were living, the dominant languages were French and Vietnamese because of the many priests who were living there while studying at universities in Paris. One of our presenters spoke in Italian. One of our priest-participants' first language was German. It was like a Tower of Babel. During our two-week study program, I used my head phones almost constantly. My Spanish and French are pretty good, especially for asking, "Where is the dining room?"

After Paris, I had the opportunity to travel by train six hours south to Lourdes where I made a three-day retreat and prayed for you and your intentions. Then I traveled by overnight train for fourteen-hours from Lourdes to Fatima, where I continued with another three-day retreat, during which time, I prayed again for you and your intentions. I thank God, and the Vincentian Fathers for providing and paying for this wonderful opportunity. I'm back home, safe and sound, five pounds lighter, and better educated in writing about St. Vincent de Paul. I missed you. I love you. And I'm delighted to be back with you.

The Scripture readings today say in effect, God sees the hearts of people. God looks beyond appearances, and sees the goodness inside each person. God sees the soul of people. In the first reading, Israel needs a new king, and the prophet Samuel is impressed by a particular son of Jesse. The holy word of God then says, "But the Lord said to Samuel: 'Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart." In the gospel everybody sees a blind man and presumes he or his parents must have sinned. Jesus heals the blind man, and says to the crowd, "I have come into the world for judgment so that those who do not see might see, and that those who do see might become blind." We hope and pray that we see correctly, i.e., that we might see deeply into people's hearts as Jesus does.

A brief story to exemplify this point of the need and benefit of seeing deeply: An uncle of mine was very prejudiced against long-haired hippies, but one day at work he suffered a heart attack, and the EMS people who rescued him were long-haired hippies. They saved his life, and they helped to save his soul because as he lay in his hospital bed, he told me how wrong he had been to pre-judge these fellows. My uncle died a few weeks later, but he died freed of his prejudice. He learned that while appearances matter, the inside matters more. Today, the Scriptures teach us not to judge by appearances. May we learn to see deeply, to see correctly, to see as God sees, i.e., the hearts of other people. And in this multicultural world, may we see the goodness of God in people from all over the world.

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