Ramblings on the Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)

For complete honesty, you need to have a children’s collection during Mass. There will be some who say that such a collection is liturgically improper or, on the other hand, you’re corrupting young innocence with filthy lucre. However, how are you going to hear the unvarnished truth from a guileless youngster without the aid of a parental filter except at the moment the young parishioner plants a penny on the plate the priest is presenting? In the interest of full disclosure, I do ask that the smaller children be allowed to bring up folding money since it is easier for them to carry (the higher the denomination the lighter the burden!). It is at this point in the Eucharist that some of the young faithful, usually 4-6 years of age, like to ask questions or make a comment to the celebrant.
Recently a young lady around four years of age said, “You need a haircut” after she had placed her offering in the children’s basket. In all likelihood the budding young barber heard this comment from one of her genetic predecessors (parents or grandparents) and repeated the opinion. Fearing the worst (e.g., the child reproducing a parental comment about the priest’s origins, lineage, perceived lack of intelligence and/or insight, etc.), the father of the girl forbade her from participating in the collection for the next few Sundays. Pity, I could have used some more grooming advice. Another young lady insisted on pointing out her relatives in the congregation; her first cousin was a server, grandma and grandpa were other there, and so on. The people she indicated attempted to hide, maybe thinking the child was relating some tidbit of information that was restricted to family circles.
One young lad several years ago, after putting a coin in the basket, sat on the altar step next to where I was standing and asked, “What does God look like?” An honest question from an honest man must be answered.  The musician leading a preparation of the gifts hymn was silenced and we commenced to discuss the question of God’s visage in front of the congregation.  Again, not the most liturgical of actions (the musician is wroth with me to this very day) but honesty, whether in comment, question or answer is a glorious thing.

But isn’t honesty a common commodity?  Sadly, no.  Not that everyone prevaricates all the time (pause for favorite line of a person caught in the act: “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes.”) but we do want to see and believe what we believe, even if the facts don’t harmonize.  The Pharisees in the Gospel do not want to believe in Jesus.  The man born blind has been cured by Our Lord but the religious authorities could not face the truth and, among other accusations, claimed he had not been born blind.  To admit such a miracle was to admit the truth of Jesus.  Some days we find ourselves in the position of the Pharisees; it would be convenient that Jesus not be God and not have asked us to serve and love others.  We lie to ourselves to justify our sinful actions and beliefs.  Isn’t it the honesty of faith that leads us to Jesus and a conversion of life?  Meanwhile, let’s see what the youngsters bring up to the collection basket this week.

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