Sorry for the technical difficulties -- 4th Sunday of Lent Mass and text of homily

I apologize for the technical difficulties we experienced getting the Sunday Mass online in a timely manner.  Thanks to Ryan Hall for his help with the broadcast.

The audio version via MP3 podcast

The video outside of Facebook (in lieu of YouTube for the time being):

The final video for Facebook (when it finishes loading) will be found here:

Below is the text of the homily:

As I was growing up, I was blessed to have nuns – religious sisters – teach me. By the time I was in grade school, I think the sisters had mellowed out a bit from when my older brother was going to school, but they were still pretty disciplined. I remember one sister, in order to discourage us from spitting on the playground, told us if we were caught spitting, we’d have to fill a Dixie cup with our own spit and drink it. The way she said it, we think she was kidding, but no one wanted to test her.

This came to mind because of today’s Gospel. Actually, the gospels mention Jesus spitting three times – once to cure a deaf and mute man, once to cure a different blind man in the Gospel of Mark, and then today, when Jesus actually spits into the dirt to make clay, which he uses to cure the blind man of Gospel! If only I know this back in 6th grade!

But of all things, why would the Scriptures make a big deal about Jesus spitting? What’s so special about His spit?

I’ve been reading a great little book on Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls by John Bergsma – I’d recommend picking up a copy – it’s very readable. The Dead Sea Scrolls were the archeological find of the 20th century, drastically changing the way that scholars approach Scripture study today. Dr. Bergsma says that

there are at least four passages of the Scrolls that describe a man as a “vessel of clay” kneaded from “dust” and “spittle” (p. 61).

Dr. Bergsma goes on to say that:

The images of dust and clay are clearly references to the story of the creation of Adam in Genesis [chapter] 2:[verse]7: “Then the LORD God kneaded (yatzar) the man from the dust of the ground.” …

But where does the spit come from? Well, nothing can be kneaded from dust; moisture is necessary to make it moldable. So apparently there was a pious Jewish tradition that God spat on the dust to make clay to knead the body of Adam.

That, along with dust, we are “mere spit.” But not just mere spit, this is the “spit of God”.

Jesus spitting on the ground and making clay is an act of re-creation. Jesus the Son is re-performing the very acts by which God the Father formed the first man! Jesus is re-creating this man, born in darkness, into a “son of the light” (p. 62-63)!

Today’s readings are a catechesis of Baptism, preparing the unbaptized catechumen for when he also will be re-created in the waters of Baptism (which could almost be described as God’s spit – waters filled with His Breath, with His Spirit), taking away the darkness of sin and calling him to live as a child of the light, as Saint Paul describes in our second reading. When a person is baptized, he’s anointed immediately afterwards, not with dust and spit (because these have been replaced with Baptism), but anointed with oil, allowing the newly Baptized to share in a kingly dignity much greater than David received in our first reading, an anointing that fills us with the Holy Spirit, allowing our cup to overflow.

And what happens to the catechumen to be baptized, has happened to us who are baptized – what a great reminder for us, but also a great lesson in humility – that we truly are only dust formed from mere spit – that we are God’s creatures, lest we forget!

Returning to sister’s punishment if we were caught spitting. That’d be pretty gross to drink. But could it be that the “restful water” of our Psalm that “refresh the soul” is God’s spit? Maybe as part of your prayer today, say something like:

O Jesus fill me with your Spirit, who filled the waters of my Baptism; bring life and form to the poor dust that I am. As you created me in your image, re-create me in your likeness that was lost because of sin, Adam’s and my own. Heal my blindness and let me walk in your light. Allow me to share in the dignity that comes from being an anointed one, from allowing me to be another Christ, united to you through the Sacraments.