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If I have not met you personally yet, my name is Father Michael Denk, and I am excited to be here and do the Parish Mission. It is a three-day retreat to get you ready for Lent, and it begins tonight at 7:00 pm, Monday at 7:00 pm, and Tuesday at 7:00 pm. Three nights right here in the church. I am excited because I get to meet you and teach you through song, music, stories, and how to enter into meditative and contemplative prayer.

During Lent, we are called to do three things; increase our prayer, fast, and give alms. And really, we should make three resolutions, one for each of these. I know as Catholics, a lot of times were known to give something up, right? So, we may give up coffee, or we may give up alcohol, or we may give up candy or sweets, or something like that that is good. But, we are also called to do other things as well. To concretely increase our prayer and also to almsgiving, to give alms to the poor. You have until Wednesday to think about that.

The good news is that I have number one covered. If you do this program, Pray40Days after the mission, there will be 40 days of guided meditation that I will lead you through. We have a book for that in the back. Fr. Jeremy Merzweiler will be leading a session on Monday at 6:00 pm. If you do not like reading, it is also online. I lead you in guided meditation and contemplation that you can access every day in my beautiful voice. We try to make it accessible for everybody. It is a book, a web app, and a place to journal online. That is what I will be presenting and introducing you to.

Each night I will cover two different kinds of prayer. There are six different types in the book. The first night I will cover two, the second night, I will cover two more, and the third night the final two. There are different ways of meditating and contemplating. To illustrate each type of prayer, I will play and sing a song on my ukulele. I will tell stories. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be inspired, and then I will lead you through actual guided meditation.

The homily for today, based on the Gospel about the blind man that could not see, reminds me of my grandmother. When I was young, I was in grade school, and my grandma Marcusik, my mother’s mother, developed Alzheimer’s and Dementia. She moved into our house with us. We got to have quality time with my grandmother, who I loved because she was holy, good-natured, funny, and playful; so it was great to have her in the house. After she lived with us for a little while, she had a stroke, and when she had a stroke, she went blind in one eye. Then a few months later, she had another stroke and went blind in the other eye. So, she was completely blind with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. They were interesting times, sometimes comical times, and the one thing I will never forget is the privilege of leading her. Because she was blind, we would have to lead her to the dinner table. We would have to take her to the chair in the living room where she sat. We would have to take her to bed at night. We would have to guide her wherever she was going to go. She even did my laundry while she was blind. I would take her to the dining room table, and she would fold our laundry. It was amazing.

One of the things I learned about guiding a blind person is our natural tendency is to have the person in front of us put your hand on their shoulder and maybe take their hand and show them and walk them where you want them to go. What I learned from the occupational therapist is that is not the best way to do it because if they are in front of you and you are leading them or guiding them, for all they know, you could be taking them down a flight of steps. They do not know what is in front of them. Or you could knock them into a table or a nightstand. So, they told us the better way to take them and guide them is to stand in front of them. Imagine my grandmother facing me, and I want to get her over there. The best way is to stand in front of her and take her by her two hands and lead her so that if you go downstairs, you will go down first, and then she would feel you go down, and you continue to walk. If you go up a step, you go up a step with her and lead her up a step. The idea is that she knew that she was safe because you were in front of her. She was not going to bump into anything because you would bump into it first if she did. She was not going to fall off a cliff because if she did, you were going to fall off the cliff first. It made her much more comfortable and at ease. We began doing that and leading her to all the different places in the house, the chair, the dining room table, the bathroom, the bed at night, wherever that may be. I remember as a kid what an incredible privilege it was to lead my grandmother. To take her by the hand and bring her safely to wherever she needed to be.

The same is true for us. Jesus reveals to us in the Gospel today in the parable that we are blind. Especially when we judge other people, we may see the little spec in their eyes, and we want to remove that. Whatever is wrong with that person, we think, “Why do they not change? Why are they like that?” Jesus reminds us that we have a beam sticking out of our eyes. It is a parable to say how ridiculous it is to lead and guide other people when we have this beam out of our eyes.

I want to do just a couple of moments to lead you through a little mini-guided meditation of what it is like to be blind and have Jesus leading you.

What I would like you to do, if you are comfortable, is close your eyes a moment. When we meditate, it is good to use our imagination and maybe even think of memories or just things that come to mind. I want you to think about any blindness in your life right now, like a situation that you do not know how to handle. Maybe it is a relationship issue with your spouse, children, parents, friends, or people at work or your boss. Perhaps it is just the scariness of the world looking like it could be at war.

If you feel comfortable, I want you to hold your hands open and out and imagine Jesus taking you by the hands. Whatever that unknown situation is for you, anything that is causing you confusion or fear, or you just not quite sure how to navigate through this, I want you to try to feel Him take your hands in His and begin to walk you forward. Try to see His face looking into your eyes. Try to feel His hands taking yours. Try to feel the peace that He gives to you, knowing that He walks before you and that He will not take you into anything where you will be alone or where you will be harmed. He has got you. He has you by the hand. Just take a few moments in silence and meditate on whatever it is. Whatever is scaring you in your life. Whatever is confusing in your life. Whatever you may overwhelm by, uncertain with, unsure how to navigate through it. Just spend a few moments trying to see Him walk you through that situation. Like my grandmother, He has you by the hands and goes in front of you. He does not take His eyes off you. He knows where He is leading you. Spend a few moments just simply taking that in and letting Him hold you and guide you.

Feel free to continue to close your eyes. I am going to a song. I try to pick a song that everybody knows to illustrate these different types of prayer. This one is “I Can See Clearly Now,” and it is based on the Gospel where it says I can see clearly. I invite you to continue with that meditation. If you feel comfortable singing along, sing along. It would help me; especially there is a part where there is a slight echo. When I say, “It is going to be a bright,” if you could go “bright, bright sunshiny day,” that would help. Allow your heart to be filled with joy, with peace that Jesus is leading us, and if we can clearly see how He wants us to go.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day

I think I can make it now; the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin’ for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day

Look all around; there’s nothin’ but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day

It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day

Songwriters: Johnny Nash

So come to the Parish Mission. Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night, here in the parish church.

I hope to see everybody there!