Homily: Poison Ivy and Regaining Our Sight

December 14, 2016

The following is my homily for today, to be delivered at our weekly school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis:

Thus far in the Advent season, we have heard a number of scripture readings that point to what it will be like when the Christ comes. We can look forward with joyful anticipation, for He will restore what is lost. The deaf will hear, the mute will speak, and the lame will stand and walk.

In Luke’s gospel, I noticed an interesting phrase. Luke did not write, “The blind will see.” Instead, he wrote, “The blind will regain their sight.” I think that wording is intentional. What is Luke saying to us?

In order for someone to regain his sight, he must have been able to see at one time and somehow lost that ability. The coming of Jesus offers us an opportunity to regain our sight.


When I was young, I was extremely allergic to poison ivy. I didn’t just get a rash; I swelled up like a balloon.

When I was in fifth grade, I was helping my brother cut our neighbor’s yard. The grass was tall and there were plants climbing up the chain link fence. While Mark was cutting the grass, my job was to use the trimmer to cut down all of the growth along the fence, and put it into trash bags. Young and dumb, I didn’t wear gloves or a long sleeve shirt to protect myself from possible exposure to poison ivy.

It was a very hot day, and I was sweating. Of course, I didn’t want sweat running into my eyes. I repeatedly wiped my face and forehead with my hands.

Fast forward – I woke up the next morning…and I couldn’t see! I remember thinking I must still be asleep and was dreaming. No, I was awake. I heard other people moving around the house. I knew this was not a dream, but I could not see.

I reached my hands up to my face, to try to touch my eyes. My face had swollen so much that I was unable to open my eyes. I was, at least temporarily, blind. I remember being terrified. I remained blind for two days, until the medication did its job. The medication allowed me to regain my sight.

You would think that I would learn from this experience and it would never happen again. I knew why it happened and I knew how to prevent it. However, I didn’t learn my lesson. It happened at least three other times that I can remember.

Blind…and sight regained. Blind…and sight regained. Blind…and sight regained.


I have heard people ask, “If we do what we’re supposed to do in Advent and Lent, why is it necessary to repeat them every year?”

The answer is: As hard as we might try, we get off track. We are imperfect human beings who stray, who are blinded and lose sight of God. We are blinded to God’s will for us and spend much of our time focused on our own needs.

However, our merciful and loving God will allow us to regain our sight as often as needed. Advent is our annual refresh button.

During Advent, we re-focus, work hard to prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, and are rewarded – we regain our sight. Christ is our medication – our path is made clear and we get a fresh start.


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