Mar 31, 2011

4th Sunday in Lent - "Go and wash"

Carl Bloch: Jesus heals the blind man

Sam 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13
Eph 5: 8-14
Jn 9: 1-41

Criminal investigations and courtroom dramas are popular themes for books and movies. It all began with the television lawyer, Perry Mason, whose investigations and surprise findings always made that series popular. British author Agatha Christie and her murder mysteries and American novelist John Grisham are just two well known examples, not to mention movies that have been made from their writings.

“Who knew what, when, and how much did they know?” is essentially a search for the truth. I once had to testify in court. I stood, raised my right hand and took the oath, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I said, “I do, so help me God.” (The officer never asked me about God so I added that in my response).

From the exciting Gospel story this Sunday of the man who was healed of blindness by Jesus, we have a wonderful investigative process which unfolds before us. On the one side you have the man who was healed in defense of “Who” healed him. On the other side are the skeptical and self-righteous Pharisees who demand their answer to “how and what” happened. In this case the “who” is far more significant for the story than the “what or how.”

Though the man claimed to be born blind the Pharisees doubt his story and imply perjury on the part of the formerly blind man: “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight . . .” (Jn 9: 18) so they call in two witnesses to verify their suspicion: the parents of the man who claimed to be healed by Jesus. They, in fear, pass off their testimony to their son: “. . . Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself . . .” (Jn 9: 21).

The investigation continues as a division appears between the testimony of the formerly blind man, the crowds, the parents, and the suspicion of the Pharisees about Jesus: “. . . We know that this man is a sinner . . .” (Jn 9: 24). But the Pharisees insist on hearing, again, what happend and how it was done by Jesus. The man who can see only knows that Jesus gave him sight. Such compassionate power is not the work of a "sinner."

Yet, the poor man who was blind is caught in the middle and is eventually expelled from the synagogue. Still, his insistence that Jesus was a good man, a prophet from God never waivers. Finally, after being barred, Jesus finds him: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (Jn 9: 35) Jesus asks the man who kneels before him and looks directly into his face. The man who can now see confirms his faith: “I do believe, Lord.” (Jn 9: 38). As the story last week about the woman at the well, this man is a sign of all of us who are called to renewed faith this season of Lent. From darkness to light he has gone; from ignorance to knowledge to faith in Christ, who is the light of the world. Is that not our own Lenten journey and that of our Elect?

The darkness of our lives is only illuminated by the light that Christ can bring. As St. Paul writes so beautifully in the second reading today from Ephesians: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .” (Eph 5: 8-9). The “what” and the “who” questions lead us to see the truth – who is Jesus alone.

But what sort of blindness covers us? Sometimes it isn’t physical – it is a spiritual blindness that is darker; a “know it all” attitude rooted in pride. The Pharisees, in the end, are blasted by Jesus: “I came into the world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind. . . . You are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains!” (Jn 9: 39-41). The Pharisees, blinded by their own self importance cannot “see” or recognize the source of all truth in Jesus who comes as the “Son of Man” a Messianic title. Christ is the one they are waiting for, he stands before them but their pride blinds them.

God sees differently than human beings. The first reading from Samuel tells the story of David’s choosing – the last and youngest among his older brothers. The least likely to be chosen and anointed but he’s the one God chooses as his king, his representative among his chosen people. Why him? Because, “. . . man sees the appearance but God looks into the heart.” (1 Sm 16: 8).

So, it is an outcast, an unproductive blind man whose worth was dismissed by his own people who shows us the truth of who Jesus is for our lives and our world. It is a powerful and thought provoking example of God’s mysterious work in our world. It challenges our own prejudices and expectations and humbles us.

What form of blindness is keeping me from "seeing" the Lord more present in my life or in the life of those around me?

Is it my pride? My "I know that already" attitude? My Independence? Addictions or compulsions? My fear or lack of faith? Just plain old laziness?

What do I need to bring to the Lord for healing this Lent?

The Eucharist stands before us as a sign of the living Christ: Light of the World for all to follow. Do I see him? Do I see his presence in my brothers and sisters?