Fourth Sunday of Lent
Barbara Quinn, RSCJ
1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41
It’s no fun to be blind, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. We bump into things that leave us bruised and scratched. Life is scary, uncertain and lonely. We get angry because we don’t think we should have to grope in the darkness when we’re well educated and hardworking and mature!
Well, Jesus does it again, this master storyteller. He teases our sure sighted perspective on life with a riddle as he weaves the story of the man born blind: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” What is Jesus thinking of in these two scenarios that seem light years apart? It sounds like a certain kind of seeing is bad and that a certain kind of blindness is good! Where do we begin?
Let’s start with a straightforward question: What kind of seeing is Jesus talking about in this parable? Well, the characters in the story are a good place to begin our search.
The neighbors in the story had grown accustomed to seeing the blind beggar. He’s always been that way. This man who now sees must just be a look alike. But the blind man insisted, “I am he.” Couldn’t be! Something is out of focus, the neighbors insisted, and so off they went to the Pharisees to make their case.
The Pharisees listened to the alleged cure with skepticism and their protest was swift. Even if this man could now see, his claim that Jesus was the healer from God was vehemently dismissed. “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others joined the chorus of protest: “How can a sinful man do such signs?” But still the healed man insisted: “He is a prophet.”
The Jews were among the naysayers that went to the extreme. They would not believe this man was ever really blind nor that he had only now gained his sight until the blind beggar’s parents verified it.
But the parents participated in a conspiracy of silence. They dared not admit what they saw for fear of being expelled from the synagogue by believing in the power of Jesus. Better not to see; the cost was simply too high: “Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.”
Sound familiar? Sometimes we would rather be locked into what we already know so as to remain undisturbed by new points of view and new realities. It can be too unsettling to have to change, to shift our perspectives, to let in new ways of seeing. Such resistance, however, also makes it difficult to meet Jesus, the Light and Healer of our blindness.
But being blind? Who wants that? How could Jesus say that being blind can be good? But think about it. What would we be claiming if we said we understood, that we “see,” the meaning…
…when dozens of children are slain in classrooms across this country?
…when thousands of Syrian people are killed and thousands more are driven from their
homes and country and the world governing bodies can’t seem to find a way to stop it?
…when women still do not have parity in a 21st century world?
…when people continue to die of hunger or malaria in a world with all the means to
prevent this if we share our resources?
…when religions divide, harshly judge and exclude instead of being forces for unity
Aren’t there times when we must admit that we just don’t see the way out?
…that what we face is beyond our imagining?
…that we need God to help us find our way?
And can we deny those moments when life’s pieces just don’t seem to fit together?
…when life, as good as it is, seems empty;
…when we can’t reconcile the untimely death of a family member or friend;
…when we thought that we had a strong faith but now our way of relating to God just
Aren’t there times when we know we can’t force the answers or the light of dawn? Instead, it seems we need to remain in the dark until God alone, or God through others, can prompt us to see in a whole new way. It is then that blindness is a blessing! Like the man born blind, we are “forced” to meet Jesus and kneel at his feet as we gradually come to see that he alone can cure such darkness.
How can we rejoice on this Sunday that our tradition calls Laetare (“rejoicing”)? We can rejoice because God is never finished with us! There is always more to see, to understand. Let us pray to live in wonder and trust that God continues to cure our blindness and narrow sight as God faithfully leads us to greater light. Perhaps we can pray these words of Mary Oliver as we enter a great Lenten mystery this week:
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh with astonishment,
and bow their heads.