Reflections on the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Lent - April 3, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Mystery of Our Redemption (Part II)
"I Was Blind, And Now I See!"
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you."
A common idiom states, "There are none so blind as those who will not see." This saying has its roots in the teaching of Jesus: "I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matt. 13:13) Jesus' teaching and ministry frequently fell on the deaf ears of the Pharisees. He spoke of them as fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy that spoke of dull hearts, heavy ears, and blind eyes. (Isaiah 6:9-10) In today's gospel, a man born blind is healed and follows Jesus. The Pharisees don't know they are blind and refuse to be healed so that they too can follow Jesus.
So what's the fuss? The Pharisees are upset that Jesus has healed a blind man on the Sabbath. That makes Jesus, in their mind, a Sabbath breaking sinner. Plain and simple. But not so fast. The Sabbath is a day of rest. And the Sabbath was made for man. So healing the blind man on the Sabbath is within the meaning of the Sabbath. Jesus gave the man born blind 'rest' from his blindness.
The story of salvation is always a story of purification and enlightenment. If you will, todays gospel shows us that salvation is healing from blindness. To be sure, it is the effort of the devil to keep us blind. He is, after all, the prince of darkness. He can even pretend to be an angel of light - if in that deception he can keep us blind. Only Jesus can give us the true vision of himself and of his Father. Jesus says, "He who has seen me, has seen the Father." It is this vision that the god of darkness wishes to prevent.
As I said, the story of salvation is about healing from blindness. For Christians, conversion is ongoing - we grow in grace and clarity of vision in seeing the kingdom of God.
For years I was blind to the fulness of the Church. I loved Jesus. And my life was filled with going to church and Sunday School, youth services and revivals. But we all have blind spots and mine was a big one. I even told my son once, "Don't bring me any Catholic grandkids." Like the blind man Jesus healed who could only see men as trees walking, I couldn't see Catholics as my brothers and sisters. Like I said, "We all have blind spots."
Seeing Jesus more clearly helps us to see each other better. In Lent we pray to be more deeply converted. We pray to more earnestly love God and neighbor. We have blind spots and we often wear blinders - allowing willful blindness. Failing to see Christ in the poor and the distressed and in those we don't bother to get to know and failing to reverence the Son of God's love in every person is blindness.
So Christian discipleship, that is, Christian conversion is not a one time event. It is a lifetime calling to a deeper communion with Christ, a deeper conversion to love, and a deeper restoration of seeing through Christ's eyes.
Is there anything that the love of God can't heal? (Jeremiah 32:27) A deeper conversion in the love of God will bear the rich fruit of forgiveness, reconciliation, patience, and understanding. We all need that love that is from above to help us see each other in Christ. We all have defects and areas of immaturity and sin. Only a vision of redemption can keep us from being prosecutor and judge. We are neither the prosecutor nor the judge, we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross.
Permit me to give you a little more of my personal testimony. I'm in the Catholic Church in large part because of Pope John Paul II. For example, watching him go to Rebibbia prison, Christmas, 1983, to meet his would be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, and to forgive him, touched me deeply. How could he do that? Why did he do that? Because he did not want to be like him! Because bitterness of soul and a vengeful heart are worse than death. To bear the sword in hatred means the devil wins. Allowing, seeking the way of love and mercy means that love wins - God is love. Blessed John Paul had a clear vision of God.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal. It is a time of penance and grace. Jesus came to rid the world of its blindness of God. He came to anoint our eyes so that we could see amazing grace and enter the waters of baptism. For to be truly wise is to be childlike and humble so that we can see.
I once was blind, but now I see. Great is the mystery of our salvation. Amen.