Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
This is extraordinary time indeed! Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent – Laetare Sunday. Public Mass is not celebrated with parishioners in attendance today. We are still in lockdown, keeping social distancing, to slow down the spread of coronavirus pandemic. At this Mass celebrated for you, my parishioners, without your physical presence, I can see your faces, I know where you sit. I can call your names during my reflection. I know those who will laugh at my jokes and those who would not get it right-a-way. I can see those taking down notes and those nodding their heads and those who are not. Since you are not physically present, I am only left with my imagination. Know that you are always in my mind and prayers. I miss you a bunch!
Coronavirus has entered our lives and changed the way we live, the way we interact, and the way we love. Who sinned? The other day I went grocery shopping, I was surprised that, there was no bread, water, banana, milk, toilet paper and eggs on the shelf. Panic buyers had bought more than they needed and cleared the counter so that the rest of us had nothing left. The basic things needed by all were bought by a few. Who sinned? The virus has made us greedy, selfish, lonely, and forget one another. Who sinned? When faced with national disaster, natural disaster, sickness and devastation, we ask: who sinned? We are quick to find faults and point accusing finger. But are we asking the right question? Christ reminds us that our thoughts should go beyond the one who sinned. “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Lk. 13:4-5).
So, to the question: “Who sinned?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” In the face of serious disasters, such as coronavirus, our question should not be ‘Who sinned?’ we should rather open our eyes to see how the glory of God would be made manifest. The readings of today point us away from darkness of sin to Christ the light of the world, as seen in the cure of the man born blind. Christ came into the world to drive away the darkness that envelopes us, so that we may be bathed in his light. May be we have been too complacent to the extent that we cannot see Christ in our midst. We must therefore, open our eyes and wake from our spiritual blindness, so that Christ may shine forth in our lives. In the second reading St. Paul reminds us to “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth… awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
We are all blind in one way or the other. Our blindness may be physical, moral or spiritual. Physical blindness, like that of the man born blind, may be our inability to see with our eyes. But that does not mean the blind person is disabled. When we are deprived of one sense, like sight, touch, smell, taste or hearing, other senses are heightened and enabled to fill in for the lost one. We can be morally blind when we cannot see our defects or when we are in denial of them. Spiritual blindness may be caused by inability to see Jesus in our lives, due to ignorance, hatred, anger, superstition or cynicism. Today, Jesus cured the blind man of his physical and spiritual blindness. He also healed the blindness of those around him and convicted those who felt that they could see. They were blind and refused to recognize Christ in their midst. They were blinded by their hatred of Jesus and projected that hatred to the man now healed of his blindness.
God is able and capable of healing our blindness. He can raise us from obscurity to greater heights, as he did for David in the first reading. Christ came to cure our blindness, physical, moral or spiritual. But we must go to him. This, again is the process of coming to faith in Christ. Before Baptism, we were in darkness but after baptism, we are washed in the water of rebirth and anointed, like David, and raised to the exalted position of king. Our understanding and knowledge of Jesus must grow exponentially, like the man born blind, from seeing Christ simply as a man (the man called Jesus made a clay and anointed my eyes.), to a prophet (He is a prophet.”), and finally Lord (“I do believe, Lord”).
Being a disciple of Jesus may cost us everything. The blind man had to surmount many social difficulties. He endured insults, abuses, ex-communication and abandonment by his parents. But he had a simple faith: he obeyed Jesus. He went to the pool and washed his eyes. His obedience was rewarded with the gift of sight, a symbol of his faith. He was able to confront the powers that be: “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see. I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” The man with his newfound faith is now a disciple of Jesus. This is what we are called to do during this fourth Sunday of Lent as we move towards Easter.
The question for us today is: “Are we blind, or do we claim that we can see?” Christ warns: “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still blind.” If we refuse to acknowledge our shortcomings and open our eyes to see those in need around us, we condemn ourselves to darkness and deprive ourselves of the gift of faith and the light of Christ. Are we blind to our faults? Do we find it easy to blame others and ask the question: “Who Sinned?” The greatest of our faults is to be conscious of none. The time is now to pick up our bible and read. Confession is still an option for Catholics. Let us learn to be less cynical but trust in the goodness of people. To do this is to recognize that Jesus is always in our midst. He wants to cure our blindness. The problems in our lives are never insurmountable for Jesus. It is not ‘who sinned?’ but so that the works of God might be made visible through us. Amen!
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP