HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT
Readings: Sam. 16:1,6-7,10-13/ Eph. 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41
Has there been a time in your life that you had to be “put in your place?” Those moments when you believe nothing can be accomplished without your input or supervision and were proven wrong? That one moment when you realize that, once you were proven wrong, you begin to deflate back to the size of your hat or shirt? These are the moments when our self-importance gets in the way of God’s grace in our lives.
This view of self-importance can come to us in different ways. One view comes from one who is totally blind of the world around them. They do not know nor do they care. They are acclimated to the world, know how to function, and do not care if their lives get any better. They have no reason to think their lives will get any better.
Another view is one of societal assumptions. We may not know the reason why we do something; we just know we do because we were told it was the only way to do it. It was just fine with their parents, and it is just as fine with us. It is at these moments we begin to hear the song “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
A third view is in the form of the “societal arbiters.” These are the ones who gain influence over others by association and laud it over those who are not in line with their view of the world. These groups can get their members from the other groups who are looking to be better but are not sure who to join. That seems more like dependency than determined opinion.
A final view comes from a person’s lack of self-confidence. When someone gets bullied or ignored as a child, that pain will manifest into either a flawed sense of domination or a continued peer-subservience. Their lack of engagement with others does not prepare them for the simplest disagreements so they stay in their own little world and blame others for their own unhappiness. Whichever view is held, it still comes to only one conclusion: that anytime we act for ourselves alone we prevent the Grace of God to act for us.
These four views of self-importance are displayed in the Gospel proclaimed today. The Gospel begins with Jesus and his disciples come across a blind man sitting down on the ground. He was no different than any other beggar they came across. For the most part, he was content with his life and how he was trying to make a living. The disciples, seeing him, understood that his blindness was due to sin, either his sin or the sins of his parents. Jesus, taking matters into his own hands, said that no sin caused him to be blind; yet while Jesus was on the earth, he would bring light to those in the darkness because he was the light of the world. So Jesus took some mud, rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man and told him to go wash in the nearby pool. Once the man washed, his eyes were opened for the first time in his life. Those who knew the blind man were skeptical that this was the same person, let alone that he could see them. Either he was an imposter, or he was a fraud. Either way, the idea that he could see was hard to comprehend.
This unsure crowd took the man to the Pharisees, the society that kept the Jewish laws and practices to heart. While they accepted the fact the man could see, they disputed this was done in God’s name because this was done on the Sabbath, the day of rest. So, if anything is done on the Sabbath, it is a sin. Therefore, the one that allowed the man to see must be a sinner. He is not from God. They wanted the man to accuse Jesus of being a sinner, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know who he was, only that he was a prophet. To him, it did not matter if was a sinner or not nor what day of the week this was done. All he knew was that he was once blind but now he can see.
So, to bring pressure on the man, the Pharisees brought his parents into the discussion. They asked them if their son was born blind, and they said yes. They asked them how was it that he can now see. Now these parents were good Jews, devoted to God, the Law and the prophets, and they taught their son to obey them in all things so they can live the best way they can. But, when pressured by the Pharisees about his new-found sight, they would not answer the question because they were afraid what would happen to them. They told the Pharisees that their son was of age to speak for himself, so ask him. The Pharisees pressed further to the point that the man began to wonder if they wanted to be this man’s disciple’s as well. They took that as an insult and threw him out into the street. This indignation would not stand so, in the name of all that is holy, they “cleansed” the area of the unbeliever.
Each one of these groups had a certain view of God’s law, but none of them could totally understand the completeness of what God’s law really means until this moment: the moment when their Savior came into their midst. In each scenario, each one was blind and was given their sight back. How much they could see or wanted to see was up to them.
The disciples, who asked about the man born blind, realized that their eyes were open when they understood that sin does not cause one to be infirm. Sin damages the soul, not the body. The Pharisees eyes were opened to the fact that God’s grace is not only given out six days a week, but every hour of every day; especially on the Sabbath, the day that is holy to the Lord. It was unfortunate that their self-importance shaded their vision to the point of not seeing clearly.
The eyes of the parents were opened when they saw that their son could see them for the first time. Their prayers for their son were answered; and were answered at a time to show God’s grace to the world. Jesus said that he was blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (Jn. 9:3). While they were still worried for their life, they had the strength to acknowledge that this was their son. They could have denied him and walked away, but they stood firm and claimed this man as their son. Their eyes were opened to the love they had for God and how that love manifested in their son to bring the light of the world in their midst.
Each one of these groups were victims of what psychologists call scarcity. It is the act by which a person will focus on something so intently that they will develop a kind of tunnel vision that brings the focus from long-term to short-term goals. When we do that, we can dig ourselves deeper in a hole that we don’t know we are in and are unsure how deep that hole is. Only until we reach our goals can we finally see everything clearly. These groups could only see one part of God’s salvation for his people; and they clung to that part to the point that they believed it was the only way into Paradise. Yet only when Christ entered their lives were they able to understand the fullness of his compassion. The scarcity was removed and they were given the power to see the long-term goal that is salvation. That is the goal for us each and every day. We have to be ready to see God’s grace in everything we do and everywhere we go. We cannot just act like we have the only way to salvation, hoping that we are correct on the Day of Judgement. By then it is too late! Our faith is based on having the vision to see Christ in everything and everyone. When we can do that day in and day out then this Sunday can be the beginnings of our Laetare: our rejoicing of having true sight to see the vision of our Glory and see the path into Paradise.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK