Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008 ~ Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday

John 9: 1-41

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo'am and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him." So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. 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." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,' your guilt remains.


Jesus has so many great lessons for us today! Let's examine our lives in light of the primary ones that I see in reading this Gospel passage...

1. Suffering is permitted so "that the works of God might be made manifest." Do I honor the value of my own and/or others' suffering? Do I blame God for the bad things that happen to good people? How do I treat those who are diseased or disabled? Are there any who are outcasts in my close community to whom I need to reach out? Do I despair in suffering of my own or a close family member? Do I endorse euthanasia, which refuses God the opportunity to make His works manifest?

2. Our healing may come in a different package than we may expect, like the clay on a blind man's eyes, but it is our faith that will heal us ultimately. Do I get upset or angry with God when He violates my expectations? If a prayer is answered in a different way than I requested, do I resist the growth that God is asking of me? Is my faith strong enough to believe that there is purpose in even the strangest or most difficult circumstances?

3. Some will always find fault with God, like the Pharisees who criticize Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Do I know those who cannot see the hand of God in this world? How do I treat them? Do I reach out to them? Am I a pessimist who always expects the worst? Do I criticize God? How can I surrender to God's way instead of holding on to the ways of the world?

4. Sometimes we will be cast out for the truth, just like the blind man. Am I fearful of proclaiming the truth? Do I avoid certain people or topics in order to avoid speaking the truth? What decisions in my life have cost me a relationship or benefit in the name of God's truth? Who in my life needs to hear one of God's truths right now?

5. If we only believe, God will give us the gift of sight; if we refuse Him, we will be blinded. In what ways has my faith opened my eyes to the truths of the Gospel? Have I refused God in some way recently? If so, how can I open my heart to Him and believe again? What blemishes on my soul do I refuse to see? How do they worsen my relationship with Christ?

Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent and reminds us (in the midst of our penitent prayer, fasting, and alms giving) that Easter is coming. Am I ready? Has this Lent been life-changing or spirit-moving thus far? What Lenten practices have I neglected in recent days? Can I recommit to making the last half of Lent more fruitful than the first? Am I open to the changes God wants to see in me during these 40 days? At Mass this Sunday, will I decide to enter intimately into these last three holy weeks of Lent and bring my family, too? I pray we all do.