Pastor's Pen, 4th Lenten Sunday

On the last day of school in my first year in Jamaica, I remember an interaction I had with a student. As exams were coming up and religion was not high on their priorities, I lost my temper with this young man who was studying for some other course. I had made judgments about him and so I spoke harshly towards him in front of others. After the fact, I felt bad. The next school year, on the first day, I noticed that he was in one of my classes. At the end of class, I asked him to stay back. I reminded him of what I had said and apologized for being so harsh and unfair. He said, “No problem.” I was grateful for his forgiveness. In today’s Gospel, with the man born blind, we can see how we can make judgments of others and how we can seek to always keep them in the same position or status. Such consistency makes our lives easier – it allows our relationships to be the same, it allows our judgments to go unchallenged, and it allows our actions and responses to be, in a way, unreflective. While it may make our lives easier, it limits the revelation of God. The man born blind was blind because of his sins or the sins of his ancestors. Everyone understood that and accepted that. Jesus, however, refused to accept such an easy way of living. And he refused to accept the limiting of God’s revelation. Jesus said, “Neither this man or his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” When the man’s sight was restored, the Lord had moved him from darkness to light. I’m sure, for most of his life he lived in fear and deference to the religious authorities, as they had identified him as the result of sin. But now he began to see himself in a different way. He began to accept that maybe the judgments of others and even his own might not be true. Rather than being a child of darkness, perhaps he was really a child of light. This can also be seen from the first reading in which Samuel is searching for the one to anoint. Jesse brings all his sons, beginning with the most impressive, and yet it is the youngest, the least likely, who was God’s choice. As Samuel says to Jesse, “The Lord does not see as the human sees; the human looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
One of the most beautiful moments in our Lenten Mission with Sr. Beverley was when she spoke of an experience that made her feel that it would be better to have died than to live. In response, however, she decided to do something very different. She told us and showed us some physical movements that she had created and, at the same time, sang the Take, Lord Receive prayer. The movements and the song, in a time of great pain for her was a proclamation of faith, of hope, and incredibly, of gratitude! In the lives we live, are there not moments in which we feel dead inside? Are there not times when we feel the darkness is too much for us? The blind man thought his life would always be the same. He thought he couldn’t live as freely as others and that he would never be accepted and loved because of the judgment of sinfulness upon his life. And yet the Lord came, spat on the dirt, making mud, and greatly pressed it to his eyes. The man was reborn – he could see the life around him and he could see the life within him. Just as Jesse was wrong in his judgment of David, so was the blind man and all the others wrong about him. He was not condemned because of sinfulness; rather, as Paul says, he was a child of the light. In David, the smallest brother was to be God’s anointed.
The cross tells us who we are. We are not perfect angels; in fact we are so much more. We are the children of God. And so, as we move through Lent we are freeing ourselves more and more to receive the proclamation of how God sees us through love. Judgments about ourselves should be silenced. Judgments others have of us should be ignored. Instead, we should listen to what God is saying and see what God is showing us. Life is not limited, it is eternal. And it is eternal, because God is love. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”
Take Care; God Bless.   -Fr John
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