22 March 2020: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Healing the Blindness of the Heart

The beautiful image presented in today’s Gospel is the blind man with the clay smeared on his eyes who dips himself in the pool of Siloam and comes out of the water with eyesight. From earliest times today’s gospel story and the image has been associated with baptism.  Just as the blind man went down into the waters of Siloam and came up whole as a new person, so also believers who are immersed into the waters of baptism come up spiritually whole, totally healed of the spiritual blindness and sinfulness with which they are born.

Lent was originally a time for the catechumens to prepare for their baptism at the Easter time.  Today’s Gospel also helps all of us who are baptized to think of our own baptism and the new life we received in baptism.

We are all blessed with physical eye-sight.  Let us thank God for the physical eye-sight he has granted us.  In today’s Gospel we find a man who was born blind.  He did not see Jesus coming to him.  But as Jesus passed by Jesus saw the blind man.  He was compassionate.  Jesus touched him, smeared the clay on his eyes and asked him to “go and wash in the pool of Siloam”.  The blind man obeyed him and he was cured of his blindness.  In their first encounter, Jesus gives the blind man physical sight.  He sees Jesus as a good ordinary man.  But only in their second encounter Jesus gives the man much more, the eyes of faith by which he says that “Jesus is a prophet”, and finally the blind man confesses that Jesus is “The Son of Man” and he “worshipped him” as “Lord”.  Growth in faith is always gradual.

But in the growth process in faith the blind man had to face many hardships: he is unrecognized by his friends, challenged by authorities, unsupported by parents, and expelled from the synagogue.  Yet with each obstacle his vision of faith is sharpened and his resolve is strengthened.  And when Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, Jesus found him.  If any one of is thrown out by any one because we follow Christ then He will come to us.

The blind man represents all human beings. We are all born “blind”.  Christ is the light who opens our eyes to see.  Like the blind man in the story we can choose to see what Christ has revealed, or like the Pharisees, we can choose not to see, and that is the real sin.  The story warns us not to be like the Pharisees who are really blind in this story. They tried to find fault with Jesus curing this man.  They did not see the suffering of this blind man for so many years.  And when he was cured of his blindness the Pharisees could not rejoice at it.  They looked for reasons to criticize Jesus.  They accused him of breaking the Sabbath.  They forgot the great love God has shown to them and the commandment of God to love thy neighbor.  They condemned others, found fault with others, and that was their enjoyment.

Are we blind like the Pharisees?  When we lack the compassion to our fellow human beings we become like the Pharisees, when we condemn others we become like the Pharisees, when we reduce religion to rules and regulations and forget the great love of God and love of our neighbor we become like the Pharisees.

St. Paul, in today’s second reading, reminds us of our new responsibility to live as children of light, seeking what is good and right and true: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”   Unless we are connected to Christ, the real light, we might be in darkness.

We need to allow Jesus to touch us as he touched the blind man and to heal our spiritual blindness.  We all have blind spots — in our discipleship, in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. Sometimes, very unfortunately, we wish   to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light.    Jesus wants to heal our blind spots: our self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and a hardness of heart. Jesus is always ready to touch us as he touched the blind man, and he asks us to do certain things, most of them very ordinary things, like washing in the pool of Siloam.

Let us listen to Jesus and obey Him. Then we will see everything as God wants us to see. We heard in the first reading, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

Many a time we sing the beautiful hymn “Amazing Grace.”  It was written by John Newton.  With Newton,

Let us pray: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Give us more of that amazing grace that we may see people and events as they really are.  “Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for.  Give us the gift to see the good hidden in the kernels of suffering and of failure and never to give up hope.

Give us the grace to see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.  Help us to perceive ourselves and others in the light of Christ.  Give us the grace to love everyone as Jesus loves, to show compassion to everyone as Jesus showed compassion, and to be merciful as God the Father is merciful.  AMEN

(Homily by Fr. Emmanuel, Pastor of Holy Faith Church, Gainesville)