Sam 16: 1, 6-7,10-13; Eph 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Today at the pool of Siloam Jesus says “I am the light of the world.” The man born blind is in the dark. Jesus opens his eyes – and ours, to the Light. But the Pharisees stay in the dark. The question: are we in the light and seeing “the works of God made visible”?
We are the man born blind. Adam was fashioned out of clay. He was made in light but chose the dark; the man born blind is refashioned with clay. Like him, we grow from darkness to light. Notice the man says, “I was blind” and “now I see.” He grows gradually, as we do, in seeing Jesus first as someone who touched him and enabled him to see. Then, he seemingly become a religion teacher to the Pharisees, explaining Jesus’ identity and in doing so, he becomes a worshipper of Jesus. He sees the Divine.
Stumbling in the dark made the man born blind ready to see — light from THE Light. The man born blind experienced Jesus, THE sacrament of God. Put yourself in this man’s place. Imagine standing there in the dark, blind. Jesus touches you, and the first thing you see is Jesus! This is amazing. Jesus IS God. He enters human history and makes the Father visible. You and I have a need to see Christ right now in this present crisis, also an opportunity, if we cooperate with daily graces, that is, with the life of Christ within us.
We are in a unique moment globally. I was texting with my friend Arthur Giron, a New Yorker, who is stuck with his wife in Antigua, Guatemala, where they are visiting family. Arthur is a playwright; thinks dramatically. He remarked that this virus has biblical proportions. It reminds me of biblical film epics (like The Ten Commandments by legendary director Cecil B. DeMille)! I was saying to the deacons Friday night after our mass that I, too, had been thinking about the plague and pestilence stories and the wandering of ancient Israel in the desert. Yesterday morning I was thinking about a theologian I studied years ago. His name is James Fowler. He taught spiritual theology for many years at Emory University down the road in Atlanta at Candler School of Theology. James Fowler writes about something called “the neutral zone”; in classic spiritual language, it is called the dark night of the soul. A person suffers an event, an intrusive, unwanted event, a marker event; that is, it marks life into before and after periods. The intrusion causes disruption, upset, disorientation, a sense of darkness and confusion. We Americans went through this as a nation on September 11, 2001 and the days and weeks following. We are going through this now globally. Covid-19 has invaded the world and cast the globe into confusion and disorientation, fear and uncertainty. It is a wilderness of biblical dimensions, indeed. James Fowler says that wandering in such wilderness is like the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert. It eventually does come to an end. He says that such a period, however confusing, can be fruitful, can bring about light. How does this happen? It happens by meditating on “the heart’s deepest longings” – where God is. We are shaken and sifted like flour, reduced to our lowest terms. If we are attentive and have companions in the wilderness, we can come to see, to see, to see: what is essential, “the one thing necessary,” as Jesus tells Martha on the death of Lazarus. Clearly, in light of today’s gospel, it is Christ the Light himself who is “the works of God made visible.”
When Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, he took the name Benedict. He did this intentionally to dedicate his pontificate to calling the Western world back to its Christian roots. Today, there are those who say that Christendom is dead. We shall see about that. A crisis such as the one we are enduring is our own passion during this Lenten retreat – and that is what this is – a retreat in which we are participating; we are participating in the sufferings of Christ in a way we thought unimaginable before now. A crisis such as this presents the opportunity for us as a civilization to ponder our roots, to ponder our Christian heritage, to see who we are and whose we are, to gaze upon Christ himself who is the Light. In a moment when the media is leading us by its coverage to feel helpless, Christ the light is with us, Emmanuel, “God-With-Us” – as I said on Friday evening. This Lent like no other, this long retreat like no other, is patterned after Jesus in the desert, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent. We are conformed to him, to a participation in his suffering. Do you see that? We call on Him, his mother, the whole communion of saints, to guide us through this wilderness, to help us to see and to value what is essential and cling to it – as individuals, as a parish, as a Church, as a civilization. We showed that to each other on Friday night in that procession – companions in the wilderness, indeed, giving each other strength: “the works of God made visible.”
St. Theophilus of Antioch says: “God is seen by those who have the capacity to see him, provided that they keep the eyes of their mind open.” Let’s keep them open! Today is Laetare Sunday, the joyful anticipation of Easter, just past the midway point of Lent. These flowers tell us that. After today, we move toward the most solemn days of Lent, this Lent like no other. Next week we cover the statues, and we enter the period called Passiontide. The following week is Palm Sunday; then, it’s Holy Week. In second part of Lent like no other, with its built-in penances, may we receive and see God’s daily graces and grow in our relationship with him like the man born blind. “I was blind, but now I see.” And say thank you.
You can still make an individual visit to the Eucharistic chapel, available 24 hours a day. Then go. Christ sends you. “Siloam” means sent. All of us have bathed in the pool of baptism. All of us are sent in the Light of Christ to be Christ’s Light. Be a point of light for others. Walk in the sunlight. Take vitamin D3. Point others to Christ the Light as we prepare for an Easter – like no other we have ever known.
Praised be Jesus Christ!