Perhaps last week as we undertook a self-evaluation of our tenancy of the Lord’s vineyard, we may have ended up feeling a little guilty - with a tinge of despair?...
There is no doubt in my mind that we should begin this week’s reflection with
TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 9: 1 – 41]. At once notice the difference between this account and that of last Sunday’s encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. The Lord, as he did with the Woman, introduced light into the life of the man born blind. In addition do not miss the Lord’s testimony to himself – and its remarkable similarity with what he also asserted to the lady at the Well.
The man born blind is asked, “do you believe in the Son of man? … Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him …. You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” The encounter at the Well – “I know that the Messiah is coming … he will show us all things … I who speak to you am he.”
The important difference between the two encounters is the fact that those who were looked down upon (the Samaritan villagers) by those who fancied themselves as true, faithful and orthodox believers (the Pharisees), accepted Jesus as Lord and Messiah – and
BELIEVED in him – while the Pharisees were unconvinced, made problems and invented difficulties. In fact, even neighbours and occasional acquaintances prevaricated and hesitated to make a definite decision.
THERE IS A LESSON HERE FOR CHRISTIAN-CATHOLICS WHO SOMETIMES SEE THEMSELVES AS PRIVILEGED AND SPECIAL
. If we take a deeper or second look at today’s OLD TESTAMENT READING [1 SAMUEL 16: 1b. 6 – 7. 10 – 13a] there is confirmation of this danger – “for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Those who the Lord chooses do not always respond to the calling. Their heart is not IN it (recall last week’s reflection)! If we examine the responses of the man born blind as well as the woman at the Well, it is not difficult to recognise how they slowly became involved – not merely with the thought process but also with their hearts. In particular, they became involved with a PERSON, a particular human individual. On the other hand, the Pharisees of our Gospel extract were drowning in the cerebral. They failed to see the man born blind as an individual and fellow human being . This man received and accepted the light – both figuratively and literally. The Pharisees were lost in the darkness of their own minds.
In passing we may now add the general confirmation provided by Saint Paul in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 5: 8 – 14]. “Once you were darkness, but now you are lightin the Lord; walk as children of the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. … “Arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Here we need to reflect on a specific challenge – are we losing a sense of the radical difference between the things of darkness and the things of light? Good and evil are real. The visible realities of both are the result of human choices – OUR CHOICES AND ACTIONS. It is a fear of mine that we have become over confident in our definitions of good and evil. What we too often forget is “that there is no adversary on the side of good but God himself.” To address evil and darkness I have to get myself firmly on God’s side. If not, I fall into the trap of becoming overconfident in my own definitions of good and evil, light and darkness. “We preclude God when we react to events as if we were their sole judge.”Far too often, however, the judgement we give comes through our silence. Silence in the face of darkness allows the birth of evil. Remember what Saint Paul tells us today – “once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (this paragraph acknowledges words and thoughts provided by an article appearing in THE TABLET: Pages 4 and 5: 4th February, 2017)
So we end by returning to our Gospel extract. “His parents answered, ‘we know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes.Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself’.”
One of the most valuable results of all my Lenten observances should be that, once more, I become aware of the fact that as a Christian-Catholic I am indeed, ‘of age’ and am both able and willing to ‘speak for myself’. It may well be that, from time to time, when I do speak for myself as a prayerful, thinking and mature believer, I will be cast out by public opinion, dropped from some guest lists, or ridiculed as some sort of religious ‘nut’. On the other hand a small seed might be sown – “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?”
Are we losing a sense of the radical difference between the things of darkness and the things of light?