Last week we reflected on the pitfalls of faultfinding! THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 9: 1 – 41] takes it a little further by speaking of divisions. Some … said, ‘this man is not from God’ …. others said, ‘how can a man … do such signs’? There was a division among them.” Recognise the mirror-image of much that happens within the Christian Church and Community. Faultfinding always leads to division, and division in the Christian Church is always a public scandal. WE DO NOT NEED IT. IT SHOULD NOT BE!

In addition note the response of the healed man’s parents who feared … for (it) had already been agreed that if anyone should confess him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” {put out = excommunicated!} So in fear, no more and no less, they opted out of their responsibilities and caused further division in that particular domestic family. He is of age, ask him.”

At the same time see the stark difference between the productive dialogue of Jesus and the Samaritan woman and the adversarial approach of the Pharisees. The truth emerging from the encounter at Jacob’s Well was seen and accepted. No truth resulted from the Pharisees’ examination of the man born blind. A golden opportunity was missed. Why? For no other reason other than the whole security system of the Pharisees was under threat. Here, see – once more – a mirror-image of frequent and similar exchanges in the Church and in our parishes. The only one who emerges with integrity is the man himself. Why? Because he stuck to the simple and uncomplicated truth which he both recognised and accepted. He attacked no one, cast no aspersions, made no accusations – he simply proclaimed the truth.

Our Lenten pilgrimage will be enriched if we make the connection between the readings of all the Sundays. It is also interesting and informative to joint the dots and see a clear teaching emerge. For example recall the question posed last Sunday. Is the Lord among us or not?” The Pharisees of today’s Gospel were not interested. In fact they avoided the question because they did not want to upset the established comfort zone. They did not want Jesus among them – for or against! Then, compare this with the Samaritan villagers who asked him to stay with them.” They wanted Jesus among them. We should know that Samaritans were nowhere near as hidebound by the endless prescriptions, customs and traditions of the Pharisees. They were more relaxed and easy going in their worship of the Lord God.

Not only did they want the Lord with them but we could easily apply to the villagers words from

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 5: 8 – 14]. There we read that now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light …. awake, O sleeper. and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” This is exactly the challenge we should respond to as the Lenten weeks progress. Do not be caught up in the outward mechanics of Lent. See beyond the immediate. Look at things with new sight and stick to your guns – as the blind man did when he found ‘the light’. For him (as it should be for us) there was to be no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.” The Pharisees still had a great deal to learn.

Remember to look beyond the immediate! Also, guard against setting too much store on ‘trappings’ – as well as having expectations which appeal only to the senses. All of this is an essential part of

TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 SAMUEL 16: 1b. 6 – 7. 10 – 13a]. Do not look on his appearance or on … his stature …. for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance … the Lord looks on the heart

I see Pope Francis as having, among many other things, grasped this basic essential – without losing the ability to retain the basics of style and good presentation. Simplicity itself should always be well presented.

Focus on Jesse’s amazement that Samuel asked about any other sons: There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” (Scraping the bottom of the barrel perhaps but Pope Francis has reminded us of the need for all the clergy to have the smell of the sheep on them?!) Here we are faced with a fundamental aspect of the Lord God’s vision of the Messiah – who was to be a SHEPHERD-KING! It was

A SHEPHERD who would be able to restore Israel.

This aspect had been entirely lost by the time Jesus arrived on the scene – and it was not a shepherd that the Pharisees (who did not have the smell of their sheep on them) wanted or expected. They wanted someone grand and powerful in social-economic terms. We must not fall into the same trap. Jesus himself proclaimed that he was the Good Shepherd who knew the names of his sheep … and his sheep KNEW HIM!