I have a busy couple of weeks ahead leading up to Holy Week. Nevertheless, you know that I'll be watching closely to hear from our new Pope (whenever he's elected)! Please keep praying for the Cardinal Electors!
Homily: 4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle A (Scrutinies)
Some of you may be familiar with the story of Alice and Mark. Alice, as the story goes, was blind, and she hated everyone. Being blind, as we can all imagine, is a pretty heavy cross to carry and for Alice, that took its toll on her relationships with others. Mark, however, was a patient man and he loved Alice deeply. He was always there for her and she felt that he was someone that she could rely on. One day she told Mark, “If I could see, I would marry you.”
Not long after that, Alice was notified that someone had donated a pair of eyes to her. So she had the surgery and, after a week or so of recovery, when the bandages came off, she was able to see Mark for the first time. Almost immediately, Mark smiled at her and asked her: “Now that you can see, will you marry me?” Alice, however, was speechless. You see, Mark was blind. Immediately she knew that looking at his closed eyes would be a constant reminder of the blindness that she so longed to leave in her past and she wanted so badly to leave that memory in the past that she refused his proposal. Alice’s blindness, it seems, went much deeper than physical sight.
In our Gospel reading today, the Pharisees are suffering from a similar type of blindness. As we hear in the Gospels over and over again, these religious leaders were intensely focused on preserving the Mosaic Law and on ensuring that it was carefully observed by all Jews. Being so “in tune” with the Law that God had given them, they were certain that they also knew what the Messiah, whom God had promised to send them, would look like. He would emerge from an important family of obvious heritage to their great king, King David. Jesus, however, didn’t fit that mold. Remember that the history of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and the great signs that accompanied it, was unknown to the general public while Jesus was still walking on earth. Rather, all that people knew about him was that he was a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, who was generating a lot of buzz with his teaching and through his works.
No, Jesus’ heritage didn’t jive with what the Pharisees were looking from the Messiah. Thus, although he was performing the works of God—healing the sick, raising the dead, driving out demons (and, in this case, curing the blind)—the Pharisees were blinded by their preconceived notions of the Messiah and couldn’t see him for who he was. Like Alice, whose preconceived notion of what Mark would look like prevented her from seeing the Mark that she knew—the patient, caring man who had been with her all this time, the Pharisees’ preconceived notion of what the Messiah would look like prevented them from seeing that the Messiah was actually right there in their midst.
The man who was cured of his blindness, however, had none of these preconceived notions. So much so that when the Pharisees question him his only response was to say “I know nothing about this man. I just know that I was blind and now I can see.” And when pressed by the Pharisees to make a judgment about Jesus, he doesn’t call him the Messiah, but rather a prophet. What he is doing is speaking from the truth of his experience. “I was blind, but now I see, which is a good thing. And if it is a good thing, then it must be from God. Therefore, this man must be from God. And so the best that I can say about him is that he seems to me to be a prophet.” Notice that he doesn’t try to push Jesus into being what he wants him to be, but simply speaks of him according to the truth of his experience of him.
The Elect, those who are preparing to be baptized this Easter, are kind of like this man. They, like all of us, have been born blind, but, through an encounter with Christ in prayer, in his Word, and through the witness of this community, they have had their eyes opened to the truth of his love and now stand before us to ask for our prayers as they make their final preparations for their Baptism. They ask for our prayers so that they may be cured of every spiritual blindness and so become like us, “children of light.”
And so to the Elect I have this to offer: the foundation of our faith is acknowledging the truth about our encounters with Christ. Just like the man born blind—and the Samaritan woman from last week’s Gospel reading—we are called first and foremost to witness to the truth of our encounter with him. “I can’t tell you if he is a sinner,” the man born blind states, “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see.” “Come, see the man who told me everything about myself,” the Samaritan woman exclaims, “Could he be the Messiah?” The scrutinies that the Elect are undergoing are about getting clear. Just like Lent, for the rest of us, is about getting clear. In other words, it is about eliminating all of our preconceived notions about God, religion, and what Church ought to be, and getting clear about our experience of Jesus, so that we, too, can worship him, like that man in the reading today, when we see him in his truest, glorified self—his resurrected self—on Easter Sunday.
After Alice’s rejection, Mark left feeling completely destroyed. A few days later, she received a note from him that said simply, “Take good care of your eyes, my friend, because before they were yours, they were mine.” Alice could finally see, but then sin—her desire for worldly satisfaction through her eyes—blinded her heart and she rejected Mark’s Christ-like love. Mark, on the other hand, through making himself blind, truly died to his self and thus to sin. As a result, he was able to see the sad truth about Alice. May our Lenten observances blind us to the world—and, thus, to sin—so that we can truly see the love that Christ offers each one of us.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 9th & 10th, 2013