Like much of John’s Gospel, the story of the man born blind is a long, detailed narrative of a journey of a life of faith. Both the blind man AND the disciples are changed. Because it was the disciples who asked: “Who sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer clearly reveals that the man’s disablity is not the result of his or his parent’s sin.
Believe it or not, a recent news article reported that 44 % of college students believe that serious illness is a “payback” for bad behaviour. Many Christians today still attribute illness or misfortune to personal morality. Very often people are blamed for being homeless, women are blamed for being assaulted, some innocent people with AIDS or with cancer are unfairly thought to be responsible for their illness.
But Jesus clearly refutes those kinds of assumptions. And while faith and incorporation into the church do indeed change the life of a believer, they’re not assurances of health, good fortune or long life. Like Jesus, Christians suffer and die. The example of Jesus himself should make it clear to us that sinlessness and righteousness don’t exempt a person from this life’s difficulties or final end.
Similarly, it’s this same line of thought that leads us into the trap of thinking that just because things are going well for us, it means we have no sin. That was the fault of the Pharisees.
We saw that today’s readings focus on blindness and sight, darkness and light. The question it asks us is: When we make our way through the world each day, how do see that world? Samuel tells us in the first reading that the Lord does not see as mortals see; that they look on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
As we progress further along our lifetime journey of faith, the light of Christ should illumine our vision more and more making it easier for us to see the world as God intended it to be, as He sees it, and allowing grace to gradually remove the blindness caused by sin - our own sin and the sin in the world around us. That corporate sin. That’s what blinds us to the light of Christ. Sin.
Do we see the image of God in the people we are waiting in line behind at the check-out counter? Are we in awe of variety of people in God’s creation? Or do we curse them under our breath for being old or infirm or the wrong color? Do we see each newborn baby as a precious work of art, unique in God’s sight? Or do we see it as just another burden.
` It can be something as simple as the weather. On Friday, instead of savoring the beauty of the day, I caught myself grumbling about the fact that they were predicting 30 some degrees and snow for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I was blind to the goodness of God right before my eyes! And look how nice yesterday turned out to be!
It is the light of Christ that allows us to see with eyes of faith the goodness of God all around us - the goodness that God intended when he created the world. And God intended for us to be happy, even through any suffering or misfortunes that come our way in life. It’s the light of faith that teaches us that real happiness comes, not when you have everything you want, but when you want everything you have. That’s when we are truly happy.
At the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, we’re going come together for what I feel is one of the most beautiful expressions of faith to be found at any of our liturgies throughout the year. I always leave afterward with this overwhelming feeling of awe and I think that it takes on even greater meaning when I participate in the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services as well.
But it’s at the Easter Vigil that we come together as a community of faith in darkness to bless and light that Easter candle that represents the light of Christ. And then every person in the church passes along a flame from that single candle, that light of faith, until everyone present has a piece of that flame. And it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see those hundreds of flames as the light of faith that burns in the heart of every person being made visible, and lighting up the world as the body of Christ.
And then we welcome those have spent the past year preparing to be baptized or who are coming into full communion with the Church, carrying on a tradition that began with the earliest disciples. And while we support them in their journey of faith, we also reflect on our journey. Where we’ve been, where we’re at right now, and we pray to God to help us continue on that journey.
The story of the man born blind encapsulates that journey. The man was blind, he didn’t know God in other words, but through the grace of Jesus, the blind man is given sight. But when he’s first asked who cured him, it’s just “that man, Jesus.” Later when he’s asked again, it’s “Jesus, the prophet.” And finally, at the end, he calls him “Lord” and worships him.
Our faith journey takes a similar course. And as we come to know God more and more, we also come to know ourselves better and more easily see the goodness of God in the world around us.
You know, one of the euphemisms we hear all the time for God is a “Higher Power.” When I was doing research for buying a telescope a few years back, one of the things I learned was that, with optics, the higher the power, the less the field of view. That means that if a 60x telescope has a field of view as wide as a thousand yards at a half a mile. An 80x telescope might only have a field of view of 750 yards at a half a mile and a 100x telescope might only have a field of view of only 450 yards at a half a mile. But as you go up in power, even though your field of view becomes more narrow, the thing that you are really trying to see becomes even closer.
I’d like to suggest that our vision of the goodness of God during our journey of faith is kind of like that vision through the telescope. That, as our faith grows, and we become closer and closer to that “higher power” that we know as God, then we are able to more clearly focus on the world as God intended it to be.
It doesn’t mean that we no longer see the evil of the world, because we’re still able to scan around. But as we get closer to that “higher power” our field of view becomes more focused on the goodness of God in the world.
So maybe we should spend these last few weeks of Lent asking ourselves where we’re at in our journey of faith, and if maybe we shouldn’t spend some extra prayer-time working on getting a new, higher powered telescope, that’ll let us focus more easily on where we’re going in that journey.