Laetare! Be glad, y’all! That’s the nickname of this, the 4th Sunday of Lent. There’s lots to be glad about. The flowers are blooming, the weather is beautiful, Lent is more than halfway over, and of course, the priest gets to wear the pink chasuble. It’s a symbol of joy in the middle of a season of fasting and repentance.
Have you ever tried to literally judge a book by its cover? The truth is, we don’t know what’s in the book by looking at the cover. And the same holds true in our first reading today. Samuel goes looking for the new king he is supposed to anoint, and all of Jesse’s older boys don’t make the cut. Presumably, they are bigger, stronger, more experienced. But they are not chosen. David, the youngest brother is. I have to say, as one who actually is an older brother with a youngest brother named David, I am not thrilled about how this one turned out. But what do I know? That’s above my pay grade.
We have to practice seeing with different eyes, and that’s the lesson in our readings today. If we see with human eyes only, we miss the whole picture.
Often, our human sight can fail us. I can remember once when I was about 5 years old, my grandparents would come to visit us. And grandpa would always wear his brown fedora. Anytime we went out, he wore that hat. One time we were in the mall, and I got temporarily separated from my grandparents, and, thinking that my grandfather left the store, I went out into the mall, spotted the brown fedora, and ran up to him and grabbed his hand. Only, that wasn’t my grandpa! UH OH! I said. Just then, I turned around and saw my real grandpa smiling and waving. “Give me a break! How can there be two old men wearing the same hat??” I thought.
Don’t we all make mistakes like that? And don’t we sometimes make the same mistake not just about what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside of our fellow man?
The disciples in the gospel today judged the man blind from birth, assuming that his condition was because of sin.
Another interesting aspect of this story is that the man never asked to be healed. We know he was a beggar because of the witnesses in the story. He would have asked for food, money, everything, because of course, he couldn’t work a normal job and earn a living. Yet he doesn’t ask to see. He didn’t even know what it meant to see. Jesus takes the initiative and heals him.
Isn’t that how our lives are? We may ask God for things all the time, but the greatest things in life are freely given even before we ask. Life itself is given without us asking for us. Baptism, being a son or daughter of God, is often given without us asking for it. Faith is given by the Holy Spirit without us asking for it. The air we breathe, the land we walk on, the sun to give warmth, the plants of the earth—it’s all been provided for us without asking for it, so we take it for granted. Even our sense of sight.
What would it be like to go thru life without one of these things? Without the sun, or without plants, or without sight? I believe we’d learn to live just as we always do, thinking that it was a normal part of life. But then to receive such a gift—what an amazing transformation! Would we ever take these gifts for granted? I’ll bet that beggar in the gospel never took his sight for granted a single day in his life.
How blessed we are to be given such good gifts without even asking for them. We are given these gifts and we’re expected to be good stewards of them. That goes for the land, the fruits of the earth, our own senses, and most especially: FAITH.
We must take good care of this faith that was given to us in baptism. If we don’t, we risk losing it. Now, having faith doesn’t mean that we never question God, that we never have doubts. What it means is that we are in a relationship with our Creator and our Savior. And just like all human relationships, we go thru periods of darkness and light. Even God’s chosen people, Israel, went thru these cycles time and time again! They were saved by the Lord, the strayed from the Lord. He saved them again, they forgot him again. God makes a new covenant, then they break it. That name—Israel—it means to “struggle with God!” Is it any wonder that even today, we sometimes struggle with God?
Notice the faith of the Pharisees in contrast with the formerly blind man. As the faith of the blind man increases, the faith of the Pharisees decreases. They go from acknowledging the miracle, to then denying that it was a miracle, then throwing the man out on the street. On the other hand, the blind man first calls him “the man named Jesus.” Later on, he calls him a prophet. Lastly, Jesus asks him if he believes, and he calls him LORD. And he worships him.
That’s the meaning of the light in the gospel today: FAITH. Faith gives us the ability to see how God sees. To understand the meaning behind the physical world. It gives us a wisdom that science cannot give, an insight that the news media cannot give, a comfort that the pleasures of the world cannot give.
Brothers and sisters, I invite you to enter into this story. Who are you in this story? Are you the man born blind, who has now received his sight? Are you one of the Pharisees, sinking deeper into the darkness? Are you curious, like the disciples? Are you fearful, like the man’s parents? Or are you simply a bystander, a casual observer of Jesus, indifferent to what is going on?
Today, let us ask the Lord to enlighten our eyes, our hearts, and our minds. May we recognize God working in our midst. May the light dispel the darkness of doubt. May we see our neighbors as God sees them. And may we all see with the eyes of faith.