When the disciples saw the blind man begging they treated him as
a topic for conversation and inquiry. His blindness, not the fact
that he was a suffering person, was the focus of their attention.
They asked Jesus about the reason for his blindness. "Rabbi, who
sinned, this man or his parents?"
People of the time believed that a physical infirmity was the
result of sin, committed either by the person, or the parents
(Exodus 20:5). The disciples are in for a surprise. They never could
have imagined that the afflicted man would play a part in revealing
God’s wonderful works on our behalf.
Are we so far removed from the thinking that blames a person for
the misfortune they bear? In our "enlightened" world don’t people
still think that poverty, and its resulting maladies like sickness
and short life span, are the fault of the poor? (And aren’t those
physically or sexually abused sometimes blamed for what they
"provoked" in others? "She wouldn’t have gotten raped if she hadn’t
dressed that way.") As long as people think in this way, they won’t
look deeper into the economic, cultural or political reasons that
keep poor people and whole nations in a permanent underclass. Such
attitudes about poverty’s sources will also prevent people from
doing something to change oppressive conditions for groups of people
in our own cities and for nations in other parts of the world.
Jesus casts light on such darkness and answers their question,
"Neither he nor his parents sinned." The blame lies elsewhere; maybe
even on the very people who are blaming others for their dire
conditions! God is not punishing the man for sin; indeed, God wants
to do something that will deliver the man from his blindness. After
enlightening his disciples, Jesus sets about changing the man’s
condition. So, he cures two forms of
blindness. He enables both the man to see and his disciples to
get a different perspective.
Jesus doesn’t just see one person who is ill. He sees another
example of the human condition he has come to alleviate. The blind
man is a symbol – he represents us, for we do not see. Blindness is
a universal ailment that afflicts humanity. We are blind to God’s
presence in our lives; to the needs of our neighbors; to people of
other races, religions, nationalities etc. In our blindness, we
would rather build walls of separation and construct social barriers
than welcome the stranger into our midst and address the needs of
The healing happens quickly. Jesus gives the man his physical
sight, but that is just the first step on the man’s journey to
spiritual sight. In the confrontation he has with the Pharisees the
man will continue to progress – from his newly acquired physical
sight to spiritual sight. He will see who Jesus is and come to
faith. While the Pharisees will progress even further into their
blindness. They think they know it all, when in fact they are not
even aware that they know nothing. They are in the dark. On the
other hand, throughout the story the man admits his ignorance about
many things. In doing that, unlike the Pharisees, he is open to
change. After he is thrown out by the Pharisees Jesus returns to
him. He admits his need to Jesus, "Who is he sir that I may believe
in him?" Jesus reveals himself to the man who then does him
reverence. The former blind man has come to sight in many ways, as
he goes from unbelief to faith.
It is a challenging gospel story. Is it possible that the places
we think we are seeing clearly, we are not? Listen to the gospel:
the ones, who were sure they knew what was going on, the Pharisees,
were blind. They were religious experts, but they missed the truth
staring them in the face. The one who is confounding them and
turning their world upside down was really God, trying to open their
eyes and set things right.
What confounds us, raises questions, upsets our routine? These
may be the very places God is trying to open our eyes and give us
vision; set things right for us. The story of the blind man coming
to sight gives us pause to ask ourselves: How well do I see? Do I
see what is really going on in my life? Has a road I have been
traveling taken an unfamiliar turn and I’ve lost my way? Are things
happening to me that make me trip and stumble like a person walking
and groping in the dark? The world is filled with bright lights and
glitter. They blind us to what’s important, lasting and best for us.
We ask ourselves: what is blurring my vision these days? What’s
dulling my appreciation of life?
The blind man’s story replays our own. We made the same journey
he did. We were led to a pool of water, washed there and words were
spoken over us, "I baptize you…." This began the journey guided by
the sight we received in those waters. In baptism we were given a
clearer sight with which to look at our world. What do we see as a
result of that washing at the pool? Has the sight we received in the
washing affected our priorities and life choices?
Because our eyes have been opened we see that people of other
races and nations (even those some name as enemies) are our sisters
and brothers. We see that having all we ever wanted can leave us
dissatisfied and poor in God’s sight. We see that even in sickness
and old age there is great value and beauty. We see that God is not
someone on high to fear, but someone up close who walks our life
with us in loving companionship. We see the people we value are not
always the ones others call "important." Like the blind man the
waters have opened our eyes and we see with the eyes of Jesus, who
is light for a dark world.
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Almighty God, restore the dignity of
our human condition,
long disfigured by excess but now
restored by the
discipline of self denial.
—Missal of Pius V
are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.
In this passage, Paul invites us to celebrate the way in which
God has reconciled all things to himself in Christ so that we can
become a new creation in Christ. How wonderfully appropriate to this
Sunday of rejoicing (Laetare Sunday). Also known as Rose
Sunday, we are given a glimpse at the wonderful new beginnings that
come with Easter resurrection.
In the Second Reading, where this passage is found, the Greek
word katallasso means "to reconcile" or "to decisively
change." We are the ones called to reconcile and change what makes
us less Christ-like. How can we be ambassadors for Christ if our
lives do not reflect the actions of Jesus? This is especially true
in our response, or lack of response, to the oppressed, the poor,
the outcasts, and the other.
The Catholic faith is both vertical in our relationship with God
AND horizontal in our relationships with our fellow human beings and
our living earth. Devotion to God is incomplete without the
horizontal awareness that God is present in every aspect of God’s
creation. We can see this in the example that Pope Francis offers
(1/21/18): "Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and
begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the
face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He
begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of
his people and to awaken a new hope. He calls his disciples and
invites them to set out with him. He calls them to walk through to
the city, but at a different pace; he teaches them to notice what
they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing
needs. Repent, he tells them. The Kingdom of Heaven means finding in
Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people. He gets
involved and involves others not to be afraid to make of our history
a history of salvation" (cf. Mk 1:15, 21). This is what it means to
act as an ambassador for Christ.
What injustice have you ignored in our own greater community?
Need some places to put your energy for the work of Christ on earth?
Check out the many ministries we have outside the walls of our
parish on our website:
Pass on the hope that you have received.
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
SUNDAY OF LENT
(A) March 31, 2019
16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
said to the blind man]
in the Pool os Siloam" – which means Sent –
So he went
and washed and came back able to see.
The story of the blind man coming to sight gives us pause to ask
- How well do I see?
- Do I see what is really going on in my life?
- Has a road I have been traveling taken an unfamiliar turn
and I’ve lost my way?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Jeffrey Kandies #0221506 (On death row since 4/20/94)
- Vincent M. Wooten #0453231 (4/29/94)
- John R. Elliott #0120038 (5/4/94)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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