Fourth Sunday of Lent

1 Sm 16:1, 6-13+ Psalm 23 + Ephesians 5:8-14 + John 9:1-41

At St. Peter the Apostle Church in Naples. FL Live Streamed

It was March 21, 1748. From the age of 11, he had been involved in slave trading. He was so coarse and cruel that he earned the name, “The Great Blasphemer.” His ship was being slammed by a raging storm, and he had lashed himself to the helm of that battered ship. In fear and desperation, he remembered the prayers of his Christian mother, and a prayer for deliverance was sucked out of him. Surviving the tempest, he abandoned the lucrative slave-trade and at age 39 and became a minister for the next 43 years. At the age of 82, writing in his diary on the anniversary of that stormy day, John Newton wrote a poem that years later would be set to music becoming the best-known Christian hymn, “Amazing Grace”. While some struggle with that harsh word, “wretch” in the text, I feel sure that John Newton chose it to describe himself in terms of his past. While some may never choose to describe themselves as “wretches” everyone of us formed by this Gospel today might well admit that we have been blind and we long to see, and the world we live in is blind as well.

There are such fascinating details and contrasts in this wonderful chapter of John’s Gospel. There are those Pharisees and leaders of the people who think they can see, but they don’t. They can’t see what is right in front them. They can’t see who it is that works theses signs and wonders much less, what they mean. They live in darkness preferring it to the Light of Christ. There are the man’s parents, who see what has happened, but do not understand. They just don’t want to get involved like so many in this world. Then there is a blind who can see, and like the woman in last Sunday’s Gospel, a personal encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in him more than just sight. He begins to understand, and John tells that he “worshiped” Jesus. In other words, the man born blind suddenly realizes he has been visited by God.

The woman at the well, this blind man, and all of us come to God by different paths, and we all struggle with some kind of blindness that keeps us from seeing as clearly as we may think. It is a kind of Spiritual Blindness that requires a great deal of humility that would allow us to understand and accept that we do not see as clearly as we might think. This kind of blindness affects our ability to address social issues and injustice, because we just don’t see the poor and fail to understand a system that keeps them that way. So, we become like the parents of the blind man. We just can’t be bothered, or we decide that getting involved may require some danger or risks. This spiritual blindness can sour personal relationships, and even affect the way we see a stranger or someone at the border fleeing violence and danger. We just don’t see the Christ in our midst. We can never presume that we have clear sight, and so we must always strive to gaze into the heart of people and things to see as God sees.

In this day, connections are important to us. We go crazy when the internet connection is bad or fails, this very connection that connects us right now. We are all feeling the strain of isolation, that is testing our connections with one another. Yet, in the end, it will be our connection with God that matters, and this disconnect we feel now right now might be for some a lot worse if the connection with God has been broken or ignored. Now, from home rather than from Church we continue our journey through Lent, and like the Hebrew people in the desert, we are hungry and long to eat the Bread of Life. For now, we must feed ourselves on the Word of God until that day when we will assemble here in thanksgiving to rejoice in the fullness of life and share the cup of salvation. For now, we pray, “Lord, heal our blindness so that we may see your guiding hand in these anxious times of fear and darkness. Lead us into the light of faith to rejoice even now in your goodness with a blessed hope that does not fail.”

Father Tom Boyer