Homilies & Official Statements
Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)
26th March 2017
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, ” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.” So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
We live in a world in which almost universally there is a refusal of leadership to see anything good in those who threaten their power. The same thing gives in those who want to replace them. In the Caribbean we hear expressions like, “We are not here to make the government look good,” At the same time Governments try to lay blame for anything which is not right at the feet of the opposition, when in truth and in fact the opposition is powerless to force meaningful change. These attitudes exhibited by our leaders are also prevalent amongst us. So often in our words and actions we seek to demonize those who do not agree with us.
In the gospel reading given to us today for our meditation, we see four different sets of attitudes being brought to our attention. You and I are invited to discover our own attitudes through this event.
There is of course the blind man who refuses to let himself be overawed by authority and speaks his truth fearlessly at great cost to himself. He was driven away from the Synagogue. “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
We can be like the parents of the blind man, refusing to take a stand because of fear in spite of the obvious gift of God that their son and themselves have received; “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.
We can be like Jesus refusing to let the poor be blamed for their state in life “Neither he nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered “he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Or we can be like the Pharisees who are want to hold onto power at all costs. They only accept goodness if goodness is achieved according to their terms. We must remember that initially the Pharisees were not bad people. They began as a group that really sought to be faithful to God’s law but gradually they began to think that their thoughts were God’s thoughts and their will was God’s will, and so anyone who did not agree with them was against God. When Jesus healed the man born blind on the Sabbath, they would say “This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath”
By presenting themselves as the representatives of God, the Pharisees controlled the people, but Jesus comes along and in his person and in his words presented a different image of God. His God was a God of compassion and love, not a God who demanded his pound of flesh and so the people began to follow Jesus. The Pharisees felt themselves losing control of the people, and so to maintain their power, they try to demonize Jesus. “Give glory to God!” they say, “For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.”
And yet the first chapter of John’s Gospel tells us “Jesus, the Word of God, is the light that enlightens every human being who comes into this world.” So often though, the desire for power blinds our leaders and we allow ourselves to be blinded by their propaganda. We don’t see the grace that is being mediated through those whom we demonize and we lose the opportunity to cooperate with Grace for the good of humanity and of our nation, and we lose the opportunity to thank God for the marvels that he works among us, even through those who think differently from ourselves.
The Pharisees, instead of being happy that the man born blind could now see become more and more intolerant and violent towards those who oppose them. Jesus has harsh words for the Pharisees. He tells them their sins remain, because of their self righteousness.
Lent is a time of dreaming, of dreaming of what the world would be like if all of us could collaborate whenever we see good being done. But as we dream of this world let us recognize the qualities in ourselves which put obstacles to the coming into being of this world and let us use this season of Lent to begin the work, with God’s grace of removing them.
All powerful and ever-loving God, today you show us attitudes which are truly obstacles to human and national development. We ask during this period of Lent that You purge us of such attitudes so that recognizing the Grace which is given to our world through persons with whom we do not agree or may not like, we may be able, together with such persons, to build a better world for those to come. We ask this through the prayers of Mary our Mother and your Son Jesus. Amen