weekly gospel meditations
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Our Blindness to God and to the Will of God
First Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1. 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
Aim: to show how we too are blind in that we do not: (1) see our true need for God; (2) to see God's will in the trials, disappointments and crosses of life.
Today's beautiful Gospel, from John, recalls Jesus leading a man born blind from darkness into light, by granting him the capacity to see. The effect of Christ's action is reminiscent of the rush of God-life bestowed upon David, when anointed by Samuel, in today's First Reading. The meaning of the miracle wrought by Jesus is elaborated upon in today's Second Reading, from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians; in a word, the light which the blind man received gave him a new capacity of vision for God's honor and glory, and to be diffused in Jesus' name for others to share.
Commenting on today's Gospel, Bishop Ottokar Prohaszka, the brilliant Hungarian preacher who died in 1927, wrote:
"Jesus called forth light with clay, whereas we suppress the divine light in us with clay, with our earthly, lowly way of thinking. What darkness there is everywhere. .
Baptism gives us a new capacity for vision. The clay of which we are fashioned is so graced by God that we have the ability, in principle, at least, to see beyond what the senses record.
Unfortunately this sounds like empty poetry to one who has lost his sense of mystery. To secularist-minded contemporary man, seeing means visual sighting, nothing more; hearing means the ear's registering sounds, nothing more. Yet this is a crude assessment of reality. Real vision, real hearing, surpass by far the merely physical and intellectual outlines of phenomena.
Think, for example, of the composer Beethoven. Beethoven composed his famed Missa Solemnis, regarded by many as the greatest Mass ever written, when he was deaf. (This was the Mass performed in St. Peter's Basilica before Pope Paul VI, and televised around the world.) When Beethoven attended the first performance of this Mass, which he could not hear in the conventional way, he broke down with joy. He heard every note in a manner of transcending the standard assumptions regarding hearing.
A parallel can be expressed about sight, as anyone who has experienced blind people on tours or pilgrimages can testify. In seeing, too, it is what the soul encounters that matters most.
In the pilgrimage of life, we place ourselves at a distinct disadvantage if we proceed merely by means of what our senses detect. A new kind of vision, a new kind of hearing is given to us by Jesus, through baptism. As Christ's disciples we are gifted with a capacity to detect the reality of the mystery in which we are immersed, a mystery that says to us, before all else: God exists, Jesus who is God lives; Jesus intervenes in my life, even in the trials and crosses I experience; and Jesus is needed by me.
Real blindness is not seeing any of this.
As Christians we can see that the obstacles that seem to fall before our paths in life are only like the frozen branches of trees that crash to the ground on wooded paths in wintertime. They do not really impede our progress, but simply compel us to get down on our knees in a foot of snow to clear our passage, all the while inviting us-as the poet Robert Frost once suggested-to ask ourselves who we really are and what our goals should be.
* Meditations on the Gospel, trans. M. de Pal Westminster, Md.; The Newman Press, 1952.