HOMILY – MARCH 26
A key to understanding what’s going on in today’s Gospel with the man born blind is the first reading from the Old Testament. God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse, telling him that there he will find the man whom God has chosen as king to replace the unfaithful Saul. In good faith, Samuel makes human judgments about the appealing features and qualities of each of Jesse’s sons, but God’s voice keeps telling him, “No, not this one. . . No, not this one, either.” It seems like they’ve reached the end of the line when Samuel asks Jesse, “Don’t you have any MORE sons?”
“Oh well, yeah, there’s DAVID, but hey, it can’t be HIM, he’s the youngest, he’s just a kid, he’s out looking after the sheep!” But Samuel orders David to be brought in, and BINGO! “That’s the one!” God tells Samuel, and they go about anointing him to be the successor to Saul. Because of the effects of original sin, human eyes don’t instinctively see things the way God sees them. That takes a lot of faith, and an openness and a willingness to see things in a divine light. And don’t be thinking that the Pharisees were the only ones or the LAST ones to have trouble with that!
Jesus responds to the Apostles’ question about whose sin has caused the man to be born blind. We ask questions like that all the time: “How come bad things happen to good people? How come God lets innocent children suffer? What did I do to deserve this?” And the answer is simply that we do not see clearly enough, with the eyes of the soul, to recognize that God’s glory can be manifest IN and THROUGH suffering and so-called handicaps. We think that as a society we are so advanced, so sophisticated, that we understand all about everything. If that’s so, why today are 95% of children in the womb who are identified with Down syndrome put to death in the holocaust of abortion? When I was a youngster, there were many such children in our midst. We saw them with their families in stores, at games, on the bus, going off to school, going to work. As a group, they are loving, affectionate people with personality, varied interests, and lots of insight. My own brother was a Down syndrome child, but he was stillborn. Mom and Dad could hardly wait to have a reunion with him in eternity. But as a society, well — we spend tons of time and money pampering our pets, but why do most people think of a Down syndrome child only as a hardship, or as an interference with the “big plans” for our lives? Listen to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “You say, ‘WE SEE,’ but your sin remains!”
We each have to ask ourselves, “What are MY blind spots?” I might have 20/20 vision, and pass every eye exam with the flying colors of an eagle. That tells me nothing about how I REALLY SEE. Eyesight is not the same thing as VISION. Do I see well enough to recognize Christ in the faces and situations of those he enumerates: the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, the homeless? Do I see the harm I’m doing by reducing people, male and female, to pornographic images for my own entertainment? Do I regard any person or group of people as undeserving of my attention or care? Is there anyone for whom I would even refuse to pray? If a little examination of conscience like this — think of it as an “I” exam — reveals too many answers that are not God-like, that do not reflect the fact that I am made in the image of my loving and merciful Creator, then I have some work to do. Let’s face it, we ALL have work to do, until we draw our last breath on this earth. Jesus urges us to get it taken care of before we enter eternity.
Can you imagine starting off Mass together with a penitential rite in which we really get down to the nitty-gritty? “I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I am often enough a spiritual jackass, and that I need God to dangle a divine carrot in front of me to coax me to improve my vision!” Maybe with a healthy dose of humility like that, we’d take things like our penitential rite more seriously. But regardless of the words, we can begin again to see things in the light of Christ, who is the Light of the world. The Apostle urges us in his letter to the Ephesians to come out and live in the light. We are called to be public people. If there’s anything we do or say or even THINK that we wouldn’t want made public, well, there, we have identified our deeds of darkness. In many of our cases, it will be a lifetime’s work to submit our vision to God and embrace Christ’s light. But it’s the only way we’re going to come to the perfection of the beatific vision of God himself in the Kingdom he has prepared for us. “Blessed are the clean of heart,” Jesus says, “for they shall SEE God!” What a promise! What a blessing! What an opening to the dawn of eternal life! Born in the blindness of original sin, but washed in the saving waters of baptism, you and I have the great privilege of accompanying the people of the world on their earthly journey, and of SEEING them home!