I Was Blind And Now I See: RC Women Priests Reflect on the Fourth Sunday of Lent 3/26/17
In today’s Gospel Jesus heals a man blind from birth and the religious leaders of the day want to deny that and find fault with it and with him. (John 9:1-41) When the leaders cross examine the man trying to prove that Jesus is a sinner who heals on the Sabbath, in desperation the man says: “…One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see”. He knows what happened to him because of his encounter with Jesus: his whole life was changed. He fully believes in Jesus, case closed. So the account is about a miracle, similar to healing the two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31. Miracles were a great way to show the people who he was and help them to listen to his teachings. And often he was moved, his heart was filled with empathy for those who suffered physical and mental illnesses. His loving, caring turned to doing something about it. Both miracles and teaching were means Jesus used to reach the people with God’s love, justice and inclusion. In this passage from John’s Gospel Jesus also goes on to the metaphoric level of speech showing that the Pharisees are the blind men for they can not see, understand or accept, what Jesus is teaching and who Jesus is. The man cured of blindness has no trouble with this. The religious leaders, here the Pharisees, think they know it all and can not see beyond what they “know”. In the Aramaic “light “means true teachings and to live in darkness means to live in (self) deception, a place where ”alternate facts” exist and mean nothing but are firmly believed. To see, the Pharisees would have to accept that they were blind-did not see, and since they can’t do this their blindness is sin-a breaking of the very law they claim to know/see.
The author of several delightful series set in Botswana, Scotland, Portugal and elsewhere, gently teaching and unmasking human nature, Alexander McCall Smith, ponders the nature of truth, belief and facts in his newest installment of the Scotland Street Series, The Bertie Project. His character Stuart is a totally truthful and thoroughly oppressed married man whose wife could be hated by feminists and most men alike. As Stuart struggles with guilt over having finally met someone who can love him he ruminates on “those who are not interested in facts as determined by empirical observation”. “…Änd on the coat tails of those who ignored the facts there traveled all sorts of sinister enthusiasms and social infections: arrogance,intolerance,indifference to need. After all, even the facts of gross injustice could be rejected if one were in full denial mode, as things you did not want to see simply did not need to be seen….” Finally he can not talk himself out of the wrongness of his actions and concludes: “the problem with being brought up to do the right thing was that it ruined your fun. Forever…Guilt…”. Once we see, we see, there is no going back. I remember a very special High School teacher who taught us, a group of working class girls, to see the world from a broader view by having us read and quote from The New York Times and not only the Daily News or Daily Mirror for starters. This was echoed by my church Pastors who opened our eyes to social justice issues and led us in taking actions toward racial and class equality. (Our Pastors were jailed in actions led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) I remember having to question things I learned to that point, and fighting for what I thought was right , indeed a narrow view of the Gospel,only to find that I had not seen at all. I have been forever thankful that my eyes were opened early on. And yet the call to live the Gospel of love and justice is often not fun, it is hard work that is never done.
When John the Baptist is in jail his world is falling down around him. He begins to question the Jesus whose way he prepared as a herald and, in a way, a predecessor. Yet, the news of Jesus’ actions reached him in prison and John sent his disciples to ask Jesus “Äre you the one who was to come…?”Jesus answered “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight,the lame walk,those who have leprosy are cured,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor”….”(Matthew 11:2-4). In other words, Jesus says- we are known by what we do-not what we say or aspire to do, but by the miracles we help work in the every day life of the poor, the sick, the outcast,the stranger and the different. We most likely will not work the miracles of Jesus but we can do something to alleviate pain and poverty and we can love the unloved all around us, if we can only see them. And so we pray”Give us eyes to see and hands to serve and courage to stand up for what is right.”
The Health Care struggle here in the USA is a good example of overlooking the people we may not see or want to see. Today we are thankful that millions of economically struggling working Americans will still have health care, but we pray that this remains affordable and that the next health care reform will mean the poorest are still covered and that health care will include the working poor who do not qualify for either Medicaid or ACA Insurance-those who fall through the cracks like Millie a mother of two who cleans offices and makes very little and Javier a grandfather, and head of a family of seven, who works in basic landscaping but can not qualify for either level of insurance. May all of us see who is left out of the dream for a good life everywhere and act accordingly as the body of Christ here on earth.
Give us eyes to see….and hearts to love.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
And now Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle continues this theme:
Still another transfiguration this week,
the third of four in this Lenten season.
Two weeks ago the disciples gained insight
into Jesus’ closeness to God
through the law and the prophets.
Last week Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well
both gained insight through their theological discussion.
This week the man-born-blind gains both eyesight and insight.
The Greek word for this man is “anthropos,”
the generic word for a human being
without telling gender, ethnicity, or historical context.
The man-born-blind—the one-who-saw—is everyone.
So when we hear this Gospel,
we are challenged to figure out the part we have been playing
the part we want to play.
We may be bound by our unshakeable convictions.
We may be the ones who wonder what God is up to.
We may choose to let authorities give us the answers.
No matter what our role has been,
we are invited to be anthropos,
people who realize we have been blind
BUT who are now ready to see.
Last month Pope Francis said
that Christians don’t live outside the world;
we live in the world.
Francis said that Christians have to know
how to recognize the signs of evil, selfishness, and sin
in their own life
and in what surrounds them.
Part of the transformation for the man-born-blind
is recognizing the politics of the Pharisees
who blind themselves to the truth
so they can keep their power and wealth and control
over the people.
We don’t have to look far to see
how this story speaks to the signs of our times.
The big picture for us is that America is being transformed.
Programs that support the principles of Catholic Social Teaching
are threatened by that budget sent to Congress this month.
It ignores the rights and dignity of the human person.
It is blind to the preferential option for the poor.
It is blind to the command to feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless, and welcome the stranger.
It is deaf to the call for peace and justice.
It would cut 62 agencies and programs
to fund expansion of our military,
already 1,000 times more lethal
than all the other militaries in the world together.
Here in Toledo we would see drastic cuts
to programs to shelter the homeless, like Family House;
Meals on Wheels for seniors and people with disabilities;
low-income home energy assistance;
UStogether and its support for refugee families;
school breakfasts and lunches;
PBS and NPR.
And there’s more than the budget
to threaten our Christian values.
Already we see Muslims vilified
and immigrants and refugees turned away.
Environmental protections are being wiped out,
allowing unrestrained dumping of pollutants.
The proposed health insurance proposal
would make health care unaffordable or unavailable
to millions of people.
Truth and civility and respect have been replaced
with unfounded accusations, insults, and crude language.
In short, our country is abandoning its commitment
to the common good.
One good thing is
that it’s not only our country that’s being transformed.
We—each of us individually, and all of us together—are changing.
How blind we have been!
We were stumbling along in the dark.
Like the man-born-blind,
we didn’t see the damage that could be done.
We thought it couldn’t happen here.
Now, thanks to Donald Trump, our eyes are opened.
We are being transformed.
The transfiguration is everywhere we look.
Across the country
ordinary citizens are showing up at their senators’ offices.
We’re asking for town hall meetings.
We’re making phone calls and sending emails
about the issues we care about.
We’re writing postcards to Congress and letters to the editor.
We are following the political news
on TV and radio and in the paper.
We’re talking about it, and we’re taking action.
This is the “faithful citizenship” that the U.S. Bishops called us to
10 years ago when they said
that responsible citizenship is a virtue;
when they said participation in political life
is a moral obligation
rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus;
when they said that all of us
must actively participate in promoting the common good.
So we continue to work for the change
that will transform each and every one of us
to be able to read the signs of our times
and put our faith into action.
We’re halfway through Lent, symbolized in the pink around us.
Light is dawning.
With the man-born-blind,
with all who follow Jesus,
we are called to live as children of the light.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006