I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that none of them are like this.
– C.S. Lewis
The readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent can be found here.
If you are looking for better readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent you will find them here.
The historian will tell you that after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE that the Jewish world spread out in what was referred to as the Diaspora. This meant that there were more Jewish people living outside their homeland than were living in it. The Jewish people also had a history of maintaining their identity and piety in times of exile, so this time was no different. They adapted to some of the prevailing culture, such as translating the Hebrew Bible to Greek, but when Christianity became a threat to the Jewish traditional faith it was no longer welcomed in the Synagogues. This set the stage for the reading this Sunday.
The scripture scholar will tell you that healing the man born blind is the sixth sign in John’s Gospel. As such, it is now the blind man who takes on the role of witness to Jesus. He shows that God works through Jesus and he is not what the Jewish authorities have been accusing Jesus of being. The blind man is also an example for the Johannine Christian community on how to act in the face of hostile authorities. Since the leaders of the Synagogue were expelling the Johannine Christians there was more than a bit of hostility in their time. John Shelby Spong tells us in his book The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic that “this narrative seeks to describe the feelings of the excommunicated ones by telling this story as if it had happened in the life of one called ‘the man born blind.'”
I see the grand statements about Jesus – that he is the Son of God, the Light of the World, and so forth – as the testimony of the early Christian movement. These are neither objectively true statements about Jesus nor, for example in this season, about his conception and birth. To speak of him as the Son of God does not mean that he was conceived by God and had no biological human father. Rather, this is the post-Easter conviction of his followers.
– Marcus Borg
What message do we hear in this Gospel reading for our lives today? It is a rather long reading and a compelling story, but there is a lot happening. The obvious message is that there are times we are like the blind man, unable to see and in darkness. Once we accept the message of Jesus a light is revealed to us and we can suddenly see. This is how John saw the members of the Synagogue. Since the Christians were getting kicked out folks had to make a choice to stay or leave. Either you remained in darkness and held fast to the old Jewish traditions or you stepped into the new light of Jesus. It was an anxious time and yet exciting also.
As Christians we face similar decisions each generation. The issues for my parents generation revolved around civil rights and race discrimination. I am sad to say that I grew up in Detroit and my parents speak about the riots of 1967 as if they were something they read in the newspaper instead of having lived through it. During Lent in 1967 what light did the message of Jesus bring to bear on those old racist attitudes? How many times did Catholics rail against civil rights changes such as interracial marriage (speaking on behalf of God)?
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
– Judge Leon M. Bazile 1958 (devout Roman Catholic)
It was an anxious time and yet exciting also. Does this quote shock you? Does it remind you of something we are facing in our generation? Once the light of Jesus shines in the darkness of our blindness we have a choice. Like the man born blind when Jesus opens our eyes it is now our task to witness to Jesus. There are many Catholics who claim to see, but are indeed still blind.
Marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman,
regardless of the decision of a judge or future electoral vote. Nature itself, not society, religion or
government, created marriage. Nature, the very essence of humanity as understood through historical
experience and reason, is the arbiter of marriage, and we uphold this truth for the sake of the common
good. The biological realities of male and female and the complementarity they each bring to marriage
uniquely allows for the procreation of children.
–Statement from Catholic Bishops Regarding U.S. Judge’s Decision Overturning Michigan’s Voter Approved Marriage Amendment
How is this recent message from the Bishops of Michigan any different than the message of Leon Bazile? John reminds us that the sin of those Jewish authorities was disbelief in Jesus. If you take away one thing from this homily is should be that Jesus fought all discrimination in the Gospels. I won’t bore you by citing any Bible verses. I am guessing you already know them.
Lent is a time for searching our hearts and self-examination. Let the light of Jesus shine into our darkness to heal our blindness. If you find yourself discriminating against another person for any reason it is time to meditate on the light of Jesus. Accept the message of Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring wisdom to your decisions. Repent for your discriminations and pray that the Joyous Easter celebration will see same-sex marriages performed in our Cathedrals. It is an anxious time and yet exciting.