Lent 4 A - Blindness

Quoted From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

Watson had missed the most obvious:

Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who had solved many mysteries, and Dr. Watson, his companion, went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars". Sherlock Holmes then said, "Well Watson, what does that tell you"? Watson pondered for a minute and then replied, "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Chronologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you"? Sherlock Holmes responded, "Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent". Watson had missed the most obvious. He was clever enough to notice the complexities of the stars but he missed what was plain and simple.  Today’s Gospel reading is about a whole lot of people who miss the point. In Jesus’ healing of a blind man, the Pharisees missed the most evident point that it was a real miracle by divine intervention. (Rev. Gehardy).

 Blinded by prejudice:

In the late 1700s the manager of a large hotel in Baltimore refused lodging to a man dressed like a farmer. He turned the farmer away because he thought this fellow’s shabby appearance would discredit the reputation of his distinguished hotel. The farmer picked up his bag and left without saying a further word to anyone. Later that evening, the innkeeper discovered that he had turned away none other than the Vice President of the United States - Thomas Jefferson! Immediately, the manager sent a note of apology to the famed patriot, asking him to come back and be his guest in the hotel. Jefferson replied by instructing the messenger as follows, “Tell him I have already reserved a room. I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no room for a common American farmer, then he has no room for the vice-president of the United States of America.” [Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seeds; quoted from Fr. Botelho.] 

“Lead kindly Light":

John Henry Cardinal Newman was a professor at the Oxford University. When he was an Anglican priest, along with the other scholars, he started the Oxford movement. When he was thirty-two years old, his health was bad and he took a break from his writings and went to Europe to recuperate. But unfortunately, he contacted a deadly fever. He wanted to return to England, but no transportation was available. As he waited, his life became lonely and tedious; he was experiencing great physical and emotional despair. It is then that he penned a beautiful hymn asking God for light: “Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on: Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene-one step enough for me.” In his confusion and distress, Newman prayed to the God of Light to lead him from darkness to light, from confusion to certainty, and from sickness to health. God heard his prayer and led him home safely. In 1845, he was converted to the Roman Catholic faith. [John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted from Fr. Botelho.] 


The captain of the Titanic refused to believe the ship was in trouble till water was ankle deep in the mail room. Only then was it apparent the multi-layered hull had been pierced and the unsinkable ship was going to sink. Ships that could have arrived before the great ocean liner went down weren't summoned until it was too late. 

Leadership, Vol. X, No.3, Summer, 1989, p. 27.

A man had just sat down at his desk to begin the working day when one of his associates came storming into his office. "You won't believe this," he said. "I was just almost killed outside. I had just walked out of the deli where I buy my egg sandwich every morning. Suddenly a police car came down the street with its lights flashing and sirens blaring. The police were chasing another car. The other car stopped right in front of me. The guys jumped out and began shooting at the police. I hit the ground and could hear bullets buzzing over my head. I'm telling you, I'm lucky to be alive." After a moment of silence the first man said: "You eat an egg sandwich every morning?"

The point of the story, and believe it or not there is one, is that we can become so involved in our own narrow interests that we miss the obvious. This Sunday’s Gospel illustrates the destructiveness of such narrowness. Jesus had just healed a blind man, "to let God's work shine forth." But by doing this he threatened the comfortable ordered life of the Jewish leaders. (Fr. Joseph Pellegrino)
Recently, I ran across a "fascinating list" that carried this intriguing title: "Great Truths About Life That Little Children Have Learned." Let me share a few of these "great truths" with you.

1. " No matter how hard you try you cannot baptize a cat."
2. "When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair."
3. "Never ask your 3-year-old brother to hold a tomato... or an egg."
4. "You can't trust dogs to watch your food for you."
5. "Don't sneeze when somebody is cutting your hair."
6. "School lunches stick to the wall."
7. "You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk."
8. "Never wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts... no matter how cute the underwear is."

Now, it is virtually certain that the children learned these "great truths" and came to these bold new insights after some dramatic eye-opening experience in their own personal lives. Can't you just see in your mind's eye...some children trying to baptize a cat...and learning full well from that experience that this is just not a good thing to do. The point is clear: A dramatic personal eye-opening experience can give us new insight, new perception, new vision.

On a much deeper level and on a much more positive level, that's precisely what we discover in this amazing story in John 9. A man blind from birth has a dramatic eye-opening experience with Jesus... and talk about new vision, talk about new insight... he is completely and totally healed. He is made whole and he comes back from the pool of Siloam with 20/20 vision,... able to see perfectly for the first time in his life. His transformation is so complete and so dramatic that he even looks a little different. The townspeople see him and say: "Hey, isn't that the blind beggar? He can see now. Is that him? No, it's just someone who looks like him. Couldn't be him," And the formerly blind man says: "It's me alright. I am the man."

Remember the story with me...

 Kids know mud is good. Whether squished between the toes, splashed up from a big puddle, or patted into inedible but indelible "pies," mud attracts little children as quickly as cupcakes and puppies.

 For all of us, after the frozen frostiness of this past Winter, who isn't looking forward to the Spring softening of hard, unyielding ground. There is something elemental, even primeval about mud. We instinctively recognize that moist, mushy earth is a sign of fruitfulness, fulfillment, and fun.

 But if you don't have melting snow or spring rains to make solid ground into malleable mud, then you have to get water from some other source. In this week's gospel text, John's detailed re-telling of Jesus healing of a man who had been "born blind," that water source comes from saliva.

Jesus spits on the ground and "made mud with the salvia," an action that would delight all children, but was an absolute symbol of uncleanness and pollution to the reigning religious authorities. Blood, sweat, spit, all those "icky" human fluids were considered not just to be unattractive. They were deemed absolutely abhorrent and ritually unclean. Spittle was considered to be a pollutant, and even today, to spit upon someone is the ultimate sign of contempt.

 But when Jesus encountered the man who was "born blind," an individual who had been "blind from birth," someone who had never received the gift of sight, he responds by spitting. We cannot know for sure whether this man had nothing in his eye sockets, just a cavernous hole, or whether his eyes were born deformed and defective. The fact that Jesus' action recreated the first act of creation, where God creates materiality out of mud, suggests the former, but it is only speculation.

 What isn't speculation is that "in the beginning" God created the cosmos and the earth. Upon the earth the first priority was water in order for life to emerge. It was only after a stream of water rose up from the within the ground and watered "the whole face of the earth" (Genesis 2:6) that God gathered together the moistened dirt and "formed Adam" from the clay. The first "mud pie," made from the creative touch of the divine on clay, that simple combination of dirt and water, resulted in nothing less than the first human being.  

Jesus' action has been variously and diversely interpreted... 


 Christ-like Sight 

Anybody here have selective hearing or seeing? Sure, we all do. Every second, our brain is bombarded with sensory data from all five senses. You just sat down, but already your brain has probably stopped consciously focusing on the feel of the seat. You're probably not thinking about the temperature of the room, although you probably did at one point this morning. There are all kinds of sounds that you're not focusing on right now - the faint hum of lights, somebody shifting beside you. Our brains would go crazy if they had to process every piece of data that our bodies sensed.

We think we're seeing everything, but we're all being selective all the time. Today, you've probably noticed who's not here, who's sitting in a different spot, who's sitting with whom. You may have wondered what it means that so-and-so is sitting with that person. Years ago, before I dated my wife, I brought a date to a function that my wife also attended. She could tell you exactly what my date was wearing. I don't have a clue. I never did, not even that night. It's the same with cars. You get interested in a car, and all of a sudden you notice them everywhere. They were there before, but you never noticed them.

The part of the brain that filters all this information is called the Reticular Activating System. It's continually at work, even though we never think about it. Today's story is about our spiritual Reticular Activating System. The goal for all of us, if we're followers of Jesus Christ, is to see the same things that he sees. We want to notice what's important to him.

Darryl Dash, Spiritual Eyesight


Distract the Christians!

All too often we miss what God is doing because we are either too busy doing something else or we have a better idea of what God would do. Someone sent me the following in an email this week:

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,

"We can't keep the Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't gain that experience in Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do, angels. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!"

"How shall we do this?" shouted his angels. "Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds, "he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade them to work for long hours, to work 6 - 7 days a week, 10 - 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work."

"Over stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. To keep the TV, iPads, CDs and their computers going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ."

"Fill the coffee table with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards.

Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogues, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services, and false hopes."

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and unprepared for the coming week.

Don't let them go out in nature to reflect on God's wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead."

And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion."

"Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause."

It was quite a convention in the end. And the evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.

Has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the JUDGE.

Ray Osborne, Here's Mud in Your Eye!


I Once Was Blind

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I'm found;
Was blind, but now I see.

This plaintive spiritual song is a favorite among the elderly and nursing home residents at chapel time, those for whom physical eyesight is waning and for whom spiritual sight is increasingly significant.

Actually it was written by John Newton, who was part of the revival of the Church of England in the late eighteenth century. He was a self-educated man, who had gone to sea and at one time had been the captain of a ship in the African slave trade. After his conversion, he became an ordained minister of the Church of England, finally serving as rector of a church in London. It could well be that this personal testimony referred to his time of blindness to the awful exploitation and forced transport of the wretched slaves. He was indeed a spiritual wretch, just as the slaves were physical wretches in the stinking hold of his ship. Through an amazing grace his eyes were opened and he could see clearly God's will for his life, and it was not to haul slaves.

David Belgum, A Clearer Vision, "Seeing the Unseeing," CSS Publishing Company.


Another Perspective

There is a story of a beggar who was sitting across the street from an artist's studio. The artist saw him and thought he would make an interesting portrait study so from a distance he painted the defeated man whose shoulders drooped, and whose eyes were downcast and sad. When he was finished, he took the portrait over to the beggar so he could look at it.

"Who is that?" the beggar questioned. The painting bore a slight resemblance to himself, but in the painting before him he saw a person of dignity, with squared shoulders and bright uplifted eyes, almost handsome! He asked the artist, "Is that me? I don't look like that." But the artist replied, "but that is the person I see in you."

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.comAdapted from New Vision in Christ, by Rev. Michael J. Fish


What God Sees

In the midst of our Lenten journey, God doesn't see us as everyone else sees us. People around us may see us as cool, successful, unattractive, popular, old, whatever. It doesn't matter at all how others may see us. God sees our hearts, sees us as we really are. Perhaps we wish we had him fooled, like those we've led to believe that we're less frightened, more confident, happier than we really are. Or perhaps we're deeply grateful that God sees through all the shallow, negative judgments which so many people have placed on us. Probably it's both.

Our Lord, to our joy and to our sorrow, looks into our hearts and sees us as we really are. In Lent, that's a call for introspection: to confess that we have not loved our Lord with our whole hearts, nor loved our neighbors as ourselves.

In Lent, it's especially important that we confess our sinfulness as specifically as we're able. In what ways have we failed God and ourselves? Because we can't hide from God, we dare not use all our usual ways to avoid our sinfulness. We're used to denying our sins, minimizing them, excusing them, blaming them on others. This Lent, let's examine ourselves, asking God to search our hearts. We benefit from naming our sins, our needs, and losses, and failings. And we admit to God that only by his grace and guidance can we find healing and help.

G. Edward Whetstone, Caught in the Acts, CSS Publishing


How Do You Know It's A Bad Thing?

There is an ancient Chinese legend of an old man and his only son. One night the old man's horse escaped, and the neighbors came to comfort him in his loss. "How do you know this is a bad thing?" he asked them.

Several days later his horse returned with a herd of wild horses. Now his friends came to congratulate the farmer for his good fortune. But the old man said, "How do you know this is a good thing?"

While his son was trying taming one of the wild horses, he is thrown and breaks his leg. Again his friends gathered to bemoan his new misfortune. But the old man asked, "How do you know this is a bad thing?"

Soon a warlord came to recruit able-bodied youth for his army, and the farmer's son escaped conscription because of his broken leg. In true fashion, the farmer's neighbors came and expressed their pleasure over the man's good luck. "How do you know it's a good thing?" he asked. The story can go on forever. Good fortune can quickly turn on you and bad fortune may be a blessing in disguise.

Brett Blair,


What a Happy Soul

The prolific Christian hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, lost her sight as a young child. But it is obvious through her hymns that she was a person who could see wonderfully with the spiritual eyes of her heart. We see a touch of her insight in the following poem:

"Oh, what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world, content I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't,
To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot and I won't."


The Creation of Braille

It was 1818 in France, and Louis, a boy of 9, was sitting in his father's workshop. The father was a harness-maker and the boy loved to watch his father work the leather. "Someday Father," said Louis, "I want to be a harness-maker, just like you." "Why not start now?" said the father. He took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. "Now, my son," he said, "take the hole-puncher and a hammer and follow this design, but be careful that you don't hit your hand." Excited, the boy began to work, but when he hit the hole-puncher, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He lost the sight of that eye immediately. Later, sight in the other eye failed. Louis was now totally blind.

A few years later, Louis was sitting in the family garden when a friend handed him a pinecone. As he ran his sensitive fingers over the cone, an idea came to him. He became enthusiastic and began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that the blind could feel and interpret what was written. Thus, Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind--all because of an accident.