Reflection for Sunday – March 19, 2023
Readings: 1 Samuel 16: 1B, 6-7,10-13A; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9: 1-41
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz
The Gospel given to us today is very familiar—the healing of the man born blind. I approached this reading in the Ignatian manner of using my imagination and placing myself in the story. Perhaps you can appreciate my surprise when I found myself taking the role of a Pharisee. I was caught up short and all the familiar questions like, “Where am I blind to the presence of God”, or “How do I need to see more clearly” did not readily come to mind. Instead, this question: “Am I a Pharisee?”
The Pharisees in this account of the Gospel were wary of Jesus’ healing capabilities and of the veracity and integrity of the young man. They went so far as to question this man’s parents, asking if he were truly blind since birth. Maybe they thought he was in partnership with Jesus, trying to fool the crowds into believing in his healing powers. The argument that this healing had taken place on the Sabbath, and thus Jesus had “worked” on the religious day of rest must not have been strong enough for them. They needed more evidence that this whole “healing” event was unlawful and most likely not even true.
Back to the question of my own reflection: “Am I a Pharisee?” In the Gospel story, the man born blind received a totally gratuitous gift from Jesus—the gift of sight. Unlike other healing stories, he did not even ask. It reads as though this is meant to be a lesson for the disciples almost more than for the man himself. Are there times when I question or judge or deny the active hand of God in my life or in the life of another? Am I guilty of being a skeptic or worse, a judge, or someone who “knows better”?
I remember years ago when I was young and early in my training as a prayer guide with the 19th Annotation of St. Ignatius and someone new came to me for guidance. We sat down to talk for the first time and I asked her about her experiences of God and of prayer. This was the first time we were meeting one another. She spoke of such a lively experience of the presence of God in her work and in her prayer that my antenna went on high alert. She spoke of ways of seeing God that I had only heard about, not yet experienced. She was experiencing God through all her senses and trying to discern where God was in the midst of it all. I was very skeptical and could only respond by listening. I still remember driving home and praying for wisdom with all that I had received from her. The response in my prayer was that though her experiences were different from my own, they were still very real and very much of God! We went on to journey together for many years.
Even today, I can be quick to judge. This happens to all of us. Perhaps experience has taught us to be careful when dealing with a particular person or issue. We might not trust the motives of another. We might be slow to believe. We are living in a world where mistrust, animosity and judgment have become “go-to” positions when faced with someone who thinks, talks, looks different from ourselves. Responses go as far as shutting the other down or even resorting to violence. All these responses happened to Jesus as the Pharisees shut him down and eventually killed him.
When you are faced with a new point of view or a different perspective offered by another, what is your initial response? Do you respond carefully with reserve or skepticism? Or are you open and interested and engaged with the other, trying to see things from another side?
In the first reading from the book of Samuel, Samuel was challenged to look for a king in an unexpected youth. Though he seemed to have doubts, he pressed on, responding to the Divine urging. Because of his strong relationship with God, he was able to set aside his judgment and respond wholeheartedly. The Pharisees never were able to set aside their fears and doubts.
The response of the Pharisees was from a place of darkness. They listened only to themselves. It seems they were afraid of the light and freedom Jesus offered and so they killed him. I pray we all can move from a place of light and freedom out of the darkness that holds us bound. Our world is longing for us to respond to one another with trust and openness even when we doubt. I was able to do this as a prayer guide and it opened my eyes to the presence of God alive and active in our world in many different ways. This only happens when we are in touch with the God who loves all of us beyond our understanding.