Reflection for Sunday – March 26, 2017

Readings: 1 Samuel 16: 1B, 6-7, 10-13A; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41
Preacher: Father Paul English

Today we see, in both First Samuel and in the Gospel of John, the power of light. John presents it in a most clever way: through the experience of blindness and the ability to see. Darkness and light.Typical of Jesus, he puts a special spin on darkness and light, on blindness and the ability to see. Things are not what they seem.

Jesse, the proud father in our first reading, has seven sons but shows Samuel only the eldest six. It only makes sense that one of them would be leadership material, would have what it takes to be powerful, even brutal if need be, in order to guide a whole nation. God has none of these in mind. Instead, there’s this little guy, out wasting time among the sheep “in the back 40” but he’s nothing, just a little kid, as anyone can see!

What our minds allow us to see and what God sees can be two different things. God sees into the heart. We have a hard time recognizing basic skills, much less the deepest movings of a person’s soul.

God tells Samuel to anoint young David, and “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon” him. We don’t see what God sees, and therefore we miss a lot of good things.

When we meet the man blind from birth, given the Semitic culture and attitude toward people with disabilities, we’re sure this is going to be a difficult, sad story. He’ll be a beggar—best job possible for a blind person. His family will love him, but have no way to help him. He’s like someone living in a dark tunnel with no chance of seeing anything surrounding him.

In contrast, view the Pharisees, whose life’s goal and pride is to keep all 630 Jewish laws and customs without ever breaking them. Their self-discipline is amazing and their reputation for goodness, blessing, uprightness is unmatched.

Enter Jesus who, in a few moments, upsets what everybody thinks they know about health and disability, about darkness and light, about sight and blindness— even his own followers. They think the man was born blind as a punishment, implicitly understanding that God is first and foremost all about retribution, passing the evil of one generation down to the next.

If that is someone’s concept of God, no wonder we have people killing people in God’s name, folks hating others and still calling themselves believers. No wonder we have members of our society exacting vengeance, calling each other hateful things, allowing people they dislike to fall into deep poverty without even thinking of lending a hand. “If God treats people that way, it only makes sense for us to do the same.”

What an opportunity then for Jesus to show us all a different way of thinking, of being!

Restoring the sight of this poor guy and thus restoring him to a normal life in society—on the official day when no work was allowed in Israel—is problematic for the Pharisees because “working” on that day is against the rules. Never mind that he completely re-starts this man’s whole life! The rules are more important than a person’s very life to the Pharisees.

Jesus sees this as blindness, more damaging than that of a person whose eyes don’t work. The Pharisees refuse to see the dignity and potential of another human being. Jesus sees what God sees in all his children, because Jesus is God. He sees in you and me immense dignity and amazing potential for good. When God brings about these amazing changes in our lives, there will always be people who would have profited from our not being the good people we were made to be. Our living in darkness benefits them somehow. So instead of rejoicing in the new lease on life for a fellow human being, they only see a problem, the questioning of the concept they think gives them their identity, their importance.

Jesus came to our world to enable us to see through the fake news about what we’re really like and what self-serving people would have us believe about ourselves. He came to show us, by his own love and compassion, what God is really about, again not what liars and fools would have us believe about God.

In the days and weeks ahead, let us look to Christ our Light, who cuts through the deepest darkness and empowers us to act powerfully as believers in his light.

Fr. Paul English, CSB

Fr. Paul English, CSB

Paul F. English, CSB ismember of the Congregation of Saint Basil (Basilian Fathers).A native of Syracuse and one of seven children, he came to Rochester in 1974 as a freshman at St. John Fisher College, where he majored in Spanish.Along the way his interests included various forms of physical activity, involvement in music in both performance and worship, and in the activities of Campus Ministry.He grew close to members of the Basilians who served at the College and decided to pursue a Basilian vocation upon graduating.In his life as a Basilian, Paul has lived and served in various parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico.He is fluent in both English and Spanish, and spent many years in Hispanic Ministry in Michigan and Texas.He served eight years on the Basilian General Council, the leadership team of the community and in 2012 became pastor the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit.
Fr. Paul English, CSB

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