Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reflection for March 26, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Lent
1 SM 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A
PS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
EPH 5: 8-14
JN 8: 12
JN 9: 1-41 or JN 9: 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

The theme of darkness and light shows up a lot in these readings – God seeing the potential in young David, the Ephesians’ warning that living in view of God makes demands of your life. Today’s gospel, the story of the man born blind, has always left me feeling uneasy for a few reasons. Of course, it performs its message about blindness and sight by presenting the Pharisees as simply unable to see what is right in front of them: the recovery of sight by the man born blind. Multiple times they are looking for some explanation beyond the simple brute force that the man formerly could not see and now he could. Maybe something that makes me uneasy about the story is that I feel my own closeness to the Pharisees – I would probably also be thinking of alternative ways of explaining that which makes no sense to me. And woe to me (and perhaps a lot of us) who spend a lot of time in the echo chamber of people who think/look like me; I have built up such a confirmation bias of people who agree with me, and it can be hard to get out of that bubble.

On that front, the line from Jesus early in the story has always baffled me; when asked if the man himself had sinned or if his parents had sinned, Jesus (*mercifully*) breaks down that blame game, but he replaces it with something worse: this guy was born blind because God wanted to use him to show off the glory of God. Well and good to be useful to God, but did God plan (“why did this happen?”) for this guy to spend decades being blind just so Jesus could show people a sign? The Pharisees pick up on the same idea as the disciples, that this guy was born blind as a punishment, an excuse they invoke at the end of the story so they do not have to take him seriously.

Whatever the evangelist had in mind, all of us have worldviews to which we are attached, so we often fight against any new information that does not feel like it fits, like a Procrustean beg, stretching or chopping out voices that we want to emphasize or ignore. “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Obviously we cannot accept everything, and we continue to have to make leaps of faith to know what to believe, but believing that we come into any situation having fully understood it is a weakness, not a strength.

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