March 22, 2020 –
The Fourth Sunday of Lent
“… the Lord looks into the heart.”
A tiny baby is completely dependent upon his parents for the gift of life and for sustaining that life. Yet we do not expect that baby to give thanks for what he or she receives. In general, the younger a person is, the more his needs are met by others, and the less grateful he tends to be. But as a child grows more independent and self-sufficient, we expect him to grow in gratitude.
Yet as odd as it might seem, the average adult is often tempted to return to the state of that little child who believes that he or she is completely self-sufficient and needs to give thanks to no one. This happens when one focuses on material things and loses sight of the spiritual life.
If we grow not only older but also wiser, we begin to recognize how little in our lives comes solely through our own efforts. In fact, the greatest maturity in life comes when we see that every talent and ability we possess is a gift from God that we no more deserve than the gifts a child receives at Christmas.
The prophet Samuel in the First Reading reminds us of this, that “God does not see as man sees, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” The Church chose this First Reading because “sight” is the theme that runs through all of the Sacred Liturgy today. More to the point, the theme is blindness: the lack of sight that derives from losing sight of God in one’s life.
In last Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Jesus drew an outcast into conversation. The world of Jesus’ time and place looked upon this sinful Samaritan woman as someone to be avoided. But Jesus saw in this outcast a heart which, though hardened, wanted to offer love to God. Jesus drew that love out of her heart.
During these middle weeks of Lent, the Gospel Reading comes from Saint John’s Gospel account. We ought to notice that in John, intermediaries (or “middlemen”) play an important role in hearing the Gospel, and consequently in people placing their faith in Jesus.
In John, it is not always Jesus Himself who inspires others to place their faith in Him. Certain persons throughout John—such as the Samaritan woman from last week’s Gospel Reading, the blind man in today’s, and Mary the sister of Lazarus in next week’s—who bring people closer to Jesus.
In today’s Gospel Reading from John, the man born blind is one of us. When Jesus approaches him, Jesus does not ask if he wants to be cured, and the blind man does not request that Jesus cure him. This dynamic is rare within the four Gospel accounts, so we ought to attend to it. Jesus simply walks right up to the blind man, and heals him with a completely unmerited and unrequested gift.
The gift itself, though, is not the chief point of the Gospel Reading. John’s point is seen when we look at the response of people to this miracle. Some are drawn to Jesus and begin to place their faith in Him because of the miracle He worked for the blind man.
However, others are Pharisees. The Pharisees, like the Samaritan woman, have hearts darkened and hardened by sin. But the Pharisees, unlike the Samaritan woman, refuse to open their hearts to the gifts God wants to place within their souls. The Pharisees are blind.
When God works a miracle in their midst, the response of the Pharisees is to condemn the miracle-worker. Through the course of this Gospel Reading, we see the man born blind become more courageous, though: even he begins to confront the blindness of the Pharisees.
Hopefully each of us is a messenger as the man born blind was: that is, an intermediary between God and other persons. God wants to bestow His graces in our lives every day. First we have to recognize how dependent we are upon God, and in how many ways we are blessed by Him.
Yet we must also be willing to tell others about God’s graciousness. Sometimes, speaking of our faith in God’s goodness will bring others to recognize God working in their own lives. Others, however, will only push God further from them, and may very well shun us, also. In fact, this cost of discipleship may leave us alone at times with no one other than our Lord.