17 March 2023

To see the world with the eyes of Jesus as He saw the man born blind. Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A


Blind Pensioner with a Stick
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 9:1-41 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

[For the shorter form (9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38) omit the text in brackets.]

 As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. [ And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”] Having said these things,] he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” [So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”]

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

[The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” ] They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”, and he worshipped him. Jesus said, “For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see’, your guilt remains."

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”, and he worshipped him

The blind man met Jesus, heard him and believed.

Our Christian faith is a gift that can be lost by an individual and by a whole community. The Church flourished in North Africa and in the Middle East before Islam came into being but the vast majority lost the gift of our faith. In our own lifetime the faith has been rapidly disappearing from places such as Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Quebec. Sixty years ago these places were still sending missionaries to every part of the world and their seminaries were full. Now most of those seminaries have been closed. Just over 100 years ago CICM brothers and priests (Scheut Missionaries, Missionhurst) and ICM Sisters went to the mountains of northern Luzon in the Philippines from a part of Europe that is as flat as a billiard table, most of Belgium and the Netherlands. In February 2014 Belgium made it legal for sick children to be killed, to be put down like sick animals. There was little international reaction to this, though there was to the putting down of a healthy giraffe in a zoo in Denmark a few days earlier.

There still are people in these places and others like them who are living the Christian life faithfully, often heroically. Martyrs such as Fr Ragheed Ganni of Iraq and politician Shahbaz Bhatti of Pakistan are outstanding examples. Another is the late Professor Jérôme Lejeune, doctor and researcher, who in 1958 discovered the cause of Down Syndrome (trisomy 21).

In so many places in the gospel we find Jesus going out to those considered unimportant such as the blind man in today's gospel. In what is now largely a post-Christian Western world the opposite is happening. Children in the womb who are considered 'defective' in one way or another are aborted. Because of pre-natal testing the number of children being born with Down Syndrome has gone down considerably - because they have been killed in the womb. (See here.)

At the recent Oscar awards ceremony a short movie from Northern Ireland, An Irish Goodbye, won an Oscar. Its star, James Martin was celebrating his 31st birthday the same day. He is the first person with Down Syndrome to share in an Oscar award.

Dr Lejeune cared passionately for the lives of persons with Down Syndrome and feared that society would see them as worthless, not worthy of being born. He saidThe real danger is in mankind; in the increasingly worrisome imbalance between its power, which grows daily, and its wisdom, which sometimes seems to regress.

Some of the people around the blind man in today's were the ones who were truly blind, who could not see what was truly real. They could not see God's love for the man born blind. They saw the blind man as being punished for his sins and Jesus as a sinner for breaking the sabbath laws. Jesus overturned their very narrow world.

The video below invites us to overturn our own world, as the Gospel invites us to do, and to see it as Jérôme Lejeune did, with the eyes of Jesus as He saw the man born blind. And may we always treasure the gift of our Christian faith that gives us that sight.

Solemnity of St Joseph

This year the Solemnity of St Joseph is moved to Monday 20 March. The Sundays of Lent take precedence over solemnities.

Hymn to St Joseph
Produced by Fundación Canto Católico, Santiago, Chile

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-19-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 4:22-31Gospel: John 6:1-15.

Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Lambert Lombard [Web Gallery of Art]

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted (John 6:11; Gospel).

1 comment:

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
A very informative post and especially in regard to Jérôme Lejeune! Did pass that on to a dear friend who has a down syndrome son. We all love him dearly!
It makes your heart cringe that they just euthanize them...
May Saint Joseph guide families at present time.