The Blind Who See

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41

My Friends:

034You are probably familiar with the old saw that “there are none so blind as those who fail to see.”  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint John is an obvious case in point.  The whole lection turns on the irony that the man born blind sees and understands Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of Man” and the “light of the world,” while Jesus’ sighted opponents, “blind guides,” completely fail to grasp the obvious power and sanctity of this man of God.  Even if they were unwilling to go as far as the blind man in asserting that Jesus is indeed the “Messiah,” the “Christ” of God, they know that their own tradition is not lacking in “signs and wonders” performed by the many prophets of God.  And Jesus seems to anticipate his opponents’ willful ignorance because he goes to the trouble of mixing his saliva with mud and applying it to the blind man’s eyes. He could have simply commanded the restoration of his sight, as he does on other occasions in the Gospels, but, because the folk medicine of Jesus’ time invested saliva with medicinal qualities, he goes to the extra trouble of making the special poultice.  Then he orders the blind man to rinse his eyes in the pool of Siloam, the collecting pond for the waters of the holy city Jerusalem, originating in the “living waters” of the Gihon Spring and passing through the Temple precincts—all highly symbolic places of special holiness in Second-Temple Judaism.   And for those with “eyes to see” among St. John the Evangelist’s community of Jewish-Christians approximately seventy years later, the anticipation of the “illumination” that comes with Holy Baptism would have been obvious as well.  Jesus gives the blind man not just his physical sight; he gives him spiritual vision as well.  The “Christ” is the “light” by which we see light; the primordial light of the Creation that enters the cosmos even before the celestial bodies in the Genesis story of creation.  In a culture so steeped in Temple and Torah, the failure to understand the meaning and import of Jesus’ “signs and wonders” can only be described as obtuseness at best, and incorrigible ignorance at worst. Continue reading

The Unappeasable Desire

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else … It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.

All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.

— From The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

 

Tension of the Cross, Hope of the Resurrection

The disappointments of Holy Week and the bitterness of Easter Communion at St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church in Selma, AL] forced our eyes back to the inscription over the altar: HE IS NOT HERE. FOR HE IS RISEN. In a dreadful parody of their meaning, the words seemed to tell a grim truth that was not exhausted by their liturgical import.

This is the stuff of which our life is made. There are moments of great joy and moments of sorrow. Almost imperceptibly, some men grow in grace. Some men don’t. Christian hope, grounded in the reality of Easter, must never degenerate into optimism. For that is the road to despair. Yet it ought never to conclude that because its proper end is heaven, the church may dally at its work until the end is in sight. The thought of the church is fraught with tension because the life of the church is caught in tension. For the individual Christian and the far-flung congregation alike, that is part of the reality of the Cross.

— From an article by Jonathan Myrick Daniels (1939-1965)
Martyred for Civil Rights Demonstrating in Selma, Alabama