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March 26, 2017
Homily of the Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu
Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A – [Holy Rosary Parish, Pahala; Sacred Heart Parish, Naalehu]
A few weeks ago the brother of my best friend was killed in a motorcycle accident. As he pulled out of a driveway, a car hit him, and the driver said, “I didn’t see him pulling out.” We know that such a thing could happen to any of us, because for an instant we can become distracted, or someone may carelessly enter our path, perhaps because that person did not see us. After some tragedy strikes, like a suicide, we often say, “I did not see that coming.” Or we begin to see clues of distress to which we were blind before the tragedy. It is for our welfare that it is best to go through life with eyes wide open so that we can see clearly.
Jesus, of course, wants to give sight to the blind. But the first step in coming to Jesus for healing is to recognize that we are blind. And, in fact, we can often be blind to sin. Adam and Eve, for example, were warned that if they ate the fruit of a certain tree they would die. But the serpent temporarily blinded them into thinking it was not so. That blindness led to a condition in which we are all blind, subject to the effects of that original sin. But Jesus came to open our eyes to restore us to eternal life and to the state in which God made us, seeing that we are indeed “very good.”
Isn’t this how sin always lures us, by making us blind to the truth? What adulterous relation begins with the desire to break up one’s own marriage and family? Yet the thrill of attraction to another person can blind one to the consequences of this sin. What word of gossip begins by a conscious desire to ruin the reputation of another person? We engage in it because it somehow lets others know that we are “in the know.” Later, once our eyes are open, we may be horrified to know how deeply our gossip has hurt another person. We can either be chronically or temporarily blind to things that will hurt us and our neighbor. And Jesus wants to heal such blindness.
We can also be blind to good things, as the Pharisees in this gospel seem to have been. They witness the healing of a man born blind, yet they are blind to the divine power present among them that made that happen. They were told the truth of the matter, but they were so focused on the fact that Jesus cured on a sabbath, thus breaking what they considered the law, that they could not see that before them was the Lord of the sabbath, or that the whole purpose of the sabbath is to set us free from the everyday work world so that we can see more clearly the hand of God in everything we do.
It is interesting, however, how Jesus heals the blind man. He makes a paste with mud and saliva and tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, which means “Sent.” This is a bit disgusting when you think about it, to put spittle and mud in someone’s eyes. Yet that is how Jesus effected his healing. He attempted to do the same with the Pharisees, putting mud in their eyes by telling them something they did not want to hear, that they who thought they could see so clearly were actually blind to the ways of God. So Jesus, in both cases, does something that is not really very “nice” so that ultimately he can do something that is very good.
So it is that the Body of the Risen Christ, the Church, is not afraid to put mud in our eyes during this season of Lent. It begins the season by smearing us with the ashes of dead palms, calling us to repentance. It reminds us that it is good to put our own dirt right before our eyes, to scrutinize ourselves deeply, so that, seeing the dirt of our sins, we can have it washed away in the merciful tide of the Lord’s blood, shed for us on the cross. It challenges us to open our eyes more widely to the plight of the poor and oppressed, so that we can be sent to them to wash them with good news. The Church deliberately rubs dirt on us, so that we can see clearly that we are but dust and ashes in ourselves, but that the grace, mercy, and love of God shown to us in Christ, are all we need to be radiant and beautiful. Even for our elect, the catechumens who will be fully initiated at the Easter Vigil, the Church today celebrates the Second Scrutiny, inviting them to allow the Lord to put right before their eyes the mud and muck of their sins, so that he can then wash them away in the waters that will send them on a mission to share the good news with others.
We are all blind, whether we see it or not, and the Lord wants us to recognize our own individual and our collective blindness, so that he can open our eyes to see the Light of the World who stands right before us, who speaks to us, and who longs to give us a Beatific Vision, in which we see forever the one who is Beauty, Truth, and Love.