Fr. Bryan Howard
4th Sunday of Lent – Year A – 22 March 2020
I went to minor seminary at St. Joseph Seminary College, usually better known as St. Ben’s, which is at the Benedictine Abbey in Covington on the North Shore. The Abbey has about 1,200 acres of woods and fields behind and around it. The grounds really are beautiful. One day during my first year there I had a class that let out at 3 o’clock and didn’t have anything I needed to do until Evening Prayer at 5:30, so I decided to take a walk though the woods. Now, there’s a main trail that runs through the middle of the property from the Abbey to Camp Abbey on the other side, and then there are lots of smaller trails, too. After about 45 to an hour I decided to head back in, but I couldn’t find the main trail, and that’s when I realized that I was lost. I was eventually able to find my way back to the main trail and barely made it to evening prayer on time, but I told that story because of the moment I realized that I was lost. I bet most people have had moments like that, whether you were lost in the woods, or in a mall, or in the city, and the moment you realize it is an intense moment. We’re all lost, or, as our Lord said, blind, but we don’t always realize it, but Jesus came to give sight to the blind.
In the story the man born blind stands for us. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in a state of grace. From the moment God made them they were filled with God’s grace and lived in friendship with God. In original sin they rejected God’s place in their lives. Satan told them that if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil then they would become like God. Their sin wasn’t eating an apple or something; it was the sin of pride. They wanted to take God’s place in their own lives. Then, having rejected God’s friendship, what we call sanctifying grace, they were cast from the garden, symbolizing the loss of that friendship with God. What they lost in original sin, they couldn’t pass down to us, their descendants, and so we are born outside of grace. We are born blind, not because of anything we’ve done, but because our first parents rejected God’s grace. When our parents take us to the Church to be baptized they are saying that they are accepted God’s offer of love on our behalf. God made that offer of love on the Cross when Jesus Christ came to undo, by His obedience, Adam’s act of disobedience.
The healing of the man born blind symbolizes the grace of God and especially the gift of faith. In baptism and the other sacraments we receive sanctifying grace to make us holy, to make us like Christ. It’s a gift of love, free and undeserved, because God wants to share His love with us and show us how to love one another in a Christ-like way.
After the man is healed, the pharisees come to question him, because they want to use this healing against Jesus. Jesus healed him on a Sabbath day, and it’s against God’s law to do any work on the Sabbath. This story is in the 9thchapter of John’s Gospel. In chapter 5 John tells a very similar story. Once again Jesus is in Jerusalem on a Sabbath, and once again he heals someone, this time a crippled man, and again the pharisees question the man so they can use this against Jesus. That man didn’t know who Jesus was, but latter on Jesus found him again and told him, “Look, you are well. Do not sin anymore,” but the man went immediately and told the Pharisees that it was Jesus and it says, “The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because He did this on a Sabbath.” The man born blind, however, stands up for Jesus, and when Jesus comes back to talk to him again He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.”
Jesus has opened our eyes and made us see. He’s given us faith to believe in Him. He’s given us the Holy Spirit to guide us to our final destination. What good is sight if we walk around with our eyes closed, what good are directions if we don’t follow them, and what good is faith if we don’t live it? In our second reading we heard what St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.”
The Lord has told us how to reach our destination in the Holy Bible, He’s given us food to strengthen us for the journey in the Most Holy Eucharist, and He’s given us the whole community of the Church to travel with. Now we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and persevere in running the race.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.