March 11, 2018: Fourth Sunday of Lent - Pastor’s Corner
The car dashboard lit up. My tire pressure was dangerously low and the thin piercing of alert rang in my ears. It was night. I was driving back to St. Dominic’s and my previous experience with blowouts had me scanning the dark horizon for an upcoming service station. Taking the first off-ramp I breathed a sigh of relief to see the outline of gasoline pumps. I quickly found the air/water station in the alley way of the mini mart, but to my dismay the giant light on the air machine was out. In the dark, reading my pressure gauge was impossible and the prospect of trying to fill up my tires in pitch blackness daunted. Pressing forward, I fumbled for quarters to feed the air machine and was relieved to discover that turning on the air also powered the light. Awash in newfound luminosity, I was able to inflate my tires and make my way home without further incident.
Traveling in darkness is daunting. In our Gospel this week, Jesus heals a man who had been blind from birth. Since this famous miracle contains much theological and homiletic treasure, there are many aspects of this story to consider. For example, consider the moment between the man’s encounter with Christ and his healing. When he first meets Christ, Jesus could have just touched his eyes and healed him. (He does this in other Gospel stories). But Jesus doesn’t. Instead, Christ uses his own spittle to make a miraculous mud pie which he applies to his eyes, and then sends him to wash in the nearby pool. We might ask: why did Jesus send him to wash in the pool? How far was the pool? What were the blind man’s thoughts as he journeyed from Jesus to the Siloam pool? What is the point of sending the blind man on one last dark journey before he was healed? Though the Gospel does not answer these questions directly, we see from the aftermath that it is the man’s faith in Jesus which is at the heart of his healing. Not only does the man make the journey to the pool of Siloam as an act of faith in Jesus’ power to enlighten his eyes, once he can see, the man testifies that Jesus has touched his heart. Though many judge him to be a sinner, his parents disown him under public scrutiny, and the Pharisees ban him from the synagogue, the blind man’s faith has opened his eyes and encouraged his heart to profess Jesus as the Messiah. In the Gospels though there are many examples of miracles and healing, there are only a few people who really recognize and discover who Jesus is. This man is one of the few. Through that last dark journey to the pool of Siloam, that final trip of blindness, Jesus’ instructions to “Go and wash” call the blind man to faith. From this dark moment of faith, his eyes are opened, and his heart ready to receive the light of Christ’s warmth and welcome.
As we come to the midpoint of these 40 Lenten days, we recognize that we often travel in darkness. In the midst of life’s challenges, we often fail to recognize how the light of our faith can guide us. Our daily burdens are often borne in shadow, without a clear sense of direction. We struggle with selfishness, we grieve over losses. We are weighed down with addictions and nurse old grudges. All of these things blind us to Christ who is our light. And yet Jesus does not simply come down, touch our eyes, and take away burdens and struggles. He sends us forth on a dark journey “Go and wash.” Like the blind man, we are sent that we might recognize that he is with us even in the darkness. Only when we are willing to travel in darkness, burdened by our crosses will our eyes be opened to his light. May we continue to travel together the daunting dark road of life’s journey knowing that it is Christ who will enlighten our minds and warm our hearts in the Easter fire.
- Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.