March 31, 2019: Fourth Sunday of Lent - Pastor’s Corner
Rejoice! Today is Laetare Sunday. The Latin word Laetare means ‘rejoice’ and its origin is rooted in the Introit (opening chant) for the 4th Sunday of Lent – Laetare Jerusalem: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.” Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent and the rose-colored vestments used at Mass give us a glimpse at the light of the end of the 40-day tunnel of penance. Lent is a journey that is marked with the struggle of penance and self-knowledge, but it ought not be simply a somber sludge. Even as we journey, we care called to rejoice in the reality of the promise of Easter. Our journey is half complete. Rejoice: new life is in the offing!
But in order to rejoice, we must be able to see with the eyes of faith. This spiritual sight is at the heart of the Gospel this week, in which 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 there are many examples of miracles and healing, but there are corresponding fewer moments and 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 rejoices. Once he can see, he can rejoice!
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. Only when we make this journey will we be able to rejoice in the new life of Easter.