We find today that Saint John’s account of “The Man Born Blind” is practically immersed in reluctance, queries, doubts, misunderstanding, and accusation. The man’s own parents were hesitant and afraid to admit any association with Jesus, let alone recognize his authority and power; Jesus’ own disciples figured somebody had to have sinned to cause the blindness; and some of the Pharisees declared Jesus to be a sinner and a fraud. In the midst of all of this the man anointed and healed by Jesus simply and beautifully announces, “All I know is that I was blind and now I see.”
Saint John brilliantly contrasts the simple faith of the man born blind and who now sees the light, with the depth of darkness that so many around him had cast themselves into by their doubts, their need to be in control, and ultimately by their blinding fears. Ah yes—it’s the FEAR FACTOR!
Fear cripples. Anybody see “The Aviator” and how it portrayed Howard Hughes so fearful that he could not leave his room for a prolonged period of time? In the same story love finally steps in and gives him the courage to get beyond his fear, to leave his darkened room, and indeed to step into the light for the very defense of his own character and reputation.
The whole Eucharistic Celebration, our Mass, is the recalling and the enacting, once again, of what happened at the Last Supper and, in general, “The Passover of the Lord.” You would think that such a moment in salvation history would have been free of crippling fear—but then there is Judas acting in fear; we have the impending rejection of the Jesus’ by his apostles in his greatest hour of need; and, of course, Jesus’ own agony in the garden—praying that “this cup might pass me by.” Fears will always be part of our own life and death experiences. However, this is Laetare Sunday and, because we near the Great Feast of the Resurrection, The Church declares that we must REJOICE in the face of any fears—because the redemption from a life of fear and hopelessness is dispelled at the news of Jesus’ victory over sin and death itself.
Lent is meant to be a time for allowing the powerful and healing love of God to help us identify our own fears whatever they may be and to conquer them for the sake of removing any spiritual blindness—potentially the most injurious and damaging kind of blindness. From such blindness come greed, disregard, prejudice, abuse of power, and the like. As we journey through Lent, therefore, do we find that anything is eating at us or gnawing at our consciences? If so, I recommend that we check our fears—the culprit is likely to be hiding there. This is a fine Lenten challenge for sure. Why else would Paul write: “Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth… Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them… for everything that becomes visible is light” ? And then with Paul on Holy Saturday Night we will sing and proclaim in the lighting of the Paschal Candle: JESUS IS THE LIGHT THAT COMES TO DISPEL THE DARKNESS!