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. Current events around the world are demonstrating how powerful fear can be. Whole nations of people can be held captive by fear! Indeed, people can be rendered blind to reality for decades or even a generation. Getting beyond fear is the way to liberation and salvation—but sometimes, as we see, some may die for the sake of freedom. That, of course, is what Jesus did for all of us. He died that we might be free of the slavery of sin and live. When Jesus or anyone gives his or her life that others might be free, we are left stunned and humbled by the enormity of the gift.
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 perpetrator of our dysfunctional lives is likely to be lurking 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” ? Only children of The Light, freed from crippling fears, are thereby enabled to live discipleship in ministry and on mission with Jesus. Then, inspired by Paul’s words, on Holy Saturday Night we will sing and proclaim in the lighting of the Paschal Candle: JESUS IS THE LIGHT THAT COMES TO DISPEL OUR DARKNESS!