Fourth Sunday of Lent
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
April 3, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Lent
“I do believe Lord.” John 9:38
The Gospel of the Man Born Blind is such a beautiful account. The very tangible fact of the man moving from blindness to sight becomes a metaphor for the movement from the darkness of ignorance to the light of faith.
As we saw so vividly in last Sunday’s Gospel, faith is a reality. We often make faith a matter of words alone. This is not right. The Samaritan woman moves from simply meeting Jesus as a Jewish man at the well to believing in Him as the Messiah. All this happens in the context of a conversation which Jesus initiates. God initiates the faith. He captures her attention, as He does with the blind man in the Gospel, and there is a real movement to the reality of faith.
Notice in this marvelous episode that the blind man does not request healing. Jesus initiates the healing to make the point that He is “the light of the world” (John 9:5). No one can believe this happened, and when the healing is brought to the attention of the Pharisees, it leads to an interrogation which concludes with the man being expelled from the synagogue. In spite of this suffering of being ostracized, the man knows that God has done a marvelous thing for him. He doesn’t care what the officials say. He was blind and now he can see.
I love the conversation that takes place between Jesus and the man at the end of the story. Jesus asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35). The man answers, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (John 9:36). Have you not had such an experience in your Christian life? God makes something known to you by an unusual occurrence that seizes your attention. For the Samaritan woman at the well it was revealing to her that He knew about her five husbands. For the man born blind, He has given him power to see. “Do you believe?” He asks. It is the same question He asks to so many others in the Gospel, Martha and Mary, for example, or the disciples. He asks it to us, and when He does, we sometimes still have trouble seeing completely.
In asking “Who is he?” the man is acknowledging the gift of faith. He is close—very, very close. He is entering into the reality or already crossing the threshold of it. The answer lies before him. Jesus says, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he” (John 9:37). And then, we stop making excuses. We stop missing Mass. We repent of our sins. We are on the verge of a major change, and we say with the man born blind, “I do believe, Lord,” (John 9:38), and we fall down and worship.
I would point out that there is one quality that the blind man possessed that made it possible for this profession of faith to take place—he was fearless. He had courage. He, who had not asked to be cured, stood his ground before synagogue officials. His parents even placed the burden of proof on him because they were afraid of the authorities (John 9:22). Everyone seems to be afraid, but not this man.
Fear can destroy the life of faith. It can keep us from entering more deeply into the life of faith. It reminds me of the story told of Graham Greene, the great English novelist. He attended a Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. He was deeply moved by the experience, but when asked if he wished to meet Padre Pio after the Mass, Greene declined the invitation. He explained, “I don’t want to change my life by meeting a saint.” C. S. Lewis once commented: “I am not sure, after all, whether one of the causes of our weak faith is not a secret wish that our faith should not be very strong. Is there some reservation in our mind? Some fear of what it might be like if our religion became quite real? I hope not. God help us all, and forgive us.”
Faith is like that. It requires that we take the next step, that we acknowledge our belief and fall down and worship. Like the man in the Gospel, once that step is made, we cannot stop. The next move is inevitable, and only fear can stop it. What is that “fear of what it might be like if our religion became quite real?” What if we were given sight and closed our eyes?