With no public Masses available in-person, the editor wanted to provide a Sunday homily for readers. So he reached into the branches of his family tree. The bossy editor assigned his compliant priest brother to provide insight into this week’s Scripture. Msgr. Thomas J. Owens is a retired priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He is in residence at St. Matthew parish in Conshohocken, Pa. His younger brother, Joseph P. Owens, is editor of The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington. For the first time in decades, when younger brother told the older what to do, big brother obliged. So here it is:
Fourth Sunday of Lent A
I Samuel 16:6-13 Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1 – 41
However long ago when we were baptized, the priest (or deacon) presented our family with a lit candle and said something akin to the words of today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “Live as children of light for light produces every kind of goodness … Take no part in fruitless works of darkness”.
In the gospel today Jesus approaches a man born blind. Because of his affliction this poor man lives in darkness. Jesus approaches him certainly because he has compassion on this man’s circumstances. Blindness has reduced him to a beggar’s life. It is, however, also certainly the case that Jesus did not come into this world to eradicate the diseases that cause blindness. So why this man?
As in many of the miracle stories in John’s Gospel, the healing action of Jesus operates on two levels; first, the healing of the blind man from his affliction and, secondly, on a deeper heartfelt level, a spiritual healing that allows us to expose our deeds of darkness to the light of faith. In doing so we begin to look upon the world as Christ sees it. As God reminds Samuel in the first reading, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”.
It is the task of a homily to draw a connection between the gospel proclaimed in the Sunday liturgy and the events of daily life. The enormity of the coronavirus infection has visited upon us, and in nations around the world, numerous restrictive measures including forbidding gatherings of ten or more people. Nonessential businesses, restaurants, sporting events and many other activities – even public Masses – are to be discontinued. Some traffic in “deeds of darkness” by hoarding or price gauging. The darkness can take the form of inordinate fear. Quarantine while necessary can foster a debilitating loneliness.
When Jesus wets the clay and applies it to eyes of the blind man, he sends him to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam and when he does his sight is restored. Isn’t this a metaphor for the waters of baptism. Time and again Jesus heals our spiritual blindness and enables us to look at our world in crisis with the eyes of faith, as God sees it. St. Paul sounds an optimistic chord, “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth”. There is “every kind of goodness” to be seen in this dark cloud. Nations are sharing crucial information one with another. Men and women, first responders, doctors, nurses and medical technicians put themselves in harm’s way to save lives. And most of us are living responsibly observing the best practices to minimize the progress of this contagion.
Jesus sought out the newly sighted man who had fallen afoul of the Pharisees and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I might believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” (The man) said, “I do believe, Lord”, and he worshipped him. In trying times we are called to have faith in Christ and in the goodness of one another.