[First, I know it has been nearly a month since I posted a homily. That’s because it has been a month since I have preached. First I was sick a weekend, then it was the weekend for our deacons to preach, then the pastor preached at all the Masses to kick off our capital campaign, and last weekend we started our parish mission, so that priest preached at all the Masses. Second, I know we are in Year B, however I have the Mass this weekend in which we are doing the 2nd Scrutiny, so we use the readings for Year A. Same thing next weekend.]
“In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Teacher 9, 83).
Isn’t that beautiful? I cannot take credit for it, it is by St. Clement of Alexandria. I ran across it this week as I was preparing my homily, and I just wanted to share it with you. “The whole world needs Jesus!” Isn’t that the truth. But why do we need Jesus?
We get some indication of why we need Jesus in the discussion between Him and His disciples at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, when the disciples ask Jesus why the man was born blind. The disciples, like most of the people of that time, thought that physical disabilities were the results of punishment for sins. What the disciples could not understand was whose sin caused the man to be born blind; his own, but how could he have sinned before he was born? Or was it due to his parents’ sin. Jesus corrects the disciples’ understanding by saying that the man’s blindness is not the punishment for some sin. Even after all the time they have spent with Jesus, living with Him day in and day out, the disciples still have not allowed it to sink in that our Heavenly Father loves us. He loves us as His own children.
However, that does not mean that sin has nothing to do with blindness, but it is more of a spiritual blindness that results from our sin, and not a physical blindness as a punishment for our sin. Sin is the choosing not to follow God’s will in our lives. In a sense it is a self chosen blindness to God’s presence in our lives, so as to follow our own will. We think that our vision is better that God’s vision. Of course we are wrong. Our vision is dim because our sight is finite. God’s vision sees all, not just the immediate and surface, because He is infinite. This is why St. Paul says to the Ephesians in today’s second reading that we “were once darkness….” We kept looking for happiness in all the wrong places, thinking that we ourselves or other people or material things could bring us happiness, the satisfaction of our deepest desires. Those are the “fruitless works of darkness” that St. Paul speaks about.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes clay and smears it on the eyes of the blind man. Why? Surely Jesus could have healed him with just a word. The clay is meant to remind us of how the Book of Genesis describes God as creating us out of clay and breathing the breath of life in us. By smearing the clay on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus is pointing out that we need to be re-created. And how are we re-created? Jesus tells the blind man to wash in the Pool of Siloam. This washing is a sign of baptism. In our baptism we are re-created as the children of God, the stain of sin which blinds us is wiped from us so that we can “live as children of light.”
Today we celebrate with our candidates the Second Scrutiny. These scrutinies are minor exorcisms, helping our candidates become free from the gripes of evil and darkness as they draw closer to Christ Jesus, the Light of the World. At the Easter Vigil, they will be re-created through baptism, being made children of the light. We must pray earnestly for them as they draw near to Easter.
Notice something else in the Gospel reading. After the blind man washed in the Pool of Siloam, and his sight was restored to him, he still had not seen Jesus. When people ask him how his sight was restored to him, he says that it was Jesus, but that he does not know where he is. Then in the midst of trial, the former blind man stands fast in his witness to Jesus being someone sent by God. For this witness, he is thrown out of the Temple. It is only then that he sees Jesus. Jesus comes up to him and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man, that Jesus is the Son of Man, and the man says yes and worships Jesus. It is one of the rare times in the gospels where Jesus allows Himself to be worshipped.
Baptism is just the beginning of the journey. All of our lives we are called to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives. We are called to reject the temptation to view the hardships in our lives as punishments from God, but rather to see them as being “so that the works of God might be made visible” through us. As disciples of Christ Jesus we are called to be witnesses of His Love and sovereignty over all of creation. This witness is likely to lead to rejection and persecution, yet if we persevere to the end, God will reward us with eternal life. We are called to allow God to lead us.
“We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Teacher 9, 83).