Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

Today, I drove by a hitchhiker in the road. I had a lot of good reasons not to pick him up. First of all, I'd be late for my appointment. Secondly, I feared for my safety. How could I be sure he wouldn't rob, beat or even kill me? I had a lot of good reasons to keep on driving.

Outside the New Bedford City Hall, a street person asked me for change. I had a lot of good reasons to not give him any. How did I know he wouldn't go spend it on booze and drugs? And, wouldn't I be enabling him to stay dependent on charity rather than lift himself out of poverty through hard work? So, I politely claimed to have no change and kept on walking.

Jesus had a lot of good reasons not to die for me. I am selfish, a liar and ungrateful. I've spent most of my life not paying attention to Him. He had a lot of good reasons to let the cup of suffering pass Him by. But, Jesus has never denied me when I needed Him. How can I now drive or walk past my neighbors when they need me?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Blind from Birth

I watched a Mass telecast from Italy last Sunday (March 2). The lector proclaimed the readings without looking down at the text. His eyes, filled with the light of joy, fixed on the assembly in an unbroken gaze. At first, I thought he had memorized the readings. But, when I noticed his fingers running over the page, I realized he was blind. What a powerful image to invite a blind person to lector on the Sunday we remember Jesus' healing of a blind man!

As I watched him read, I couldn't help but wonder what life must be like for someone born blind. All their life, they have to depend on others to pick their clothes for them and to help them along. Most of all, they have to believe that there is a world out there beyond the midnight of unending darkness that their life is. And so, trust must come naturally to the blind.

When Jesus approaches the blind man in today's gospel, it must have been very easy for the man to trust him. He had relied on other people his whole life. Now, he would put himself in Jesus' hands, allowing Jesus to cake his eyes with mud and obeying Him when He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This man had nothing to lose. And because he chose to trust, he gained everything - not only the ability to look out onto the world God created, but to see and believe in God made flesh in the person of Jesus.

In contrast, the religious leaders who see perfectly well and understand their religion perfectly well are the ones whose eyes are now covered over. They are scrambling to fit Jesus' miracle into their narrow categories. Unlike the blind man, they fear they have something to lose. They fear losing their standing with the people and their authority. They fear Rome will be displeased with Jesus' messianic claims and harshly surpress the people. Though they see perfectly well the miracles Jesus performs, their fear drives them into the darkness of denial and ignorance.

We all approach Jesus with a bit of faith and a bit of fear. We often see and believe. But, we just as often fear and flee. There are times when we rejoice in the gifts and insight Jesus so freely bestows on us. At other times, we are scared that by following Jesus we will lose something precious to us. There are times we choose to open our eyes, and there are times we choose to cover them over.

The blind have something to teach us about trust. They can teach us about what it's like to take another person's hand and allow them to lead us. They can teach us about believing that there's something out there beyond what we can see though we only hear whispers of it. They can teach us that we have less to lose than we fear and more to gain than we can ever imagine.