Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thirsty and Blind

4th Sunday Lent - Yr A/Scrutinies - 2015
Last week I mentioned that the great images we encounter in these last weeks of Lent tell our story in its most basic form: water, light and life. Like the woman at the well, we all thirst: we thirst for love, for understanding, for acceptance and a sense of belonging; we thirst for justice and peace, for comfort and rest, for holiness, faith, and freedom from sin. And like the woman at the well, when we encounter Jesus authentically, with all of our masks removed and no longer attempting to hide our sin from Him, when we encounter Jesus authentically He quenches our thirst. Whoever we are, whatever our background, age, gender, or tax bracket, we thirst – and Jesus is for us the water that completely satisfies: ‘whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.’ The blessed water of the baptismal font and the holy water we use to bless ourselves and our homes and sacred objects – our sacramental use of water is a tangible reminder throughout our pilgrimage on this earth (from baptism to burial) that we all have a basic, deep thirst that finds its satisfaction only and permanently in Jesus Christ.

We are all thirsty…and blind…

That’s right friends – whoever you are, whatever you do for a living, whether you’re in school, work full time, or are enjoying your retirement – boy, girl, man, woman, faithful or backslidden, confessing your sins or carrying them around bottled up inside of you under the illusion that somehow they can be dealt with outside the confessional – whoever you are you somehow managed to get here this morning blind as the proverbial bat…

The story of the Man Born Blind is truly an ‘everyone’ story, because you and I were born blind. Our eyes might function, but we cannot see. Everyone incorrectly assumed this man’s physical blindness was a result of his parents’ sin, but we know that our own spiritual blindness actually is a result of sin – the sin of our first parents passed down to us faithfully generation to generation.

Our spiritual blindness is so much a part of our vision that we hardly ever acknowledge it, but its there. We're so blind we can't see our blindness.  We see sloth, vice, and danger in the poor, downtrodden, imprisoned and outcast, blind to the human dignity as fundamental to their existence as yours or mine. We see in the Sacrament of Reconciliation an antiquated holdover from a misguided age, blind to the workshop of humility and tangible encounter with grace that frees us from sin it truly is. We mistake the beauty of creation for nothing more than a picture-perfect portrait meant for our casual and occasional pleasure, blind to the giant arrow pointing to the magnificence of a masterful Creator worthy of our worship who carefully crafted for us a paradise in which we can walk and talk with Him so that we can come to know Him intimately on our journey toward heaven. We see in the ancient traditions of the Church empty ritual that binds us to the past, blind to the beauty and freedom they represent and make real in our lives. We see in the rules and disciplines of the Church chains that bind our preferences, blind to the spiritual freedom and authentic discipleship they lead us into.

"Oh Father, we’re not blind to those things – others might be, but we’re not."  Isn't that a convenient lie? But friends, our actions speak louder than words. Let’s be clear this morning – we’re blind in all these ways. Our actions speak louder than words. We toss a little of our extra toward the poor to keep them at bay, but that’s more to dull our conscience than to respect their dignity. We don’t darken the door of the confessional no matter how often it is preached (or how much time your priest spends waiting for you there). We don’t recycle, limit our energy usage to protect the earth’s natural resources, or give any thought to our gasoline usage apart from its impact on our checkbook. We start our conversations about liturgy with our preferences and the customs we've grown to like rather than beginning with the sacred vision handed to us by the Church that Christ made custodian of His sacred mysteries. We plain and simply ignore the precepts of the Church that require us to Confess at least once a year and prohibit the reception of Holy Communion when there is unconfessed mortal sin. Just like the subject of our Gospel today, we sit here today blind.

Our blindness is a result of sin, a sin that has so captured our sight that we can’t see past it or through it to The One who frees us from our sin.

But Jesus came to give sight to the blind! Notice, friends, how the Lord cures the sight of the man born blind. A simple two-step process that He replicates in the Church even to this day if we’ll only humble ourselves to receive it. First, he makes a salve of His incarnation to treat the blindness. Did you ever stop to consider the meaning of mixing his own spit with the clay to form the healing salve he tenderly applied to those blind eyes? A tangible manifestation of his own incarnation – the divine essence from within himself mixed with the same clay from which all mankind is formed. Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, himself a sight restoring salve – the same incarnation that comes to us every time we gather around this altar: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday we receive the sight-restoring salve that is the perfectly blended divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ from this altar. For the most part, we've got the first part down – receiving the incarnated humanity & divinity of Jesus Christ from this altar.

But…notice carefully friends…the man’s sight was not restored from the paste alone. After smearing the clay on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus said to him, ‘Go wash in the Pool of Siloam – which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.’

Friends, our spiritual blindness cannot and will not be cured until we go the places we are sent and do as we've been sent to do. Our blindness will not be cured until we go to the Confessional to be washed…and return there each and every time our blindness tries to regain its hold over our lives. Our blindness will not be cured until we go to the poor and outcast to whom we’re sent, until we go the Church to receive with docility her teaching, instruction, and discipline. We know all the places we've been sent by Jesus…but we’re just too blind to actually go, aren't we?

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Our Easter candle is missing from our worship space this morning, friends, but it will return at Easter. A beautiful testament to the Light of Christ that comes to pierce the darkness and blindness of men and women everywhere who were born spiritually blind. That same light that burns brightly at every baptism.

You and I came here this morning as spiritually blind as the man in today’s Gospel… Will we, too, receive our sight? The salve of Jesus Christ – the sacred mixture of His humanity and divinity is offered to us on this altar. After we receive it, will we go to where we have been sent – to the Confessional, to the world, to the poor, sick, outcast; will we go like beggars to the teaching and discipline of the Church – so that by going where we've been sent our sight will be restored?

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I haven't said anything today that we don't all already know - that we haven't all already heard many times before.  As I realized that, I was drawn with a profound spiritual facepalm back to our Gospel today.  "So they said to him, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?' He answered them, 'I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?'"

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