March 26, 2017 | Fourth Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13 | Psalm 23 | Ephesians 5:8-14 | John 9:1-41
Associate Professor of Comparative Religion
Lectionaries are so excessive, verses tumbling over verses, tentacles stretching over large spans of the Good Book to pluck a passage here, a passage there. What if the mysterious Assemblers of Lections had a bad day?
Reading through the passages assigned for today, we see themes: blindness/darkness and light, the non-sense of God that exposes our own nonsense, the Lord’s protection of Samuel, the sheep, and the blind man, and more.
Today I am captured by a single phrase from John: so that God’s works might be revealed in him. Forget the blindness for the moment. Ponder this: Were you born so that God’s works might be revealed in you?
How’s that going?
It is the purpose of your birth to reveal God’s works. That is why you were born. And it is the purpose of your birth that God’s works be revealed. You have a special portion of God’s works to be revealed, that will not be revealed unless you do it. It is your charism. But it will be revealed in you. Not by you, so you are not actually doing it. You participate in this revelation of God’s works, but it is not you who is doing the revealing … “the LORD does not see as mortals see.” One must always be suspicious of any claims to know “what God is doing here.” God may be doing something quite different. As we often say, God’s ways are mysterious. “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” We need to be careful of our claims. Our baptism into the womb and wisdom of the church gives us tools for recognition, discernment but not certainty. We know more, but not all.
God’s works are revealed, so there is something that is evidently of God that we will perceive. “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” There is a known change from unseeing to seeing. For what purpose does he now see? Is the revelation simply that his sight is given, or that a new purpose is given? So our purpose is to live knowing that God’s works are being revealed, even if we are not clear what they are, to live purposefully. Mary Oliver writes, “My work is loving the world.” God does the rest.
O Holy Revealer, nourish in me a wonder that I may know that your working is constant around me and in me. I do not know what you are doing, only that you are always at work, never sleeping. You have welcomed me into your church through my baptism. Now send me, dripping with water, into a world in so much want of my tottering love.
The world comes so quickly at us, waves pushing and undertow pulling. Mary Oliver again, “I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have a goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.” The hope of myself. So how does one not just hope, but be hope? Love the world. Walk slowly and love the world. There is no love without hope, and no hope without love. Bow often. This week reflect on this: How do I find the hope of myself? How do I retain it? What makes me lose it?