Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: 4th Sunday in Lent (Year A)
The unnamed man of today’s gospel knew isolation. He knew it by way of his physical blindness, which isolated him from seeing the world in which he was living. But he also experienced isolation from the social blindness by which he was treated by those around him. (Did you notice that nearly everyone talked about him as if he was not there, only Jesus talked to him personally?) Finally, he knew the isolation of rejection by those who would not accept what had happened to him. Only in Jesus did the man experience a closeness that would allow him to come out of his darkness, and find a light of hope.
His words to Jesus at the end of the gospel should ring in our ears: ‘Lord, I believe.’ To believe – to have faith – is to gain sight. Faith is the true remedy to blindness, as it is built on trust. Children believe – have faith in – their parents because they trust them. When that trust is broken or damaged, then faith diminishes. Jesus gave physical sight to the man, but more importantly, he helped the man to trust.
The man’s faith was hardly well-articulated – he was not suddenly a scholar: I was blind, a man rubbed mud in my eyes, and now I can see. What he articulated in faith, however, was the magnitude of the gift he had received. Others ignored him or rejected him, but Jesus went looking for him. This man, who had known only isolation, was in fact someone worth chasing after. Jesus knew how to find him, and in that discovery, the man found himself. In faith, we are found.
The first Catholics in Australia – made up of convicts – also knew isolation. They were deprived of the sacramental life for the first 15 years of the Colony, until the first was celebrated in 1803, and it wasn’t until 1820 that a priest – Fr John Thierry – was appointed to minister in the Colony. In other words, our Catholic forebears lived out their Catholic faith in virtual isolation for more than a quarter of a century. How did they remain people of faith? They gathered when they could to pray, to encourage one another, and to profess the Creed by which they learnt and passed on the faith. At the beginning of European settlement in our country, it was faith that sustained the first Catholic community.
In this Coronavirus crisis, we find ourselves in the same situation as our forebears, isolated from the sacramental life of the Church. It is worth us remembering that we are not the first to be in this situation. Not only was this the case for the early Catholics of this country, but it has also been the experience of many others down through the years, who have been isolated by their remote location, or the lack of priests, or by personal circumstances. Yet, we know that these brothers and sisters of ours have found paths out of the darkness of their isolation and into the light of faith. They may not have been able to attend Mass, but Jesus came looking for them. They learnt to trust and persevere, and to pray, to teach their children, and to continue to recite the Creed.
Now it is our turn to live this path that seems an isolation, yet can be a moment of being discovered by Jesus. So friends, I want to encourage you today. The man of the gospel may have been isolated from so much, but was nonetheless discovered by Jesus, who brought him out of darkness and into the light. Search for that light yourselves. Find simple ways of praying and trusting; recite the Creed as an act of faith and hope; reach out to one another spiritually (and digitally!). Friends, this fast from the sacraments need not be a fast from faith. Take courage and be of good heart. The Lord is with you, he wants to find you and bring you into his light. Like the man of today’s gospel, welcome Jesus into you life, who will welcome you into his light.
'Jesus and the blind man'
This mosaic is by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ, and was photographed by Fr Lawrence Lew OP
. (National Shrine of St John Paul II, Washington DC)