HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (A)


The Gospel of today is about Jesus curing the man who was blind from birth. There are many forms of blindness with some of the worst affecting those with perfect eyesight. Once I was driving on a long narrow stretch of road where you could see for miles. Then I came to a line of slow moving traffic and way ahead I could see a car just chucking along. Every driver handled the situation somewhat differently, some were hesitant while others would would do it faster than others. Usually they would drive up close, wait for a break in oncoming traffic and then hope for the best. After what seemed ages I got my turn and on what should have been a 100km stretch he was doing about 55 completely blind to the inconvenience caused but also to the danger he was creating for others. I suspected as I passed, giving a glare of annoyance as I did so, that the same individual was taking great pride in being such a careful driver and not being like those other speed merchants who cause fatalities on our roads. To be honest I was delighted to see a police car come up behind with lights flashing to pull him over. At least something caught his attention. There’s nothing like blue lights to make cowards of us all, even the most careful drivers!

It’s so easy to hum along in the fast lane of our lives completely oblivious to the needs of others. The way we drive is just an example. We also see constantly in parking where even when space is limited people abandon cars in a mindless manner leaving nearly enough space for another but not quite and thereby selfishly taking up two spaces. If our driving habits are a metaphor for our lives then the blindness of insensitivity and unawareness is endemic.

It’s a form of blindness to judge another on behavior when we don’t know their story.

A man can be blind to the pressure his wife is under and yet not lift a finger to help her since he doesn’t consider it to be his job.

A wife can be completely blind to the pressure her husband is under at work and not take into consideration why he is so stressed.

At a time when money is tight one party can still be spending in a manner that is totally inappropriate to the level of income.

A couple who were under such pressure decided they would need to seriously cut back on shopping expenses. On a visit to the supermarket together he picked up a six pack of beer and placed it in his basket. She reprimanded him and insisted he put it back saying the money was too tight. Later she picked up a jar of rather expensive face cream and he got onto her as to why she needed it. ‘ In order to look better for you my darling’ she replied.’ ‘And why do you think I was getting the beer,’ he asked!

I had my own encounter with blindness while I was still in seminary days. My mother was married twice and the second time round proved to be a most unhappy relationship where there was a lot of violence and stress. He suffered from insane jealousy and on one occasion I was lucky to escape with my life as he tried to murder me. They eventually separated but it took a serious toll on her physical health and I strongly suspect contributed to her having sight problems that are known to be stress related. After six operations on one eye she eventually lost the sight completely. A short time later the other eye went wrong and she also lost the sight in that one leaving her totally blind.

For myself this had serious implications since the burden of responsibility could only fall on my shoulders, I didn’t have brothers or sisters to help out. It was really a test of faith. At my deepest core I felt the Lord was calling me to Priesthood and yet it now looked as if I could be spending the best years of my life looking after my mother who was blind. At the time I was on a national leadership team for Charismatic Renewal and used to take part in prayer gatherings in different parts of the country. There was one in Dublin that I was particularly impressed with where the participants were nearly all Quaker and Plymouth Brethren background. They used to meet on Sunday mornings and on this particular Sunday instead of going to mass I went there instead. I was still honoring the Lord’s Day but not strictly according to the Catholic book!

I went in and joined in the vocal praise and worship that was part of the service. It was a far cry from what I would have been experiencing had I gone to Mass where most people would have been afraid to open their mouths. During the course of that meeting while I was praying, I never mentioned why I was there or how desperate I was. After the singing there followed a time of quiet and listening. Then one young man called David spoke who I knew to be a science teacher. He spoke of seeing or sensing the Lord placing his hand over a woman’s eye and restoring her sight. It had already happened he said but would take some time to come about and that there would first be a test of faith. Deep down I had no doubt that the message was for my own situation.

Returning home my mother asked if anything had happened at the prayer meeting and I said yes. She went on to tell me that she already knew because that same morning she had got up but couldn’t shake off her feelings of despair and returned to bed. She then had a vivid dream of the Lord coming and laying his hand on her eye and knowing that he had healed her. She woke up excited and thinking she would be able to see immediately. Instead she was still blind but also knew that she now had the faith that she was going to see again.

Up to this she had been attending the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin and that same evening got word of a surgeon in Waterford who was doing wonderful pioneering work. Neither of us had any difficulty believing that the Lord works through the medical profession so she went to him and he performed a very risky operation and it was totally successful. Even before the bandage was removed she just knew with the conviction that comes from faith that she was okay.

Because it was so much a faith journey she never again for the rest of her life had any fear that she might lose her sight. She always sensed that the gift the Lord had given was not going to be taken back and so her sight remained to her dying day.

That story constitutes what was probably the greatest test of faith that I have been through. I can share it now as a testimony knowing that the greater the test the greater the testimony. It was far from pleasant at the time but it was also worth it to see the Lord coming up trumps. Needless to say something like that doesn’t leave us as it finds us, our faith grows enormously and so just as the Israelites of old looked back to God’s intervention in bringing them safely through the Red Sea, so too that was my Red Sea and had it not been for the hand of God, my life would have had to take a very different course.

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