Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. The Gospel today presents the story of Jesus curing the man born blind, found in John’s Gospel. It is a story about who can see properly and why the blind man who believed in Jesus and had his sight restored while the Pharisees who did not believe in Jesus were declared to be blind. Here I make the point that in order to see clearly, what is needed is not only the gift of faith but of tears. For in the beautiful words of Pope Francis: ‘Some realities in life are only seen with eyes cleansed with tears’ (Christ is Alive, 76).
For Pope Francis, many of us have lost the ability to weep. He says: ‘Those of us who have a reasonably comfortable life don’t know how to weep’. The implication here is that if allow ourselves to stay in comfort zones, we see things askew through eyes that have become dry through lack of tears. To each of us, the Pope offers this challenge: ‘I would like each of you to ask yourself this question: Can I weep? Can I weep when I see a child who is starving, on drugs or on the street, homeless, abandoned, mistreated or exploited as a slave by society? Or is my weeping self-centred whining of those who cry because they want something else?’ (Christ is Alive, 76).
These are strong questions from the Holy Father that deserve careful consideration. He is asking us to allow the sadness and woundedness of people’s lives to impact on us – people whose plight we either didn’t know about, had forgotten or those we had failed to notice because we had become so caught up in our own worlds.
He specifically mentions the plight of children. The Pope invites us to weep for children who are starving, whose lives have been wrecked by drugs and homelessness. He wants us to weep for kids who have been abandoned, abused and trafficked. We weep for those whose lives are being uprooted or ended because of climate change. These are the terrible wounds of humanity that the Holy Father is asking us to touch, to weep over and so to see more clearly. He challenges us with the awful possibility that we have become absorbed by the ‘globalisation of indifference’ that the tears in the eyes of suffering children fail to produce any tears in our own.
Seeing the man born blind moved Jesus while many others looked away. Jesus felt compassion for him as he did for the weeping widow of Nain who had lost her only son (Luke 7:13). At the death of his friend Lazarus, the Lord is deeply moved by sadness and openly weeps (John 11:38). Then as he entered Jerusalem, he sheds more tears over the city and a people who were about to reject him. His eyes could see clearly because they were moistened by tears.
We weep for those who have lost their jobs and those who worry about the future. We weep with those who are isolated and lonely. We weep for children who are sick, hungry and don’t have a home.
Obedient to the words of St Paul may we ‘weep with those who weep’ and allow ourselves to be moved out of indifference. Together as we move with Christ towards his cross and contemplate his divine love, may his mercy transform the tears of sorrow on Good Friday to tears of joy on Easter Sunday. ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted’ and ‘at night there are tears but joy comes with dawn’ (Ps. 30:6).