Each week during Lent you are invited to join one of the Brothers as they reflect on God's word in Scripture. For the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Br Tony Leon offers a reflection on the Gospel story of Jesus and the Blind Man.
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.” (John 9:39)
At the moment, I’m studying Spanish and there are “False Friends’. These are words where one assumes their familiar form can be interpreted with the similarities of one’s own language. It seems crazy! For example:
Bizarro = Brave
Constipado = Having a Cold
Embarazada = Pregnant
Ropa = Clothing.
After many awkward mistakes, I now converse with several verbs but only with the limited present tense. I can order cervezas and ask for a bocadillo de jamón but only in the childish present tense. It can be embarrassing (but not pregnant!)
I am also learning that the true obstacle in speaking another language is not intellectual but an emotional one. Most of us fear appearing foolish, wrong or humiliated in front of others, thus we hesitate to ask questions in class or speak aloud in a foreign tongue. Some may even insist in speaking their own language and thus, concerned about being understood rather than understanding others.
This week’s gospel about Jesus and the blind man (John 9:1- 41), parallel learning to listen with humility, with seeing with clarity.
This gospel has the characters of: Jesus, the blind man, the blind man’s parents and the Pharisees. Jesus, with a clear conviction of his identity and mission, chooses to heal the blind man regardless of his reputation as being sinful (blindness was an ancient expression form of trans-generational karma). The blind man, in his humble condition, listens and follows Jesus’ instruction, as embarrassing as it was in getting mud and spittle rubbed into his eyes and being a spectacle in his public struggle to the pool of Siloam. When he was healed, he realized his reality and was prepared to ask questions and to follow Jesus.
On the other hand, the (formerly) blind man’s folks were fearful. They are not prepared to answer the Pharisee’s questions, dreading being expelled from the synagogue for recognizing Jesus as the Christ. Thus, they deferred the answer to their son and remained safely silent.
The Pharisees are very much in a different class. They did not remain silent in fear of appearing wrong. They spoke out with the utmost conviction of their own righteousness and judged others as sinful.
The famous Catholic modern mystic, Thomas Merton writes,
“We are all convinced that we desire the truth above all. Nothing strange about this. It is natural to Man, an intelligent being to desire the truth. But actually, what we desire is not ‘the truth’ so much as ‘to be in the right’. To seek the pure truth for its own sake may be natural to us but we are not able to act always in this respect according to our nature. What we seek is not the pure truth but the partial truth that justifies our prejudices, our limitations and our selfishness. This is not ‘the truth’. It is only an argument strong enough to prove us ‘right’. And usually our desire to be right is correlative to our conviction that somebody else (perhaps everybody else) is wrong.”
‘Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander’, Doubleday NY, 1989 p.78
In the final verses of the Gospel, Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
It is ‘crazy’ that all languages have ‘False friends’ and perhaps it is because we all see, hear and communicate through our worlds, with what we believe is right and suggesting that every other deviation is ‘not right’. We may need to re-assess how we learn the language of Faith and that we may need to suffer the humility, embarrassment and the awkwardness that we are blind to the truth of where Jesus is and deaf to what he is saying to us today. During this week of Lent, for us to admit our blindness and deafness to the truth of Christ will require us to be more bizarro.
Thought: Maya Angelou writes, “There is a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” Where do I get the truth?
Prayer: Lord, you are the true light of the world. May we surrender whatever obscures your light and to magnify your love.
Br Tony Leon, FMS an ex student of Marcellin College, Randwick, has taught Visual Arts and Studies of Religion in NSW and ACT. In recent years, he worked in the areas of Vocation and Youth Ministries as well as with the Marist Life Formation team. Tony is currently the Co-Director of the Brothers Today Secretariat in Rome. He is now studying Spanish in Salamanca, Spain as part of this new role. Tony will return to Rome at Easter.