Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength. ~ Nehemiah 8:9, 10, Divine Office Morning Prayer, Fourth Sunday of Lent
Happy Laetare Sunday! Rejoice!
Given the circumstances we are in, you may wonder. “What is there to rejoice about?” If we only watch the news, then it is right to ask this question. There is not a lot to rejoice about on the news. But is the news all there is? Is the news the light that guides us?
In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a), God tells Samuel not to judge by appearances. The Lord judges not by appearances, but based on what is deeper, what is in the heart. Not as man sees does God see. God sees with eyes of truth, eyes that penetrate beyond the exterior.
In the Gospel reading (John 9:1-41), the disciples ask Jesus whose sin caused the blind man to be born blind. Jesus responds saying it wasn’t the sins of the parents that caused their son to be born blind. The blind man was born blind so that “the works of God might be made visible through him.”
Jesus then heals the man of his blindness and this reading becomes one of the best known in all of the Gospels. But this joyous event, being healed of blindness, could not have occurred if the man who was healed was not born blind to begin with.
Being disabled today is difficult, but being disabled then was even harder. Not only were disabled people discarded and ignored, but it was believed that they were disabled as a punishment from God for sin. All of those years the blind man lived in darkness, an outsider among his own people, never expecting to be able to see, but then he met Jesus. And out of pure love and grace and without any expectation, Jesus gave the blind man sight.
Notice that Jesus tells the blind man to go and wash his eyes before the miracle is completed. I find this interesting today as we are being told to wash our hands all the time. We do so because we are trying to avoid something on the surface, something exterior, the coronavirus. But perhaps there is more meaning in washing our hands. Let us see with God’s eyes and ask, “What must we wash our hands of as a global community?”
We find hope in today’s psalm (Psalm 23):
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days.
The news is not our light. Today’s Gospel acclamation says: I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life. Follow what the CDC says, but look beyond what you see on the news and follow the Lord to have the light of life. When you wash your hands, think about the deeper meaning in the act. Have faith that, like the healing of the blind man, God will bring amazing and unexpected goodness from this darkness. Remain hopeful in the promises of Psalm 23.
God is with us. Rejoice!