Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
Being retired, I have been sometimes called upon to cover a parish for a time when some pastor friends are in need. The current priest shortage makes me and others like me “valuable commodities”, if you don’t mind my using an economic comparison.
At those times, it can be fun meeting new people and working as a temporary pastor without the burden of administration that goes with that title. Being a help for a brother priest is also personally satisfying.
However (and in this life there always seems to be a “however”) there are negatives that sometimes come along with those times, as when parishioners voice their complaints about their pastor. Or when an alarm system acts up in the middle of the night and the passcode doesn’t stop it.
I include those items because they offer simple but down to earth examples of what it means to be subject in this life to “darkness.” Not the physical kind of course, but the spiritual variety that hovers over our resolve to follow Christ. We can call them the spoiling effects of sin.
The blind man’s healing in today’s intriguing gospel story offers John the evangelist a chance to underscore the contrast between light and darkness, a central theme of his gospel. We find the dark in the blind man’s parents, who are intimidated by the authorities. We find it most of all in the Pharisees’ reaction to the miracle, who completely miss the point. Ironically they become the really blind men because of their pride and stubbornness.
With all of the blind alleys we poor humans somehow manage to follow, as opposed to the broad highways of opportunity given to us to fulfill our vocation to holiness, it is a wonder how God keeps on loving us.
We often act as God’s judge when things don’t go our way. We become blind. As the reading from Samuel clearly points out: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” His vision of us meanwhile remains so clear that His loving us does not end no matter the extent of our pride and stubbornness.
Perhaps it would be a good thing when temptation comes our way to imagine an alarm going off that simply signals a strong “Don’t!” But in actuality we have a help much stronger than an imagined one called “God’s grace.” It keeps us on the straight and narrow path if we cooperate. It lights our path. And we avoid paying attention to all those blind guides out there in the world. But we must be on guard 24/7 because the sad fact remains that “There are none so blind as those that will not see.”
First Reading: I Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Samuel “does not see as God does,” for the Lord chooses David to succeed Saul. Young David is secretly anointed and the spirit of Yahweh dwelt in him enabling to rule well.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
Paul contrasts the disobedient “children of darkness” with the “children of light.” Baptism is the very light in question offered to us by Christ.
Gospel: John 9:1-41, or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
The blind man takes on the task of witnessing to Jesus, who proves to be “from God.” Meanwhile, Christian readers can learn not only to fight their chosen blindness but also how to react when hostile authorities confront them.