Christ the King Catholic Church
We all know, "What happens in Vegas... stays in Vegas!" And what happens at Christ the King - must not stay here. It must be spread! That used to create a problem for me. When I was first ordained, I used to share stories about my family in my homilies. My Mom thought that there were some family stories that should not be shared and suggested that I not talk about the family in my homilies. I tried my best to do that, but some stories need to be shared. Today's Gospel reminds me of a family story.
Many years ago, my Mom went to the eye doctor and he told her that she had the beginnings of cataracts and that she would have to address them sooner or later. Years passed and we often asked Mom about her vision and she repeatedly told us that the doctor had said that her cataracts were not yet ripe. And then one day when I was visiting Mom, we went for a walk after supper. It was a beautiful spring evening and about a hundred feet from us there was man watering his flowers. My Mom looked at the man and then asked me, "Is that a man or a tree?" Within a week we had a date set for cataract surgery! And I'll never forget when she came home from that surgery, she moved from room to room in her house looking at everything. It was if she was seeing things for the very first time. I imagine anyone who has had cataract surgery, knows what I am talking about.
Sight is a wonderful gift.
The Gospel today talks about this gift. Jesus gives sight to a man who was born blind. Like last week's Gospel of the woman at the well, this story from John's Gospel is a story of coming to faith. Thirst and sight are metaphors for faith in the Scriptures. The Gospel begins on a very sour note. The religious leaders are upset that Jesus has performed a miracle on the Sabbath. They ask him all kinds of questions, almost demanding an apology from him for being healed.
They ask the man questions like this: What do you say about this man? If he healed you on the Sabbath, didn't he break the Law and, if he broke the law, isn't he sinner? And, if he is a sinner, how could he have healed you and so on and so on.
But the man who had been born blind keeps saying one thing: "I only know that I was blind and now I see." And here we see a man who had never studied the Law or the Scriptures; who is wiser that the religious leaders who had spent their lifetimes 'studying' God. The religious leaders could only accept God's grace on their terms. The blind man received God's grace on God's terms: unexpected, undeserved, unexplainable.
The irony of the story is that those who could see, didn't, and the man born blind who couldn't see, in fact, did see.
God's grace, his way of acting, is free from the rules of reason, from our idea of how a sensible God should act. The only ones who are able to welcome God's grace in their lives are those who allow God to be God. If we try to make God like us - and a good part of the time we do just that, we limit God and we are blind to all that he is doing in our lives. Only if we allow God to do the unexpected, only if we allow God to surprise us, only if we allow God to dream really big dreams for us, will we experience his amazing grace in our lives.
Grace is not predictable. Grace is not reasonable. We have all been graced beyond measure. Was there any logical reason why God would choose to enter human history? Was there any logical reason why God would choose to become man and live among us? Was there any logical reason why Jesus would take on himself the sins of the world and pay the price for our sins on the cross? It is not logical. It is not reasonable. It is grace and it is wonderful.
The blind man saw and gave thanks to God. With the gift of sight that Jesus gave him, he saw everything, absolutely everything, as grace - pure gift. Coming to faith, a person sees things in a new way. Coming to faith a person sees as God sees.
Helen Keller lost the gift of sight and hearing when she was just nineteen months old. She once wrote this: "One day I asked a friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods what she had seen. And she replied, 'Nothing in particular.' How was this possible, I asked myself? I, who cannot see or hear, find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate shape and design of a leaf. I pass my hand over the rough bark of a pine tree. Occasionally, if I am lucky, I place my hand on a small tree and I feel the happy quiver of a bird
in full song. All of this has convinced me of one thing. The greatest calamity that can befall a person is not that a person should be born blind, but rather that he should have sight and fail to see."
Jesus came that we might see. He came that we might see as God sees. He came that we might see God's grace all around us. The greatest calamity that could befall us is that we should fail to see that grace.
This Lent in a special way we have the possibility to see in new ways. I go to the grocery store in these days and I 'see' the people who are stocking shelves and ringing up my groceries in a new way. I put gas in my car and, even though I pay outside with a credit card, I make a point of going inside to thank the person at the cashier simply for being there. I see the person sanitizing the doorknobs of the bank where I do my banking and I am grateful. The truck that slows me down in traffic is no longer an inconvenience, but a gift that is delivering coveted toilet paper to a nearby store.
I look out at empty pews here at Christ the King this Sunday morning and I miss the sounds of children crying and song books being dropped and even people arriving late and leaving early. I see the presence of each and every person who crosses the threshold of Christ the King as gift to us. This Lent I am seeing familiar things in new ways. It's as if cataracts have been removed and I see that everything is grace.
Sight is a wonderful gift and Lent is a time for an annual eye exam. Sometimes our vision becomes cloudy. Sometimes we have eyes, but we do not see.
Sometimes we are blind to the grace that is all around us because of spiritual cataracts. If that is the case, I know someone in today's Gospel who knows the name of a very good doctor!