Fourth Sunday of Lent
Karen Brink, OSB, St Benedict Monastery, Pittsburgh, PA
I'm an early riser so it is always dark when I wake up. For me, the early part of the day is my best time for quiet, lectio, and my attempt to pray. I always have a small candle lit whether my lamp is on or off. Sometime, if the candle is almost ready to give up its flame because of use, when I turn off the light, it is almost totally dark, sometimes just a flicker, and sometime the flame does indeed light up a nice section of my "prayer space." The whole idea of the "rods and cones" comes to me occasionally as I remember my sophomore biology days and how our eyes adjust to light and darkness.
The use of my candle(s) has come to me as meaningful for the readings of the fourth Sunday of Lent. Yes, we're at the midpoint of the Lenten season ... and that makes me happy .. .l said in an earlier reflection that Lent is not my favorite liturgical season ... with apologies to St. Benedict!
In today's gospel light and darkness, blindness and coming to "see" gradually is what may be happening in the life of the man born blind and his encounters with Jesus and the Pharisees. John Shea has the gospel for this Sunday separated into six scenes and while the "man born blind" is the main character in each scene we find him interacting and gaining a certain strength of character as he understands who it is who spread the mud on his eyes and allowed him to see. I find it interesting that after his cure the man born blind finds blindness in others. The Pharisees seem to want to trip him up at every step ... They seem to forget that he can now see and he's not so prone to tripping and falling because of lack of sight.
Gradually his "light-sight" improves as he comes to understand that the Light of the World, Jesus, has given him his sight ... not simply physical sight but more importantly spiritual sight, sight that allows him to recognize divinity and to become an evangelist and while he was willing to share the Good News of Jesus with the Pharisees they appeared not interested in improving their spiritual sight.
There is only one person whom I know that is physically blind. Some of you may know her, too. Sister Dolores Dean is a member of the Benedictine community in Bristow, VA. I have been in her presence as she skillfully prayed the Office as her fingers passed over her Braille psalter. I witnessed the beautiful work of her hands in the many creations she makes as her skilled hands make beautiful creations which she will never physically see but she knows their beauty as she holds them and displays her finished product. I also once heard her present a touching reflection on the readings of the day as her sighted Sisters looked and listened with awe.
How different from the Pharisees who seemed to work so very hard to stay blind, to not acknowledge what was right before their eyes. They probably had "seen" Jesus, the Christ, long before he spread mud on the eyes of the blind man ... and refused to really see the One who was in their midst who could open their eyes ... and they refused.
In our own lives, what is our blindness? Do we see the words of Scripture, skim over them and forget what we "saw?" Are we blind to situations around us which are comfortable to us because we tend to ignore them? How can we invite the Light of Christ into our own personal blindness? Because we can "see" it is probably more difficult to admit our blindness, ala the Pharisees.
It is the Light of Christ ever so near to us who can cure our blindness ... if only we open our eyes!
Shea, John, The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers, Liturgical Press, 2004
Sister Karen Brink is currently the prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh having served on monastic councils and initial and on-going formation teams. She also has extensive experience as a school administrator and as a member of parish teams. Her experience as director of RCIA teams led her to reflection on Scripture, especially the Sunday readings. She invites you to "break open" God's Word once again.