Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourth Sunday of Lent: Searching for Sight
I grew up in Totowa Borough, a suburb of Paterson, New Jersey, which itself is really a suburb of New York City. Like all New Yorkers or wanna be New Yorkers from New Jersey, I grew up with the distinct attitude that people from the Northeast were “in the know”, or, simply put, the smartest people in the world. Actually, there are plenty of New Yorkers who think that intelligent life ceases west of the Hudson River, including New Jersey. There are also plenty of people in the rest of the country that are convinced that intelligent life never came into existence east of the Hudson River. That second group just might be correct.
“Being in the know” is the sad attitude of many people throughout the world who are certain that their view of something or other is the only reasonable view. We experience this in politics as some people are absolutely convinced that anyone who sees things different from them have no clue about what is best for the country. So you have radio commentators and editorial writers on each side of every debate presenting themselves as great intellectuals, and treating those with whom they disagree as absolute morons.
Thankfully, the intellectual arrogance of the talk show hosts, pundits, editorial writers, and columnists does not have a tremendous effect on our world, at least, as long as the arrogant intellectuals stay within their minimal spheres of influence. However, when these people take steps into that which really matters in life, our relationship with God, then we face this horrible situation: the intellectually arrogant belittle people of faith. After all, they are convinced they are “in the know.” In reality, they are blind. They are blind to the Presence of God in their own lives and in the world. They cannot see God standing right in front of them.
And the common everyday woman or man, the elderly lady who devotes her life to prayer, the young family who makes tremendous sacrifices to provide a Catholic home for their children, the Teen who stays away from the party everyone is talking about because he or she knows there is going to be abundant amounts of alcohol and drugs there, these are the people the arrogant call blind. But these everyday people, everyday prophets if you will, these are really the people who have sight.
The drama of John 9, the Man Born Blind, is the story of a simple man open to God’s presence and arrogant men who cannot see the Christ standing right before them. The blind man is the one with sight. The Pharisees, those great luminaries and self-proclaimed intellectuals, are blind.
Little has changed in the world. We go to work, to school, and the so-called intellectuals belittle us because we are people of faith. But those who mock us cannot answer the questions that matter: What is life really about? What is the purpose for all of our struggles? Can lasting happiness ever be found? Does it exist? Where is it?
These self styled intellectuals cannot answer these questions. But we can. Life is about God who gave us life. We exist to love, honor and serve Him. With God as our center, every aspect of our life has meaning and purpose. His love is experienced in the love of our families, of our marriages, of our Church family. We experience His Love in each other. There is so much more to life than the physical, the here and now. The spiritual is real. Happiness does exist. It comes from union with God. No one can take this happiness from us. Even those who are persecuted for their faith remain at peace with the Lord. People like St. Maximilian Kolbe, starving to death in the concentration camp, or Ignatius of Antioch waiting for the wild beasts to be released in the Roman Coliseum or each one of us when we are mocked for our Catholic lifestyle, still remain at peace with the Lord. We possess the happiness that lasts.
We pray every day for the strength and courage to keep us from sacrificing this happiness to the empty promises of those who do not know God.
And we pray that others might also see. Existentialists wrote that human life has no meaning outside itself. Albert Camus described life as "absurd"; Jean Paul Sartre spoke of "anguish, abandonment and despair." Despair results from rejecting the light. It is not just some philosophers who despair. There are many others, including those who seem to embrace darkness, who have an intense desire to find meaning in their lives. There are many who present an arrogant facade, but who are internally in turmoil. There are many people who wonder why they go through the motions of life, rejoicing at births, and weddings, mourning disappointments and deaths, working hard to enjoy a day or so off a week and a few weeks off a year, and all the time wondering if there could possibly be more to life than the physical. Many people are hurting. They are sick of living in a state of ennui, boredom with life. They are sick of being blind. Today, we pray that they may open their eyes and see, see Jesus Christ standing right in front of them. We pray that they may focus on the Lord and find meaning. We pray that they might join us in the realization that everything makes sense when we are united to Jesus Christ.
In his exhortation the Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis calls on us to help others see our joy in Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to call ourselves Christians. We have to bring Jesus Christ to others. Just as Jesus healed a man who was blind, we must lead others out of darkness into the Light of Christ. Pope Francis summons us to share our joy and proclaim with our lives to those who are searching: I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see.
What joy we have in Jesus Christ! Amazing Grace.