You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and I hate you! (Saruman to Frodo, Lord of the Rings)
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear about a man who recovered his sight. His healing is framed by an account of some men who went blind. Their blinding had two stages.
First, instead of seeing the blind beggar they saw through him. "We know this man is a sinner." (Jn 9:24) That was all they needed to know about him. His suffering meant nothing to them. What counted was fixing the blame.
We do the same. Hearing about an accident, we want to know: Was he speeding? Drinking? And when someone contracts a serious illness: Was it caused by years of eating junk food? Did he smoke? Fail to see a doctor?
All of us have to fight against the tendency to place blame rather than see the person. It is a form of blindness common to humanity.* The Pharisees in today’s Gospel, however, went a step further. Like Saruman in the opening quote, they resented mercy itself. Rather than rejoice with the man who regained his sight, they hardened their hearts.
St. Catherine of Siena said that a soul gripped by mortal sin, if taken to heaven, would find only misery there. It could not stand the presence of divine mercy. So the Pharisees reacted to Jesus. They saw well enough what he did, but they closed their hearts to its meaning. They preferred to ridicule.
If self-blinding has two steps, so also does recovery of sight. For the man born blind the first step was somewhat easy. He recognized his need. But Jesus asked also for an act of faith. Mixing dirt with saliva, Jesus made a rough and ready ointment.
Anointing the blind man’s eyes, he told him to wash in the pool of Siloam - a type of baptism. Three weeks from today we will see men and women of our parish take that second step. Having already been anointed, they will be immersed in our baptismal pool. In that moment they will receive Jesus, the divine mercy.
If self-blinding is hell, recovery of sight through Jesus is heaven. Let me conclude with a second quote from Saint Catherine: "All the way to Heaven is Heaven. We arrive as soon as we set out."
*Dostoevsky refers to "that strange inner feeling of satisfaction which may be observed in the presence of a sudden accident, even in those nearest and dearest to the victim, from which no living man is exempt, even in spite of the sincerest sympathy and compassion." Crime and Punishment, Part II, Chapter 8
From Archives (Year A homilies for Fourth Sunday of Lent):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Parish Donors, Jason Evert Visits Holy Family, More about Luz & Melani)
Letter from Former Catholic on Boston Priest Pedophilia Scandal
my bulletin column
SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)
Parish Picture Album
40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)
Q&A about Planned Parenthood
An Audio Lenten Retreat by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain (thirteen talks, 10 to 15 minutes long, on topics such as temptation, grudges, surrender, mercy, etc. - well worth listening to)
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