It’s A Question of Values
I found today’s readings fascinating. Fascinating because, in my opinion, they bring us to one word and one question.. The word is “values.” The question is ’Whose.”
So let me explain. To do that, let’s examine today’s Gospel.
John “stages” Jesus’ miracle to reveal the deeper meanings of Jesus’ mission as the Messiah. The healing of the blind beggar heightens the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees. The teaching of this itinerant Rabbi threatens the structured and exalted life of the scribes and Pharisees. They seek to discredit Jesus any way they can — and this miracle gives them the opportunity.
In using spittle, kneading clay and rubbing it on the man’s eyes, Jesus breaks the strict rules prohibiting any kind of manual labor on the Sabbath. The miracle itself becomes secondary; the issue becomes Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath. Jesus’ teachings and healings so threaten the comfortably ordered lives of the Jewish leaders that they seek some way to discredit what he has done, so they condemn Jesus’ mixing of the mud as a clear violation of the Jewish prohibition of any kind of work on the Sabbath.
The values of the Pharisees were so tied up in the ritual of the law – so tied up in the legalism of the law – that they could not see that which was occurring. They could not see the value of this simple man from Galilee who was preaching a message that their ears would not hear nor their hearts believe.
The blind man stands for all humanity. “Born totally in sin” he is made a new creation by the saving power of Christ.
As God fashioned the first man from the clay of the earth, Jesus gives the blind man new life by anointing his eyes with clay As God breathed the spirit of life into the first man; the blind man is not healed until he washes in the waters of Siloam, a name that means “Sent.”
Jesus is the One “sent” by the Father to do the Father’s will. He is the new source of life-giving water – the Holy Spirit who rushes upon us in Baptism.
And what of us? Do we feel or sense those waters of Baptism so far along in our lives? Do we feel the Holy Spirit growing within us – that same Holy Spirit that came to us so powerfully through the sacrament of our confirmation?
Are those the values that we hold true to ourselves today? Or have other values supplanted them? Here, I am not necessarily talking about material values although they cause their own pollution. But I am talking about the way we value others. I am talking about the preconceptions that we have of other people. I am talking about the quiet prejudices and judgments of others that we bring into this very Church. Is there one among us today who can claim that when we enter this sacred place, we come with no judgments, no malice, no anger, no negative judgments or opinions about even others in this congregation. What values do we bring here?
We come here to be nourished by the Eucharist – the very presence of God – we come here to listen to the Word of God – and to find meaning for our lives. But can we do that fully when our hearts and minds are cluttered with other values? She talks too much, he acts too piously, she spends more on her wardrobe than most of us spend in a year, he speaks out of both sides of his mouth etc. etc.
During the season of Lent, are we really making a conscious effort to let go? Are we really making a conscious effort to open up? Are we really making a sincere effort to use this season as a time in our life when we truly renew? Or when this Lent ends, will it be still be just another 40 days? Still another Lent when there was no true milestone or revelation in our spiritual life.
I started Lent by preaching about the need to forgive others. I continued on in my next homily about the need to forgive ourselves and to lift the guilt of sin that weighs us down as heavily as the wood of the cross weighed Him down. Today, I ask each of us – you and me – to look deep into ourselves and weigh the values that we carry.
Are they truly the values that spring from the bosom of Christ? Are they the values that our faith teaches us? Or are they the values that our prejudice, our blindness, or the darker side of our humanity has created?
When our lives are centered on Christ, all the energies, aspirations, and powers of the soul fall into a beautiful pattern. And by implication, whenever something other that Christ – money, success, adulation of materiality – fills the center, the soul falls into disharmony,
Jesus expressed the same idea when he said: “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and the rest will be given unto you.” When God is consciously acknowledged as the organizing center of our existence, our bodies and soul are in harmony.
If there is anything I have learned in these 37 years in ministry, it is how inadequate and sinful I am. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I study, no matter how much I ask the Spirit to guide the words from my mouth and the actions from my hands, no matter what I write on my blog, the more I realize that there is a vast chasm between where I would like to be and where I am today.
The formula I believe lies in that which I mentioned before. Forgiveness of others and of ourselves is more than just a cathartic release. It is a process where we are wiping the slate clean. It is a process where we are exposing our hearts and souls to Jesus. It is a process where we are truly saying: Come Lord Jesus, Come. Come into my soul and be its Shepard. Come into my life and be its Guide.
There is not one of us here – whether 30 or 60+who knows the final hour of our passage. But we do know our innermost thoughts and our hearts. This is not about preparing ourselves for that final hour. But It is about being truthful with ourselves in the eyes of God. We need to stop and say once and for all that we want to be free. We want to be free of the prejudices, the politics, the jealousies, the heaviness of our hearts and we want to be able to see the light of Jesus in our lives.
You know, as I learn Spanish, my teacher uses music to sharpen my listening skills. The other day, I listened to a beautiful song, Color Esperanza, The Color of Hope sung by Diego Torres who actually performed the son for Pope John Paul !!. There is one line that fits this homily so well: “ It is better to be bright than to just look at the sun.”
We are blind. All of us. But He holds out to us the promise of sight that is set on Him. How many of us are willing – right now – in this moment – in this Church – to stand before Christ as we are united with him in the Eucharist and for the first and final time in our lives say: Free me Lord rom my blindness so that I can truly be all that you want to be as your beloved son or daughter ? .Free me so that I can see the light of your love alive in me.