Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This weekend, we celebrate the second Scrutiny for those catechumens and candidates preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. These rites of continuing conversion, as I said last week, are celebrated publicly as a reminder that we, those already initiated in the mysteries of the Catholic faith, are also called to continue on the path of conversion. The Gospels read with each Scrutiny remind us of some aspect of this call. Last week, we heard about the Samaritan woman at the well. Today we reflect on the Gospel story of Jesus healing a man born blind. From the moment he can see, the blind man is eager to follow the Lord in everything.
There are numerous healings of blind men in the Gospel. Of course, blindness is not merely a physical condition, but also a symbol of a spiritual reality. In the Bible, whenever we see a blind person, they stand as a symbol of our spiritual blindness, our inability or even failure to see from God’s point of view. As they are healed, we recognize that it is by God’s grace and favor that we come to understand the divine will more perfectly. As this blind man is healed, we see him grow simultaneously in his desire for a relationship with God.
Other dynamics are in play in this story. We will notice the response of the crowds and the scribes and Pharisees to the healing. The crowds, seeing the evidence of the miracle, are somewhat incredulous. This is an attitude often present in our own world. We have a societal habit of trying to explain things to fit our narrative or agenda, rather than admit of the possibility that God is at work. The Pharisees are more accepting of the miraculous, but they, too, make a stink as they quibble with the timing of the miracle and the way in which the Lord acted. While they will acknowledge the miracle, in their pride the Pharisees reject the one who performed the miracle. We can also see a failure of pastoral care here. A man who sought help has received the gift most needed in miraculous fashion, but those who should be most attuned to the spiritual dismiss him as unworthy of the grace he has received, rather than sharing in his joy. Keep in mind, though, that the newly-sighted man does not let the disbelief around him diminish his joy.
These dynamics are instructive for us as we strive to live each day with open eyes, following and worshiping Jesus as Lord. A powerful encounter with God’s grace and mercy, especially one that takes place during a retreat or in a private moment of unwitnessed prayer, can have an impact that leads to a visible change in our life. People may notice such a change, but not knowing the ways that God’s grace has touched your heart, they look askance, try to explain it away, or even deny that you could have had such an encounter with God. This can be especially difficult to receive: in a time when you want everyone to share the joy you have experienced, it seems no one is on your side. This is an old trick of the devil. When we have an encouraging moment with God, the evil one likes to throw discouragement in our path, most especially in the area of our relationships. To find ourselves suddenly surrounded by people who are indifferent, or even hostile to our experience of God’s grace leaves us, most often, feeling rather empty. The man born blind is a model for us. His sight, granted by God’s overflowing mercy, is a perfected sight. He keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus even when obstacles are thrown in his path. He is confident of the grace received, even when attacked for believing. May our experience of the second scrutiny today help us to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, removing any blindness from our hearts, and guiding us as we seek to worship and follow Jesus who gives us light.