By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross
Sunday 26 March, 2017
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Tighes Hill, NSW
One true saying is, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Jesus no doubt would have loved to have shouted that to the Pharisees many times, and certainly over the issue of the healing of the man who was blind from birth. We humans are masters of hearing what we want to hear, seeing what we want to see and believing what we want to believe.
In today’s first reading, Samuel fell into this trap. God told him to find a replacement for King Saul and so he began to look for a more perfect version of Saul, namely a younger, stronger and more fearless warrior. That is a very human thing to do, but God looks deeper than the surface and often chooses the weak, the morally flawed and the least obvious candidate to be his agent and disciple. God is a God of Surprises, which means he is unpredictable. God’s choice as Saul’s successor was David, a young man who turned out not to be a paragon of virtue and self-control.
The Pharisees believed that God only blessed the righteous, and in their view the righteous and holy were those who obeyed God’s law. The Law was very clear about dispensing medical assistance on the Sabbath day. It could only be done to prevent the death of someone who, without that assistance, would die on the Sabbath. The person Jesus healed on the Sabbath had been blind from birth so he was not likely to die from his blindness any time soon. Jesus knew the Law and broke it, so scandalising the Pharisees. However, Jesus’ prime mission was not to create holiness in people, but to bring them to salvation, and for him, that takes precedence over the Sabbath Laws.
The blind man who was healed stuck to his story. He knows he was blind. He knows he can now see, and he knows that it is through Jesus that God has healed him. The Pharisees grilled him about his story, even questioning his parents, but he would not change it. In fact, in the multiple recitations of his story, the man comes to recognise the true identity of Jesus.
You may not have noticed, but in verse 11 of St John chapter 9, the man describes Jesus as ‘man.’ In verse 17 he describes him as a ‘prophet.’ In verse 33, he is a ‘man from God.’ In verse 38, he is acknowledges Jesus as the ‘Lord who is to be believed and worshipped.’
This process of recognition of Jesus’ identity is the opposite of many of today’s Catholics, who having been taught that Jesus is the Son of God and Son of man, now only acknowledge him as a human being in whom God’s spirit is active. In one fell swoop, they wipe the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the dual nature of Jesus off the Christian map of beliefs. Spiritual darkness is descending upon the Western Christian Church.
In the crisis that is currently facing the Church, it is easy to become diverted and focus on religious issues such as liturgy, ecclesiology, the direction in which the priest faces for mass, what is valid and what isn’t. The real crisis is that of faith and whether we are abandoning the teaching of the Church.
In his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus refused to be drawn into a religious argument about where God must be worshipped. He was more concerned with the spiritual issue of bringing her to the recognition of his identity as God’s anointed Messiah. If our belief is right, then this will be reflected in the way we worship. If these are right, everything else will follow.
True life comes from belonging to God’s family of the Church. This is why we humans are created, and this life is illumined by the truth revealed by Jesus. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is the guardian of that truth, the holder of the key to eternal life. The key is the Scriptures, the record of God’s encounter with his people and in particular, the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It is not simply holding the record that matters, it is proclaiming the true interpretation of that record that is crucial. This record is not the Church’s to change or distort. The Church that has received it, must defend it so that it can be handed onto others so that they, alongside the man born blind will be able to say, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and then fall down and worship.