Fr John’s Reflection – Forth Sunday of Lent

Forth Sunday of Lent – 22nd March

Beware of Schadenfreude

In the midst of any crisis, it is possible to become blinded to what is in front of us. This is certainly the story which we are focussed on in this Sunday’s Gospel. The man born blind is cured by Jesus and is able to see. What we discover is that in recovering his sight, it reveals the blindness or the prejudice of others. The first question revolves around whether the blindness is hereditary and based on a sin committed by the person themselves or by his parents. Jesus recognises that this focusses on the wrong question. Physical suffering is not propagated by God as a punishment for sin. Rather it is in the person’s physical sickness that God may be seen to be at work.

The second question centres on whether we can experience healings within the community which restore people to full health. Here the emphasis is that a change in a person’s health can have an impact much more broadly than on the person, it changes the heart of the community to see the person differently. They can no longer be defined by their sickness, they need to be seen as a person in their own right with inherent dignity.

The third question is that if God is at work in the life of this person, how does that change our understanding and experience of God’s presence. What happens when we face the unexpected is, we reference what we experience based on what we have already learnt. Yet in the face of new realities, we need to be open to growing in our understanding and our openness of where God touches our lives. We are called not to rely on existing paradigms which seek to confine God’s merciful love for all people.

Yet in our own time, it is possible to see elements of blindness or myopia which see each crisis in the terms of how it affects our own lives. We need to be cautious that we do not see this either as God’s judgment on the world, a way of isolating people due to their sickness or more seriously questioning how they can grow in a relationship with God. This is a time when people can quickly reference the situation based on their own understanding of the Church or Society or both. Yet we are called to be open to God’s presence in all things and seek what ways we can see this become manifest in our everyday lives. We need to discover creative ways in which in our physical isolation we do become isolated from God or from each other.

Fr. John Armstrong