Seeing By Faith (March 22, 2020)

Fourth Sunday of Lent; Year A
To read the Readings, CLICK HERE

Homily by Fr. Toochukwu

Theme: Seeing by faith and not just by physical appearances.

Today’s readings make a distinction between physical and spiritual blindness and remind us of the need to see by faith and not just by physical appearances.
How is your eyesight? Do you need glasses to see well? I do sometimes! In my ministry as a priest, I’ve come in contact with so many people who are physically impaired from seeing. We may call it physical blindness. Usually I like to have some chats with them and most often they draw my attention to the fact that there are two kinds of blindness or two ways of seeing. One of those instances was when I went to Cameroon for a mission. I met this young man called Fidelis who was born blind. Often times, he would visit the rectory to spend some time with the priests. On one occasion after his visit, it was night and I felt pity for him, so I wanted to lead him back home.
To my greatest surprise, he told me, “Father, you don’t need to have pity on me, I am ok, and I can see clearly even better than you do. For you, there is night and day, darkness and light but for me there is no such thing like that. I live always in the day and I know that God is with me; that is why I am not afraid and I don’t need the light or your guidance in order to get home. Though I am physically blind, I can see.” And I said in my mind, Woah!

In today’s gospel we see how Jesus healed the man who was born blind. The blind man was able to see again not only physically but spiritually, hence he believed that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. On the contrary the Pharisees who claimed they can see lacked spiritual insight to see in Jesus the Son of God and the Messiah. Their prejudice blinded them from seeing beyond the appearances. Two things struck me as I read this gospel. 1) The Pharisees saw the blind man’s sickness as a punishment due his sin. 2) Jesus saw the man’s blindness as an opportunity for God’s works/glory to be revealed in him. In light of the challenges we face today – COVID-19 – sickness, suffering, pain, death, cancellation of Masses, shutdown of almost everything worldwide, etc., do we see these as a punishment due to our sins or do we see it as an opportunity for God’s glory to be revealed? Do we see this as an opportunity to grow stronger as a Church or to die?

Although we are neither physically blind and we are not the Pharisees, I think this gospel story has some relevance for us, because in order to see well, good eyesight alone is not sufficient. From the story I just shared and the Gospel, we can see that there are many forms of blindness besides physical blindness. The early Christians saw physical blindness as a metaphor for the spiritual blindness which prevents people from recognizing and coming to Jesus. This type of blindness in some ways is just as crippling as the physical. For example, selfishness blinds us to the needs of others. Insensitivity blinds us to the hurt we are causing to others. Snobbery blinds us to the equal dignity of others. Pride blinds us to our own faults. Prejudice blinds us to the truth and to seeing the good in others. Hurry and impatience blinds us to the beauty of the world around us. Materialism blinds us to the spiritual values. Superficiality blinds us to a person’s true worth or the true nature of things and causes us to judge by appearances.

In our society today, most often image has become more important than reality, appearance rather than substance. Many people look and judge by appearances. Most of the things, values and ideologies the world presents to us appear to be beautiful and enticing but in reality, they are often deceptive and misleading. That is why today’s first reading reminds us to see with the eyes of faith rather than to judge by appearances. That is what we saw in Samuel and his choice of David as the king of Israel. With the eyes of faith, he was able to see beyond the physical appearances of David’s brothers who were more robust and mature in age. He was able to make the right discernment and judgement.

Today, God invites us to look at things and at people not based on the appearances but with the spiritual eyes of faith. The smallest child with faith sees more than the smartest scientist without faith. The gospel story is essentially a faith story – the story of a man who came to faith in Jesus. While he opened more and more to the light of faith; the Pharisees, though physically sighted, became progressively more spiritually blind. Their blindness was caused by sin. It was a willful blindness – they refused to see.

In the church this gospel passage is often addressed to the Catechumens during Lent as they prepare to begin a new relationship with Christ. Hence the man’s journey from blindness to sight symbolizes the journey from unbelief to faith, a journey from darkness to light. Physical sight is a wonderful gift of God which we should never take for granted. But faith is a deeper and more wonderful kind of seeing. Without faith we are in deep night and do not know where we are going. Faith helps us to see clearly and to find our way through the chaos, confusion and darkness of the modern world and walk in the light of Christ. In order to achieve this, we need a personal encounter and experience with Christ. He is the only one who can heal us and guide us to the truth. That is why he came, to lead us from darkness to light and from blindness to sight.

When the blind man in our gospel story today encountered/experienced Christ, he regained his sight; he believed and began to bear witness to Christ. His life changed and he was no longer the same. The same thing happens to us when we have a personal experience with Christ. We discover that religion is not just about coming to church or observing the rituals and doctrines like the Pharisees did. It is about having a relationship with a Person – Jesus Christ. Only such an experience will draw us closer to God and to one another. It helps us to see things from a different perspective and makes us authentic witnesses of Christ.

I don’t know exactly what you are going through right now, I don’t know how COVID-19 has impacted or will impact your life, but one thing I know is that you are not alone. God is with you; he is the Good Shepherd who never abandons his flock. I encourage you to look up to God in faith, and believe that in the end, everything will be alright and God’s glory will be revealed. My prayer for you and for your family is that God may bless you, heal you, strengthen you and give you the spiritual sight we need in order to see clearly by faith and not by appearances, and in order to persevere in our faith and in doing good till the end. Amen!

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