Today’s reflection is on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Sunday March 31, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The longer form for the 2nd Scrutiny was used for this reflection.
I can still hear my poor mom’s words now as she walked into the kitchen, “Who made this mess?!” My sisters and I just stood there. “This mess did not make itself.” she said. Finally, I blamed Stephanie, Stephanie blamed Marie, and Marie blamed me! My mom finally thundered, “I don’t care who made the mess! I just want it cleaned up! Now!”
My poor mom was experiencing in her own day the result of sin that transcends time! In the beginning God gave humanity one rule! That’s it! Don’t eat the fruit! Not so hard, right? Well… Like my mom, God comes in and says, “Who made this mess? The man says, “It’s that woman you put here! And the woman says, “It was the snake!” And that’s all it took—and we’ve been blaming each other for our problems ever since!
We do have some real problems in our families, our communities, in our country and in our world! Mass migration, deforestation, extinction of species, terrorism, pollution, abortion, abject poverty, homelessness, starvation, genocide, human trafficking, disease, violence, drugs, terrorism, racism, and sexism! Luckily, I know just who to blame…liberals! No wait! Conservatives! Mexicans! Communists! Corporations! It’s the man! The woman! No, wait…it’s kids these days!
We do this all the time in education. How is this kid so far below grade level! It’s gotta be that new 4th grade teacher! No, it’s the curriculum. It’s the administrative turn-over. It’s not the materials, it’s the learning environment! It’s parents these days! It’s the education system. It’s No Child Left Behind, it’s Common Core! It’s the liberals, the conservatives, the Mexicans, the…wait, are we back to that? Whose fault is it?! Who’s to blame?! To be honest I don’t know, and the truth is, it shouldn’t even matter us. Jesus has something very important for us today.
The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that to have more or less was a curse because of sin. So, if I’ve got a wart on my thumb, then I have more because of sin. If I lose my limb in an accident, then I’ve got less because of sin. If I’ve got a tumor, then that’s more because of sin, and if I’m blind, then that’s less–also because of sin. But what about the man blind from birth in today’s Gospel? Whose sin caused that?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples present him with what they think is a real head scratcher. “Rabbi, who sinned,” they ask, “this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” First, this is obviously a case of sin and this person is being punished—but whose sin caused it? Whose fault is it? Who is responsible for this? Who is to blame?
Jesus gives us a wonderful gift in today’s Gospel, and if you have ears to hear it can change your family, your workplace, your whole life. Jesus is asked a very simple question, “Whose fault is it?” Jesus tells his disciples, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus says stop trying to assign blame— recognize instead the opportunity. You see, that’s our problem. We always look for someone to blame (and so did they), but Jesus always looked for an opportunity to reveal the power of God through his life, his love, his touch, with his resources, his friendship with others. The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus seeing a need and using what he had, (and sometimes what his disciples had), to make things a little better.
In the towns that he entered, in the people he met, in the death and brokenness that faced him, Jesus didn’t see a reason to complain, he saw a reason to hope. He didn’t see an opportunity to blame, he saw in this suffering and sadness an opportunity to proclaim! Jesus used human suffering as an opportunity to show others the amazing mercy, love, goodness and generosity of God.
I remember like yesterday walking across the Arcata bridge while going to school in Humboldt. As I walked past a transient on the bridge he asked me if I could spare a dollar. Naturally, I kept walking…but then I thought about the question. He didn’t ask me if I approved of his decisions in life, or whether I thought he deserved it. He didn’t ask me if I thought he might invest it wisely or whether he would feed a habit. He just asked me if I could spare a dollar…and I could…so I did. And I don’t know what he did with that dollar—but God does, and God will judge him…and me.
Jesus does not call us to complain or to judge. And he doesn’t need us to figure out whose fault it is so we have someone to blame. Like my dear old mom, Jesus wants us to just clean up the mess. Jesus wants the children of light—that’s you and I—to overcome the darkness.
Light does not negotiate or cower before the darkness—it just expels it. It does not shame it or blame it—it just overcomes it. As St. Paul tells us, “You are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Awake, O sleeper and allow the work of God to be made visible through you. Amen?
Think about your day; do you more often look for a reason to blame or an opportunity to help a person in need?
What are some creative ways to come to the help of someone in need that don’t include contributing to addiction and brokenness?
What groups exist at your parish, or can you start at your parish, to alleviate suffering in your community?