Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco c.1570, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA.
Click here to read today’s Sunday Mass Readings.
“Laetare, Jerusalem: et conventum facite, omnes qui diligitis eam…” “Rejoice Jerusalem: gather together all you that love her…” Entrance antiphon for today’s Mass.
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Read today’s gospel and see if you agree with me that the strangest thing to this whole miracle is: [Jesus said], “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on [the blind man’s] eyes…” Jesus did something similar to this two other times (Mark 7:31-35 and 8:22-26), and from what I have read it is somewhat of a mystery why. Theories range from a repetition of God creating Adam from the dust of the earth to the supposed therapeutic properties of saliva. The experts wander through the social reactions to spitting, which range from almost horror to acceptance. In other words, there is little consensus as to what Jesus meant by doing this. So I imagine it is up to each one of us to reach our own opinion of this strange act of the Lord. One thing is certain though, and that is the immense reaction to this miracle (explaining the length of today’s gospel), and the authorities who had a hugely negative response to it. For one thing, it seems Jesus did this on the Sabbath, when physical work was forbidden. Consequently the verdict was, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” That recalls Jesus’ famous remark, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Perhaps that is what is at the heart of this miracle, Jesus loudly demonstrating what our priorities should be, to love and help each other above all else. And tie that to the nature of this miracle – light entering a dark world, a man blind from birth could now see for the first time! Isn’t that what life should be all about? Isn’t that what education is all about, spreading light amid ignorence? Isn’t that what responsible parenting is all about? Isn’t that the heart of the story of Helen Keller? And Jesus uses whatever is at hand to accomplish this, sabbath or no sabbath. He was doing the right thing.
Something similar can be applied to our first reading, God calling David from the field tending sheep to be king of the Hebrews. Note God’s instruction to the prophet Samuel, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” from which every Christian coronation through the centuries has the anointing of the new monarch as the supreme moment of the service (not the crowning!). We will see that on May 6th when King Charles III is anointed and crowned in Westminster Abbey, the last kingdom to celebrate this ancient ceremony. And note God’s instruction to the prophet – it is not good looks or appearance which are important, for “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” It is just a happy coincidence that David is also pleasing to the eye (and consequently became a favorite subject for artists down through the centuries). But for God the light in the heart is more important than the reflected light that we all see. And the metaphor carries over to our second reading today, where St. Paul says to the new Christians in Ephesus, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
Library of Celsus in the Remains of the City of Ephesus, now in Turkey.
And even the Mass becomes a little lighter today should the priest respond to the permission to wear rose vestments at Mass. Laetare, Rejoice, Sunday is a little break in the penitential atmosphere of this holy season, a modest breather in the reflective mood. Easter is closer! It is up to each of us to look within and clear out all that obstructs the light of God from entering our soul; selfishness, self-righteousness, self importance, me before you, any and all of that will cut down God’s sacred light from entering our hearts. And only each one of us can do anything about that.
Samuel Anoints David, Dura Europos Synagogue c.3rd Century, Dura Europos, Syria.
Now, I have a Lenten exercise where I am asking you to participate. I get very few reactions to this webpage over the last few years, so I am in the dark as to how it is received. It would be a great help to get answers to these questions:
- What do you appreciate about this webpage?
- What annoys about this webpage?
- What would you like to see on this webpage that is lacking?
- Any overall recommendations you have for this webpage?
- How did you find out about this webpage?
- What should be done to make this webpage more popular?
In other words, I am asking for a thoughtful critique of this webpage.
Please send your responses (and I DO ask you to respond) to:
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS WEBPAGE TO THOSE YOU THINK
WOULD APPRECIATE IT. THANK YOU.