4th Sunday Lent – Fr. Gribowich Homily

Good morning, once again. I know this is so unusual for many of us to have to be experiencing that this way, so thank you for being patient with us and we’re learning as we go here, as well.

And of course I haven’t seen you in a long time – and I still don’t see you now –  so I can kind of empathize with the blind man that we hear in our gospel today. So to be back in Brooklyn, to be able to be part of the St. Charles community is always a very great blessing for me ,and to not actually have you in the same physical spaces, of course a very trying thing for me, and I’m sure it is for you, too.

So we are together, united through what may take place here at this Mass through the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ comes to us in three ways: of course, we experience the Body of Christ by meditating upon the body that was nailed to the cross and rose from the dead.

The Body of Christ, of course, comes to us through the Eucharist.  And of course, the Body of Christ is us as a Church. All of us participate in the body of Christ, so we’re never far from the presence of Christ, because the very fact is that we share in the inner workings of his body. One of the great themes that we see throughout all of Scripture is the great image of the relationship and contrasts between light and darkness. And even in the second reading today St. Paul talks about how we are people of the light.

And of course, there is baptism. We believe that we’re given a certain type of supernatural grace to be able to participate in seeing the fullness of God in different ways. And we often look at lightness being something that’s very good and very positive: the presence of God. Darkness of course being the very opposite – something that is evil, something that is the absence of God, something that is what turns us away from thinking that God is even present at all.

Yet when we think about this gospel that we just heard, it’s not so simple. It’s not black and white, if you will, and it comes across in the very final thing that Jesus says to the Pharisees. Because the Pharisees are kind of questioning this whole episode of why Jesus heals on the Sabbath.

And Jesus says I’ve come into the world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see and those who see might become blind. Listen to that very closely: Jesus comes not for us to see,  in other words, not for us to see the light, but he also comes that for those of us who actually somehow are perceived in the light can actually become blind.

What’s he getting at? Why does Jesus want us to become blind to enter into darkness? Well I think it’s very relevant to what we’re experiencing right now, because many of us here are trying to make sense of this by using our natural vision, if you will, trying to look at things in our own lights. All of us right now are searching for answers from our leaders, from our scientists, from those in the medical profession. All of us are trying to figure out how to make this whole thing go away or how to just solve it in the quickest way possible, so we can just go back to our normal lives.

But perhaps what Jesus is calling us to do right now is to allow ourselves to enter into darkness – to become blind and to become blind not so that we can think that somehow God is not with us – because our own natural light can question that –  but to become blind so that we can actually be given the light of Christ, to see through his eyes.

It’s very interesting how Jesus heals this man who’s born blind. He takes the earth and he uses his saliva and then rubs it over his eyes. If we think about the very beginning of the Bible, one when humans are created, they’re created from the earth. Jesus in a certain sense wants us to return back to our humanity, because it’s in our pure human form that we are actually who God wants us to be.

Jesus uses that clay and gives the man sight so he sees in the way that Christ allows him to see – not in the way that our distorted way from thinking about things, but in the way that Jesus wants to see. I think that’s the most important part about this story, as well, is that this man did not return back to seeing before because he never saw before. He was born blind and at this moment in time the world has been changed, and it’s not going to go back to what it was before.

We have to be able at this moment to say yes to being blind, so that Jesus can give us this new sight to see how he’s working in the midst of this. Jesus has not abandoned us, ever. The very fact that we’re breathing proves that God still has a mission and a purpose for us to be here right now. How do we respond to this – did we use our natural vision to try to figure out what we’re supposed to do at this time, or do we allow ourselves to be in the dark so that we can actually give our full trust and confidence in the vision of Christ to transform our own natural vision. That’s ultimately what we’re called to do. But all that matters – but all that requires for us to do is to actually allow ourselves to become blind.

I was thinking about this in light of different men and women throughout the ages who have been denied access to the sacraments. In a certain sense, they were in the dark because they didn’t have access to church, they didn’t have access to receiving the Eucharist, or receiving sacraments.

And one of the people I’ve been thinking about the last couple days as someone who actually from my own home state of Pennsylvania. He came from a very small coal mining town of Shenandoah. He was a Jesuit priest, Walter Ciszek, and he unfortunately when he was being trained to to go and serve the Russian people went into a very tragic situation where he was put in prison by the Soviets. He was in the gulag for about 20 years and during that time there wasn’t much that time in solitary confinement where he himself as a priest could not celebrate Mass – no access to the sacraments – and I was taken by the fact that he was able to reflect upon his time after his released in the 1960s.

Now what was happening during that time in his life – and of course in that time in the world and he writes some very profound things – I just wanted to share this with you – this is what he writes in a book that he wrote called He Leadeth Me, and I think that his words apply directly to what we’re going through right now so I’d ask you just listen closely to these words of a man who most likely will be a saint in our lifetime.

Father Ciszek writes, “Mysteriously, God in his providence must make use of our tragedies to remind our fallen human nature of his presence and his love, of the constancy of his concern and care for us. It is not vindictiveness on his part; he does not send us tragedies to punish us for having so long forgotten him. The failing is on our part.

“He was always present and ever faithful. It is we who failed to see him or to look for him in times of ease and comfort, to remember he is there shepherding and gardening and providing us the very things we come to count on and expect to sustain us every day.

“One thing only need be of great concern to us in all this seeming upheaval and catastrophe: to be faithful to God and to look to Him in everything, confident of His love and His constancy. Aware that this world and this new order is not our lasting city, any more than the previous one had been, and striving always to know His will and to do it each day of our lives.”

May we deny our own sight this day, our own vision. Allow ourselves to become blind and ask Jesus to give us new sight and a new vision to see his powerful work, working in the midst of a very, very trying time.

God bless you.