HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: ENABLED BY DISABILITIES.
BY: Fr. Andrew Ekpenyong.
1. Riddles. What has an eye but cannot see? Needle. What has ears but cannot hear? A cornfield. Needles are not meant to see. But when a person is born blind, deaf, mute, or disabled in any way, at any time, there are huge challenges there, calling for our support but also raising questions about God’s omnipotence and goodness. Such persons are lacking what is proper to human nature. But even our normal human abilities are limited and also present challenges. For instance, to see at night, we invent light bulbs and when these are not there, we invent and use night vision goggles. Our Lord demonstrates in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 9:1-41) how the works of God are manifested in a person born blind (Jn 9:3), how even our disabilities can enable us to receive salvation. Yes, thanks to the grace of God, we are enabled even by our disabilities. Remember what our Lord told St Paul “… my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9).
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2. Removing Barriers. Last week our Lord taught us how to break relationship barriers and reach out to others, using His encounter with the Samaritan woman. He does the same in today’s Gospel reading, using His encounter with the man born blind, representing everyone with disabilities, which means, all of us. For there are obvious functional disabilities, due to bodies and minds that do not work as expected. But we also experience disabilities in social contexts. Can the works of God be displayed even in disabilities? But what are the works of God? In simple terms, creation, providence, and salvation. And how are these displayed in even in our disabilities? In the 1st reading (1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a), God “healed” Prophet Samuel and Mr Jesse of the human social disability of judging by appearance. In His providence, God who looks into the heart, chose David the youngest and the least expected of Jesse’s sons and had him anointed as future king. God’s providence was manifested even in David’s lack of experience. The 2nd reading (Eph 5:8-14) directly reminds you and me, that in spite of our inabilities and disabilities, God’s work of salvation is manifested in us, that Christ has become our light in darkness, that we are children of light and can see at night with the night vision goggles of the Word of God and the Sacraments. These enable us to produce every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
3. God’s Work Continues. In the Gospel reading, God’s work is manifested not only in the man born blind but first of all in the disciples because the disciples were first healed of the social disability of judging by appearance, the disability of hasty generalization. Upon seeing the man born blind, they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their question may have been prompted by what our Lord earlier told a different man who was ill for 38 years, whom our Lord healed near the pool of Bethesda. He had told him: “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jn 5:14. But in this case of the man born blind, our Lord responded: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (Jn 9:3). That’s a huge relationship barrier broken. The disciples and all of us, are now rescued from the wrong notion that every physical infirmity is due to personal sin. Now we can relate with disabled persons without being judgmental, enabling us to be better agents of God’s providence. Finally, Christ not only healed the man of his physical blindness, but also offered this man salvation. He asked the man: “Do you believe in the Son of Man”. And when our Lord affirmed that He is the Son of Man, the man born blind said: “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped our Lord. Wow. His disability enabled him to accept God’s salvation. Paradoxically, some of those who failed to see the limits of their God-given abilities, found it hard to believe in Christ. Some of the Pharisees held that since our Lord had mixed spittle with clay and anointed the man’s eyes, that that amounted to making bricks on the Sabbath, which meant breaking Jewish interpretation of God’s commandment that we keep holy the Sabbath day. Sisters and brothers, let us pray to be healed of similar disabilities that are not so obvious. Remember Christopher Duffley? He’s now a 22-year-old musician, inspirational speaker, and podcaster. He was born prematurely and blind from birth, then later diagnosed with autism. At 11, his rendition of the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” sort of broke the internet with 65 million views. He sang at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia during the visit of Pope Francis. Let’s turn that song into one of our Lenten prayers: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see You”. May we see Christ in all who face serious challenges in life: disabilities, ill-health, poverty, doubt, and so on, so that we may respond with greater love. Amen.
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