From Father's Desk

Dear Friends,

Recently I learned that Aaron Rodgers spent four days in a darkness retreat. Spending time in the dark, away from all stimuli can be a great way to expand our sight, maybe to give us fresh eyes? Apparently, he was doing some soul searching and wanted to pull away from the noise of the world. Today the light, noise and connectivity are almost inescapable. A wonderful Lenten challenge could include unplugging from technology for forty days, or even just one or two days a week. Challenging, but so good. My retreat this summer at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, KY proved such a powerful way to unplug.

But what of light and sound? It makes me recall a news story about the few places on earth that do not suffer from sound contamination, but where one would only hear natural sounds. Apparently planes can even be heard from the heart of the Amazon with some frequency. Rather than looking for completely natural places, we might also consider something like the sense deprivation tank used in the popular Stranger Things series. Did you know that one could immerse oneself in such a tank in downtown Washington, DC? We modern humans go through great lengths to separate ourselves from the light and noise we modern humans have created.

Today in the GospelFreshEyes wk4 slidecover we meet the man born blind. Unfortunately, like the woman at the well, we never learn his name. He is known for his blindness and the way God used that blindness to offer him, and those who witness the cure, great sight. While blindness was considered a punishment due to sin, our Lord tells the disciples from the outset that his blindness is not the result of anyone’s sin but, “So that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn 9:3). Jesus will perform a sign so that others might come to believe in Him. In part this explains why Jesus finds the man again - after he is thrown out of the synagogue - to offer the opportunity for faith: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (Jn 9:35). Faith is a deeper sight than the gift of vision.

The moment exposes a deeper irony. The one who is blind comes to see, and more than that, to believe in the Son of Man, some who witness the sign also come to believe. Some others who have the gift of sight, and those who are most learned and who should be able to see the furthest with their wisdom, are blinded by the healing on the sabbath. Jesus puts the paradox this way, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” (Jn 9:39). While one’s eyes are opened, others’ eyes are closed, closed to the deeper reality of who the Son of Man is. 

Paul puts the contrast between light and darkness this way: “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. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness…” (Eph 5:8-11).  This week we might ask the Lord to help us see our darkness, or to recognize our blindness. And to pray for the deeper gift of spiritual vision to see with fresh eyes of faith!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Joel