19 March 2023

Why do you return to the darkness?

4th Sunday of Lent

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Sin blinds, and Christ heals blindness by forgiving sin. The story of the healing of the Man Born Blind bears this out. He is blind physically and spiritually. His physical healing comes from a bit of wet clay and obedience. Jesus orders him to bathe in the Pool of Siloam. And when he obeys, his afflicted eyes are afflicted no longer. His spiritual healing will wait until Jesus seeks him out. In the meantime, the Once Blind Man tells the Pharisees that he believes Jesus to be a prophet. They don't like hearing this and kick him out of the synagogue. Having tested his obedience, Jesus finds him again and tests his faith. Do you believe, he asks. I do believe, comes the response. “I do believe, Lord.” And John tells us that the Once Blind Man worships Jesus as his Lord. Two healings, two miracles. The eyes are both physically and spiritually opened to the truth. To what they can actually see and to all that can't be seen but still believed. Paul admonishes us to “take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” Why once healed physically and spiritually with the light of Christ would we be tempted to work fruitlessly in the dark? Would the Once Blind Man willingly return to his darkness?

There's a scene in the Monty Python movie, The Life of Brian, where an ex-leper is panhandling near the city gate. Brian asks him how he was cured of his leprosy. He says that Jesus healed him, thus ruining his livelihood. No one wants to help an ex-leper. The rest of the scene is the ex-leper wondering aloud if Jesus would inflict some other, lesser disease or disability on him so he could go back to earning a living as a beggar! Now, I doubt any of us would ask Jesus to re-afflict us with the spiritual diseases he cured us of. But we are more than able and willing to re-afflict ourselves, returning to the darkness all too quickly and all too often. Thus Paul's admonition not to take part in the works of darkness. Freed of our slavery to sin, we nonetheless return to our slave master and put his collar back on. And the results are entirely predictable. Try cleaning your kitchen in total darkness. Or tidying up your garage. Without light, we can't see what you're doing. You can't know what to throw out, what to wipe down, or even when you are done. The resulting mess is more work for you once the lights come on again. If you can't see your end, your goal, then you can't work toward it. You can't know if what you are doing is helping or hurting your progress.

If your end, your goal is Christ, then the only light that helps is the light of Christ. We have all bathed in the Pool of Siloam – baptism. We've been obedient to the need to be washed clean. And we have all declared our faith, “I do believe, Lord!” We know the way, the truth, and the life. We know our mission and ministry – to bear witness to the mercy we have received. We know that sin takes us off track, off the way and into a shepherdless wilderness. And yet. . .we return to our once healed afflictions and take part in the fruitless works of darkness. Why? Maybe for the same reason the ex-leper considered asking Jesus to give a severe limp – he needed a disability or disease for his livelihood. Maybe we think we need to work in the dark to save our jobs. Our reputations. Maybe we're afraid of losing status among family and friends. Maybe we believe that the works of darkness will earn us some prestige and power in the world. The chaos I make of my life when working in the dark looks like my neighbor's chaos, so my chaos can't be all bad. Besides, I have friends and allies in the darkness. People to help me. But they are as blind as you are. And more likely than not, want to keep you in the dark for their reasons. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Christ has given you light. He's healed you. And you are perfectly free to never return to the darkness. Your work can be done in the full light of his grace. You can see how his mercy has removed you from your afflictions, from the chaos of your life before you were healed. And you can follow the Once Blind Man and bear witness to your healing. If you are tempted to return to the darkness, ask yourself: what's in there that will bring me closer to my perfection in Christ Jesus? You can't answer that b/c there is no light in the darkness, and you cannot see. In the darkness, you gamble with your soul and the house always wins. So, take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, rather stay firmly stood in the light of Christ. When tempted, look at the temptation in his light and see it for what it is – a return to disease, disability, and spiritual destitution. Why would you return to the wreck you were before you were healed? It's a fool's gamble. One designed to part you from your inheritance as a child of the Father. Take the cure you've been given and run, bearing witness all the way to the Wedding Feast.

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  1. Matheus8:39 AM

    Worried about the Mississippi Delta tornado news; hope and pray everything's fine with you and your family, and for the victims as well...

    1. Matheus, thank you! Twenty-seven dead. Total destruction of Rolling Fork, MS. Just awful. My family is some 200 miles north of the devastation. Pray for those poor people!