4th Sunday of Lent Year A 2017:
Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent and we are celebrating the Second Scrutiny for the elect of our parish who are preparing for the sacraments at Easter. The gospel we just heard focuses on light and blindness. Christ is the Light. He takes away the physical blindness of the man who was born blind, but even more, he gives the Light of Faith to that man as well, while the Pharisees stay in their blindness. This reading helps us all to see. This reading helps us all to recognize Christ as the light of the world. No matter how much darkness we might face in life, and sometimes it’s a lot, Christ is the light. The darkness will not win. So, keep praying for these two elect of our parish. We pray that Christ will take away their spiritual blindness and give them the light of faith.
But, today for the homily, I wanted to focus on the passage at the beginning of the gospel. It really struck me as being important. The disciples find this poor blind man and they ask Jesus a seemingly innocuous question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus responds: neither one. I think this question needs some more analysis. And, at the root of this question is a spiritual issue that I see quite often when talking with people.
At the root of this question, the disciples are really asking Jesus: “why do bad things happen?” Don’t we all have this question? We want to blame problems on something or someone. There has to be someone who is at fault right? Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint evil on the concrete actions and decisions of human beings: the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened because of the wicked decisions of the murderous terrorists. We know exactly who to blame. But, what do we do with things like hurricanes, tornadoes, cancer, or blindness in the gospel reading? We have the same desire to figure out who to blame. So the disciples say: somebody must have sinned. Therefore, God is simply punishing this person for his sin or his parent’s sin. In some ways, this theory would be satisfying right? We could simply say: God just punishes us for our sins.
But, Jesus’ answer is mind-blowing: this man is not blind because of sin. This man is not blind because God is punishing him. In fact, this is not how God works at all. I can’t tell you how many people have told me: God must be punishing me. But, God doesn’t do that. God never does anything evil. It’s impossible for him to do something that is evil. Rather, all the evil we have ever experienced in our lives comes from two sources: #1, bad choices by ourselves and others; #2, we live in a broken world because of Original Sin. That’s it. All the evil we have ever experienced either comes from bad choices or the fact that we live in a broken world.
I really don’t like those two reasons. I want something more. Why do bad things happen to good people? It must be someone’s fault. We have to blame it on someone. Maybe we want to blame it on God: “God has a plan” we might say. But, God never does evil things just so something good would happen. No, the evil in our lives either comes from bad decisions or the brokenness of the world.
So, does this mean that everything is hopeless? Of course not. Why do bad things happen? Christ answers the apostles and us with these words: “it is so that the works of God might be made visible.” In other words, God sent Jesus precisely to overcome the evil we experience in this world. No matter where the evil comes from, Jesus is the light that can overcome the darkness. Whether that is the darkness of our bad choices, or the darkness of our broken world, the death and resurrection of Jesus has the power to sweep away all the darkness of the entire universe and replace it with his wondrous light.
In the face of sickness, sadness, or the loss of a loved one, people will often ask me: why did this happen? Why did God do this? I always try to answer the same way. God doesn’t cause evil. It’s true that he does allow evil, he could stop it, but he doesn’t. But, God doesn’t cause evil. So the answer to the question why is often just the fact that we live in a broken world. So it’s not a great answer to a tough question. But, I suggest a different question. Rather than asking why God allowed evil, ask “what did God do in response to this evil, this darkness?” The answer to that question is much more inspiring: in the face of the darkness and evil experienced by his people, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. And, Jesus Christ laid down his life out of love for us. In moments of darkness, despair, suffering, let the light of Christ shine in our lives. Faith doesn’t take away our pain and sadness, but it gives us hope, it gives us light, even in darkness.