Today’s gospel is Jesus healing the man born blind. This is the essence of my homily.
Some time ago I read an article in the Catholic Herald about Fr Hugh Allan, a Nobertine priest in Manchester. One day he was walking in public with his habit on when a car pulled up long side him. The window rolled down and the driver shouted “He [God] is not up there, you know!” and then took off. Fr Hugh commented: “It gets people thinking to publically witness to our Christianity. If they see people who devote themselves to their faith, they might begin to see the truth in it.”
This story should encourage the value of your ordinary, everyday Christian witness. Pope Paul VI said that the Church needed more witnesses rather than teachers because it is only witnesses that have the capacity to communicate the faith to others.
For years I’ve been debating/arguing with unbelievers about the existence of God. When you look at the incredible universe we live in, something as marvellously complex as the human brain, it couldn’t all have come into existence by chance or by itself. Look at the church building we’re in. It would be completely unreasonable to think that all the stones, mortar, stained glass, timer and slates all fell out of the sky during a storm and happened to come together in this way! But for all the arguing, I don’t think I ever won a single convert. On the other hand think about all the converts that have been won by the Christ-like lives of people like St Mother Teresa and St Francis.
There is an enormous need for us to reach out anew to the people of our time with the Christian message. Given that our national Mass attendance rate is around 32%, it means that the other 68% are lapsed to some greater or lesser degree. Many of our lapsed brothers and sisters live as if God doesn’t exist, that eternity doesn’t exist or that the way we live here on earth will determine our eternal destiny – to be with God or without God.
This matter of blindness leads on to the main theme of the gospel, and particularly to the man born blind. Jesus puts mud on his eyes and tells the man to wash it off in the pool of water. Afterwards the man is able to see again.
At one level Jesus is doing a good deed. The blind beggar man will now be able to begin a new life. Secondly Jesus’ working a miracle tells us that he possesses divine power. Perhaps at the most important level, Jesus’ action has a spiritual teaching.
The blind man can see physically when he washed the mud off his eyes. But he regains his spiritual vision as well. Initially he thinks that Jesus is just a holy man, a prophet. But later with help from Jesus, he recognises him as divine. He says “Lord I believe” and worships.
The big message for us is that we need to wash any spiritual mud or impurity off our eyes if we are to see Jesus clearly and acknowledge him as our Lord and Saviour. In the second reading, St Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be faithful to God’s commandments: “Be like children of the light, for the effects of light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” The Ten Commandments are God’s great gifts to live in this way.
Going back to last week, another way to live a pure life and keep the spiritual mud off our eyes is to dedicate ourselves to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
To finish I would like to recommend some homework. I know that you are all good boys and girls and conscientious about such matters! When the blind man finally recognised Jesus as divine, he said LORD I BELIEVE and worshipped him. Later on I would like you to make a similar private act of worship. Go into your bedroom or living room where there is a religious sign like a crucifix or holy picture. If possible prostrate yourself on the floor or kneel or just sit depending on your fitness. Worship Jesus by slowly and meaningfully repeating 10 times LORD I BELIEVE.
To sum up: Our every day Christian witness is a powerful way to preach the gospel to others. To see Jesus clearly we need to keep the spiritual mud off our eyes.