1st remark: Beautiful to have this week Psalm 23rd. We often think of it as the psalm of the “Valley of the shadow of death” / Read at funerals, but it is first of all a psalm of trust – Confidence that God as a shepherd walks with us and can bring us strength, courage, comfort and help on the journey / Guidance.
Once again in the Bible, we are invited to overcome fear. I would like to stop here to explain two points that I think are important:
– Overcoming fear does not mean that we don’t have the right to fear. If there is no fear, there is nothing to overcome. It is not about denying our feelings or self persuasion. It is to realize that there is something / someone bigger than us / bigger than our problems and that this someone bigger than us cares and does not abandon us. (Some of you have posted how praying these days made you feel better). There is a promise of life even in the midst of death. This is this promise we remember during Lent.
– The invitation not to fear does not mean there is nothing to fear, it is not an invitation to be reckless. Some Christians act like they believe that God is a superhero in the sky pulling all the strings for them and watching their backs, and so nothing bad can happen (to them). But the Psalm tells us that the way God is with us is not by pulling the strings, but by walking with us. God’s power is the power of life and life is resilient.
Some crisis are inevitable, most are made worse b/c of our way of living even if it is not b/c of individual sin (cf John: The blind man is not blind b/c of his sin or of his parents’). We are responsible for the bad and we have to do our best to fix it. But God will work with us. Individually and as a community.
2 – Moreover, God works with those who are willing to work with God – two readings today and also Mary’s Canticle reminds us that God works with those who are humble, the “overlooked” b/c they let God act trough them, knowing they aren’t all powerful themselves. The Bible made of David this great king but also reminds us (first reading) that David was the last and the least in his own family. His own father completely overlooked him: When Samuel said he was looking for a king among Jesse’s sons, Jesse didn’t even remember David. In the Gospel, ironically, the blind man is also the one who is “overlooked” – He does not see, but more deeply, nobody sees him.
Salvation comes in unexpected way, from unexpected people and it is something important to remember when we are afraid. Don’t overlook what could be life giving.
What makes the difference in our lives is when we are humble enough / willing to open up to God. David wrote this beautiful psalm. He was a shepherd, he shares his own experience of feeling lonely, afraid and overlooked. But God saw him and chose him. The blind man also opens up to Jesus’s power instead of trying to identify (as did a lot of religious people) if Jesus was “good enough” to cure him, had all the credentials, obeyed the letter of the law (He cured on a Sabbath). And Jesus turns to those who turn to him. What matters to God is the disposition of our hearts.
Have you noticed that the OT says that God does not look the appearance and then it says that David was very good looking? It’s b/c when the Bible talk about appearance, it is not about physical appearance, it is more about social status. God does not look at social status but sees the hearts (open or close). As for us, generally we don’t care about the hearts, we care more about social status. We don’t look at those who have no power and mostly, we don’t believe their stories – and that’s another important point I want to discuss about our Scriptures today.
3 – We generally read John 4 as this story where “Jesus cures a blind man” and we understand it as a story of a miracle, but if we look closer, it is not so much about a miracle. It is more about somebody telling a story nobody wants to believe. Not the religious leaders and not even the parents of the man.
We know that. There are people in this world whom, no matter what, everybody will believe their stories even if they lie to your face, and others, who tell the truth, are voices that go unheard. Your age, social class, gender or race is often what makes your story believable or not.
This man / blind man was a “sinner” – mostly he was handicapped and poor and had no connections, therefore his story was unbelievable for most. It may cut deep for some of us who experienced that…People don’t believe you b/c you’re too young, or b/c of your skin color…On the other side, doesn’t it happen to us that we don’t believe people based on how they look like / they are and mainly because their story is disturbing to us?
– The real issue is that the religious leaders does not want to believe the blind man because they don’t want to believe in Jesus / Jesus brings disruptions to their lives, questions their power and what they take for granted. The miracle of a “sinner” being healed by a “sinner” on a Sabbath Day does not fit the narrative of the Temple where people used religion / rites to assert their power and where the roles were clearly defined.
4 – Heart of the question: It’s not only that we tend to believe powerful people’s stories but the main problem is that some people use stories to assert their power (religious people, politics), or lie to please others (family, parents) – and not to spare them but to manipulate them. How often do we say what’s expect of us and are not truthful to our experience just b/c it’s more convenient? What happens and what is extraordinary with the blind man is that he clings to his story, to what he witnessed even if he does not understand and cannot explain, and even if he is not rewarded for telling the truth – quite the opposite. The blind man acknowledges that someone / something is bigger than him and he let this power works through him. The truth is more important than what’s advantageous to him.
Some people think they are truthful b/c they cling to their opinions (religious, political etc), but the Gospel shows us that the real truthfulness is to testify of what we have experienced, even if it is disturbing. We are invited to refuse to fit the official narrative that pleases some and gives power to others. We are called to testify about what we have seen, even if we are the only one who saw / who can see.
These days, I think a lot of scientists and how they can be the prophets of our age when they warn us of impending dangers. But we don’t listen to them b/c they aren’t charismatic enough or b/c what they have to say does not please us, and it disturbs us. On the other way around, a lot of politics, companies will tell lies / tales that reassure us but aren’t for our own good eventually. The Gospel reminds us that we need to be faithful to the truth, not to what is convenient for us.
What about you? What is the story of your life? If you had one story, what would you choose to tell? Where did you see salvation coming to you? Where did you experience rejection? When were you heard?