Text: John 9:1-41 (Jesus heals a blind man)
Light can lead to enlightenment; and so light is central to healing. In today’s reading, Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” before he heals a blind person.
Like a person born blind, many of us live in darkness. Happily, the ups and downs of life reveal new layers of Love. The hymn “Amazing Grace” puts it this way: “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
But today, I focus on darkness. My inspiration is found at the end of today’s reading in which Jesus says, “I came into this world to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.”
Hmmm. I wonder if “Amazing Grace” could use a new verse that says “I once was found, but now am lost, was sighted, but now I’m blind!”
This year, I am drawn to the image of Jesus blinding the sighted because this year I feel like I’m in the dark. While I don’t enjoy this feeling, perhaps today’s reading implies that my inability to see the way forward means that I am on the path.
Ever since I was 10 years old, I have followed current events with keen interest. One might even say it is an addiction.
Sometimes, I have combined this interest with activism — in student government at university; in solidarity with Nicaragua in the 1980s; as a partisan of peace and environmental efforts; and as an minister who for the last six years has tried to proclaim hope in the face of news at home and abroad.
But this year, news reports dismay me more often than not. Like many, I consider the new U.S. President to be a racist and ignorant bully, a pathological liar, and a violent nationalist. Given that other racist leaders around the world are gaining success, I struggle to locate hope.
I am glad that the Worship Committee has organized another evening on hope on April 6. I don’t imagine that our sharing will lead to concrete decisions. Nevertheless, I appreciated hearing what was on our hearts and minds at a sharing circle in January; and I look forward to hearing what we are perceiving, thinking and feeling in April. For me, listening to one another can be its own reward.
Some recent news stories have heartened me. A far-right party in Holland did worse in elections this month than had been predicted. The first attempt of the new U.S. administration to gut the Affordable Healthcare Act failed last week. And on Thursday, a large majority of Canadian MPs passed a resolution that condemned Islamophobia and other forms of racism.
I am glad this resolution passed, although I am dismayed that 91 MPs voted against it and that opposition to the resolution became an occasion for racist extremists to rally on the streets of Edmonton and other cities over the past few weeks.
Nor do I imagine that eliminating the irrational fear of Muslims will be easy. On Wednesday, a terrorist attack in London England killed five people, and I perceived an irrational fear of Islam in the how the story was covered. It led the news on Wednesday and Thursday, even on Edmonton’s local newscasts.
The murder of five people and the injury of dozens of others in an act inspired by evil political and religious ideas elicits horror. But the London attack occurred in a week in which an equally deadly terror attack occurred in Nigeria; in which 200 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean trying to flee terror in North Africa; and in which hundreds of civilians died in U.S.-led airstrikes in Mosul in northern Iraq.
Death in Iraq is hardly news given that around one million people have died there since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Death of refugees in the Mediterranean is hardly news given that more than 10,000 have drowned there in the past five years. Death in terror attacks in Nigeria is hardly news given that hundreds have been killed there by Boko Haram in the past few years. Nevertheless, I believe the media skews our perspectives with the amount of coverage given to the attack in London compared to these other realities.
Every day, about 150,000 people die. Most die by natural causes, but not all. About 4,000 people die in car crashes every day. Every day, about 1,000 people are murdered. And every day, about 10,000 children die of easily preventable causes like malnutrition, water-borne disease, malaria, and so on.
Of the 150,000 people who died on Wednesday, five died in the terrorist attack in London. Such attacks are designed to spread fear and division. But for this to work, news of terror’s evil deeds must be widely disseminated. Unfortunately, most news media seem hell-bound to provide this dissemination.
At choir practice on Wednesday night, there were several conversations about the murders in London. At a Bible study of ministers held here on Thursday, the London attack was part of our check-in. Today I am discussing it in a reflection on light, darkness and healing. But is this story really the most important one from the past week?
I wish the news media were not so compliant in giving terrorists the coverage they desire. Not only does it help them achieve their ends, it also helps racist and fear-mongering politicians gain a hearing on the other side.
And so this spring, I feel like I am in the dark and I don’t know how to move forward. I wish this were not so. But I pray that this darkness might imply that I have been one of the arrogant “sighted” ones who is now being blinded in the way mentioned by Jesus in today’s reading.
Perhaps in the past when news media covered stories that encouraged me, I became arrogant in thinking that social developments would continue to unfold in ways I liked. But now that several big events have led to results I dislike, perhaps I am being pushed into greater humility.
I don’t see how racist bullies will be removed from power. But I do know that I have fellow pilgrims on the paths of Lent and life and that the Spirit of Jesus walks with us. Like the first friends of Jesus, we may not get what we want when we arrive in Jerusalem. But I trust that like them, we will be offered the new life we need.
We don’t always see the future clearly and we may feel disheartened. But how could it be otherwise? We’re only human. And even when the path seems dark, we have each other, and we have the example of Jesus who sacrificed everything for Love.
This spring, I don’t see a path that will lead the world away from racism and war. But I trust that in the darkness, my fellow pilgrims are planting seeds of love that will burst forth in ways I also can’t foresee. Further, we choose to walk together even when it is dark because our deepest joy is to love and be loved.
Sometimes we stumble. But as blind and holy fools, we trust that new life can come to us at any moment and that it will heal us in ways we could never have imagined.
And for this I say again, “Thanks be to God.”