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Liturgy and Life

Brenda Merk Hildebrand




Gaining sight: washing the mud from our own eyes

Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 11, 2018

1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41


Today’s readings consider seeing: if we can see, what we see, how we interpret and understand what we see, and how that affects our thoughts, words and actions.

The first reading recounts the selection process for a new king, and the unexpected prompting from the Lord to choose the youngest of the eight sons. It is made clear that the decision is based on seeing into the heart, the attention focused on the inner qualities and disposition of the future leader.

Lent Graphic

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians also directs our attention to that kind of seeing: what is pleasing and what is shameful. We are directed toward the light, toward all that is right and good and true. We are also asked to see the darkness and to expose it for what it is. Our seeing is to be complete. Adding to Paul’s words, we are invited to “wake up and smell the coffee.” We are to become awake and remain aware, fully alive as we stand in the light of Christ. Some days it is easier not to see, it is easier not to know. It takes courage to see the whole picture. It takes work and willingness. We have to want to see.

The Gospel recounts the story of the man born blind, made able to see by the healing grace of God. We too, are born blind, with the necessary naiveté and innocence of infancy and childhood. If we remain that way, we will be as helpless as the man who could only beg for the necessities of life. Something will need to change, and for that we need the grace of God.

The healing process is puzzling and mysterious. In a move that could only compound the blindness, a mixture of saliva and mud is layered on top of sightless eyes. Symbolically, we might think of this as the muddy experiences of our lives that leave us unable to see anything clearly. Following instructions, the man in the Gospel co-operated with Jesus in bringing about this healing. We are also sent to wash our eyes so that we can see.

The places to which we are sent are many, varied, and often specialized. The possibilities are endless: perhaps we begin to see more clearly when we join and participate in a support group, engage in counselling sessions, or make and keep necessary medical appointments. It may be time to connect with a spiritual director in order to be better able to bear the blessings and burdens of life’s journey.

We may feel ourselves experiencing insistent promptings of the Spirit, who directs our attention toward helpful reading materials or other resources. We may be drawn toward a deeper prayer life, and experience a growing understanding of Scripture. There may be a closer connection with the eucharist and the sacraments of our faith tradition. Most often we begin to see clearly only when we have followed through — investing time and making a sincere effort to co-operate in our own healing and transformation.

In companionship with the man in the Gospel, things might not be easy for us. Like him, we might be misunderstood by others who think they see clearly. The unnamed man was thoroughly questioned and challenged. He stood alone with his new clarity of vision. Only he could see Jesus for who he was and what he was about. Standing alone with the light of his new seeing, this man was powerless to reach those who were still in darkness. His newfound vision cost him — he even lost the support of his parents.

Most of us can relate to the painful feelings that arise when we stand alone. We might recall being labelled in a negative way, or treated as an outcast. We might have been mocked for daring to challenge those who felt they already knew everything. Perhaps these painful moments, when we stand alone, are our true “coming of age.” No longer naive, no longer blind, we see things as they are.

We are now well settled into Lent, a time of renewal. It might be challenging. During a celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation I recall sharing some of the difficulties that particular Lent was bringing my way. The priest nodded with compassion and offered some insight he had gained from living in a community setting. Pondering that if life took him elsewhere and he lost all track of time, he believed he would immediately know if it was Lent when he returned to the building in which they lived. The work of Lent was always that palpable. It permeated the whole place.

The effort of co-operating with Jesus in our own healing and transformation is real. The work of living and working with others is real. It takes energy, time, and commitment.

The promise of the psalm brings comfort to those who walk through challenging and painful struggles: the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. We can be unafraid, even in the darkest hour. Our souls are restored in green pastures and beside still waters. Quietly, we recall our own sacred anointing and see ourselves as chosen: our lives are consecrated to God.

Jesus came that we might be healed. He lived so that we might live full and abundant lives. May our seeing lead us to greater wholeness and holiness.

Merk Hildebrand has a passion for education, spiritual and palliative care. She is a Benedictine Oblate of the House of Bread Monastery in Nanaimo, BC Contact Brenda through her website: or via email: