March 22, 2020
1 Samuel 16.1-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-14
+ Well, today is Laetare Sunday. This is usually a joyful Sunday in the midst of Lent. After all “Laetare” means “rejoice” in Latin. And normally that is what we do on this Sunday.
In normal times, we find ourselves rejoicing because we are now at the midpoint of Lent. We usually, at this point, get a little break from Lent on this Sunday. It’s not all purple and switches and ashes around us.
But today, our rejoicing on this Laetare Sunday is muted.
Usually, this Sunday is a Sunday in which our church building is usually full.
We also usually have our traditional simnel cake at coffee hour after Mass.
But not today.
Most of our Church is dispersed today.
They are quarantined in their homes. They are safe. They are sound. And we are thankful for that.
And around us, there is a sense of unease. We are uncertain of what is about to happen.
We are living in a time of anxiety and uncertainty as most of us have never known before. We’ve never done this before. Few of us have ever lived through anything like this.
It’s hard this morning to rejoice with any real feeling. But it is good for us just to pause for a moment. It’s good to take this time and just…breathe. It’s good to reorient ourselves.
When we look back at where we’ve been, it seems like a long journey so far this season of Lent. Way back on Ash Wednesday, on February 26 (doesn’t that feel like a long time ago), we began this season. And Easter on April 12th seems to be a very distant future.
There is talk now of limited liturgies during Holy Week. The journey so-far seems so long and so exhausting. And the journey ahead seems, at moments, daunting.
This is where we are—right smack dab in the middle of this Lenten season.
But, on this dark and gloomy Laetare Sunday, we get this Gospel reading. I’m happy we have the Gospel reading we have for today. We definitely need it! It’s a long one. But it’s a good one.
This story of Jesus healing the blind man speaks very loud and very clear to us at this time in our collective history. In a sense today—Lataere Sunday, the half-way mark of Lent—is a time for us to examine this whole sense of blindness. Not just physical blindness, but spiritual blindness, as well. The blindness we are all experiencing not being able to “see” each other right now.
Right now, we feel like blind people—or, at least, like nearsighted people. We grope about. We find ourselves dependent upon those things that we think give us some comfort, some sense of clarity.
The internet helps. Social media helps. We are able to keep tabs on each other. We are able to worship together—kind of—through livestreamed liturgies. We are able to keep in touch through phone calls and regular emails and texts.
But ultimately, nothing really seems to heal this particular nearsightedness. In fact our sight seems to get worse and worse as we go on through this crisis.
In our Gospel reading for today, we find a man blind from birth. The miracle Jesus performs for him is truly a BIG miracle.
Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for this man? Here he is, born without sight, suddenly seeing. It must have been quite a shock. It would, no doubt, involve a complete reeducation of one’s whole self.
By the time he reached the age he was—he was maybe in his twenties or thirties—he no doubt had an idea in his mind of what things may have looked like. And, with the return of his vision, he was, I’m certain, amazed at what things actually looked like. Even things we might take for granted, such as the faces of our mother and father or spouse, would have been new for this man. So, the miracle Jesus performs is truly a far-ranging miracle.
There’s also an interesting analytical post-script to our Gospel reading. (And I’ve shared this story with you, but I always found it interesting)
St Basil the Great and other early Church Fathers believe that this blind man was not only born blind, he was actually born without eyes due to some kind of birth defect This, they say, is why Jesus takes clay and places them upon the empty eye sockets, essentially forming eyes for this man. When he washes them in the waters of Siloam, the eyes of clay became real eyes with perfect sight.
It’s a great story, but the real gist of this story is about us. Yes, this crisis, this quarantine we’re under may feel like a kind of blindness. Yes, we are not really able to “see” each other as we once did. We took for granted that we could see each other before this event.
I know that many of us are feeling despair and fear. But as I have preached again and again, as I will continue to preach again and again:
We, as Christians, cannot despair. And we, as beloved children of a loving God, cannot fear.
We cannot fear.
We cannot live in the darkness of despair and fear.
This is not the place for the loved children of God.
Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians shows us that we are not children of darkness. We are not meant to walk around, groping about in our lives. We are meant to walk in light. We are meant to embody light in our lives. And, by that, we are not just meant to hold the light close to us, as though it’s some special gift we are given.
We are not meant to hoard the light. As children of light, we are meant to share it. We are meant to be conduits of that light. To everyone. Even when we might not feel like it.
Even now, when are so separated from others. And yet, with social media, we really aren’t. Kind of.
We are anointed in much the same way David was anointed by the prophet Samuel in our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures today. We, who were anointed at our baptism, are now called to be what David was—a person on whom the Spirit of God comes in great power.
That Spirit brings light.
That Spirit brings spiritual clarity.
That Spirit brings vision.
That Spirit brings us hope and healing and health.
That Spirit sustains us, even in this strange and bizarre time.
You know what the Spirit doesn’t do? That Spirit does not allow us to fear or despair.
That is what we are doing on this day. Lataere Sunday is a time to refocus, to readjust ourselves again, to remind ourselves of our anointing, of the light that dwells within each of us, of the Spirit who lives inside each of us.
Today, even in Lent, even in this midst of this pandemic, you know what? we can be joyful. It is a time for us to realize that this dark time in not eternal.
Darkness is never eternal. But light—light, is eternal.
We will get through this.
We will gather again, here in this building.
We will shake hands and hug at the Peace.
We will share the Body and the Blood of Jesus at Holy Communion at this altar again.
We will all sit down at our post-Mass luncheon and eat our fill again.
We will all go out and do the ministries we have all been called to do again.
And this time we are going through right now will seem like a strange and truly bizarre dream.
No matter how blind or nearsighted it might seem right now, our sight will be returned to us once again.
We, in a sense, find ourselves on this Lataere Sunday—this joyful Sunday in Lent—looking forward.
Lataere Sunday is a great time to remind ourselves that, even in our darkness, it will not be dark forever. All will be made right again. And we will see each other again with clarity and vision—with new eyes. And we will see the darkness lifted from our lives and the dazzling light of Christ breaking through.
So, today, on this Lataere Sunday—on this joyful Sunday in Lent—let us be joyful, even if we don’t really feel like it.
Let’s be joyful, even in this strange exile in which we find ourselves.
Let us be joyful even as we grope about, spiritually half-blind as we may seem right now.
Let us be joyful, because darkness and pandemics are only temporary.
Let us be joyful, and let us not fear.
God loves us.
God loves you.
And all will be well.
Knowing that, how can we not rejoice?