Sunday, March 26, 2017

4 Lent

Lataere Sunday
March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16.1-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-14

+ I know it’s not quite the word one would expect at this half-way point through Lent. In fact, it sounds suspiciously like a word we haven’t used at all during this season—a certain A word that rhymes with Malleluia.  But “Rejoice”—or “Laetare” as the word means in Latin—is the word for today. And it’s a good word to have.

Today is, of course, Lataere Sunday.  Laetare means, of course, mean "Rejoice" in Latin. We are rejoicing on this Sunday because we are now at the midpoint of Lent.  We get a little break from Lent on this Sunday.  It’s not all purple and swishes and ashes around us.  There’s flowers behind the altar and in front of Our Lady’s ikon (flowers are normally forbidden during Lent).  

It’s good to rejoice. It’s good to take this time and just…breathe. It’s good to reorient ourselves. Ash Wednesday on March 1st seems like a long time ago already. And Easter on April 16th seems to be in a very distant future.  This is where we are—right smack dab in the middle of this season.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday in the old lectionaries was John 6:1-15, the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes -- symbols of the Eucharist to come on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.  But, I’m happy we have the Gospel reading we have for today. This story of Jesus healing the blind man speaks very loud and very clear to us.   

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.

My theme for Lent this year, as you have all heard me say by now, has been brokenness, or more specifically, our brokenness in relation to the broken Body of Jesus in the Eucharist.  In a sense, our brokenness and our blindness are similar.  In our brokenness we become like blind people—or, at least, like nearsighted people.  We grope about.  We find ourselves dependent upon those things that we think give us come sense of clarity.  But ultimately, nothing really seems to heal our nearsightedness.  In fact our sight seems to get worse and worse as we go on.

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’m certain 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 as some kind of birth defect This, they say, is why Jesus takes clay and places them upon the empty 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. Our spiritual blindness often causes us to ignore those in need around us and this blindness causes distance and isolation in our lives, making our brokenness even deeper and more pronounced.  For some of us, our spiritual blindness is merely a spiritual near- or far-sightedness.

But today, on Lataere Sunday, as we head into the latter part of Lent, we find ourselves being relieved for a bit of the heavy sense of brokenness we have been dealing with throughout Lent so far.  We find ourselves bathed in light—a rose-colored light.

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.

We are anointed in much the same way David was anointed by the prophet Samuel in our reading from the Hebrew Bible 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 is what we are doing on this day.

Lataere Sunday, also known as Rose Sunday or Mothering Sunday or Refreshment Sunday—is a break in our Lenten grayness.  It is a time to refocus, to readjust ourselves again, to remind ourselves of our anointing, of the light that dwells within each of us.

Today, even in Lent, we can be joyful.  It is a time for us to realize that our brokenness is not an eternal brokenness.  We realize today that no matter how broken or fractured we might seem, we can be made whole once again.  No matter how blind or nearsighted we might be spiritually, our spiritual sight can be returned to us once again.  And in doing so, we find ourselves almost chuckling over our brokenness, over our blindness.

We, in a sense, find ourselves on this Lataere Sunday—this joyful Sunday in Lent—laughing at our brokenness. Lataere Sunday is a great time to remind ourselves that, even in our brokenness, we will not be broken forever.  We will be made whole like the blind man.  We too will see with clarity and vision—with new eyes.   And like him, we too 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.  Let’s be joyful, even in our brokenness. Let us be joyful even as we grope about, spiritually half-blind as we may be at times.  Let us be joyful, because our brokenness and our blindness are only temporary But our joy is eternal.

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