Samuel sent by God on a mission ..one of Jesse’s sons was to be chosen to be king each son in turn was brought before Samuel..”surely this one” all seven brought in turn but none of them was the one.. “are these all the sons you have?” asked Samuel Jesse said “there is still one left ; the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep” ; too young, too inexperienced..the last couldn’t be first..could he? he was sent for & the Lord said “Come, anoint him, this is the one..”
..for times we choose on appearances, age, qualifications, even postcode, let us ask for Our Lord’s mercy & compassion.. “..take no notice of appearance or height..” ; Lord have mercy “..God does not see as man sees..” ; Christ have mercy “..man looks at appearances ; God looks at the heart..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?”..even now a tragic misunderstanding persists, that illness/disease is result of family misbehaviour, sometimes going back 2 or 3 generations, & this is God getting his own back; a gospel of retribution rather than of redemption; a God who keeps a record to be used in evidence, rather than a God who keeps faith with us as a God of love & compassion. What would you think would be greatest disease? to have been born blind, never to have seen a rose, or smile of your mother or your closest loved one? or to have lost one’s sight; to have seen & known, & then lost it. What of greatest deprivation in faith? never to have had a belief in God, or to have had it & lost it? what do you think? what do you know, from your own experience, of spiritual full-sightedness or blurred vision or a dark night of the soul sightlessness? can faith, like sight, be lost, or is it always there still, dormant, in hibernation, awaiting a moment of spiritual reawakening? whereas elderly grandparents mourn loss of faith in younger generation “where did we go wrong Fr Bede?” “why did God deal me this hand?” “who sinned?..me?..for my grandchildren to have lapsed, to have lost their faith..”as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” the enduring presence of Jesus, the Word made flesh, in world, the realised eschatology of John; for John Jesus lives, not just among us, but is realised within us; in you, in your grandchildren & in monks I knew who walked out 30yrs ago faithlessly or faithfully?.. imagine graphic details of blind mans healing, in context of this crisis time of scrupulous handwashing & cleanliness; Jesus spat on ground made paste of spittle/dust, & smeared mans eyes with it; he couldn’t see it but by gum would he feel it! ..& how would you & I react as we reached feverishly blindly for washbasin hot water & bacterial handwash..& time to recover?..& if that wasn’t enough, Jesus asks him to go off to Rievaulx & wash in the Rye..& would you do it?..would you?..& because, in spite of his doubts, he did, going against grain of his better judgement, “he came away with his sight restored”..& we wonder why, after 40/70yrs as a Roman Catholic, I still can’t see the wood for the trees..why? “man woman of little faith, why do you doubt?”..& rest of gospel frankly is wordplay, debate, cross examination, very cross cross examination & competitive infighting..then, & now with coronavirus, we want the truth..not political rhetoric..close to Boarbank Hall where I go every 6wks to hear Sisters Confessions, is village of Allithwaite on shores of Morecambe Bay..Cedric Robinson lives there in grace & favour cottage as the Queens Guide to Morecambe Bay & its shifting dangerous tidal sands..he guides groups across at low tide a 12mile hike..each day, even after 65yrs in job he rises early to walk route..since last tide sands have shifted, water levels different, as he is alert to unpredictable nature of the quicksands; under his arm he carries bundle of birch twigs, & as he establishes firm sand & walks on, he puts a twig into sand ; when he gets to Morecambe, his return hike is easy, as he follows his own birch twigs; later he & his twigs lead his flock across enjoyably safely..for Cedric read yourself; you a wise & experienced spiritual guide, with the divine award “you are the apple of my eye, I will do anything for you”..”come anoint him/her; for this is the one” & a grace & favour place in this our beloved parish family..with the birch twigs of your legwork & heartwork in servant discipleship under your arm to prove it..the gospel ends with Jesus’searching question for us, & for us in our Lent in physical if not spiritual self isolation this extraordinary weekend..”do you believe in the Son of Man?” & Jesus gives him fullness of revelation “you are looking at him; he is speaking to you “ & our response, in midst of our anxiety, our blurred vision, & the unchartered quicksands ahead? “Lord, I believe”.. “if I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear; you are there [& here] with your crook & your staff; with these you give me comfort.” ..we cross the sands & next few weeks together..keep faith & keep safe.. [ 4thSunLentYrA; Jn 9;1-41]
“are these all the sons you have? He answered “there is still one left, the youngest ; he is out looking after the sheep.”..”send for him..”
..for Pope Francis & his leadership team; for Cardinal Vincent Nicolls & our Bishops as they lead us forward in our crisis with steadiness & wise counsel. [ go & wash ] ..when I washed I could see..
..for the victims of the atrocities in Syria, the Yemen & Bangladesh, as weak diplomacy & respectful silence creates culpability from those from whom we expect better..
..for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic across the world & now closer to home; for those researching for a vaccine; for the medical teams as they put their own lives at risk, & for those fighting for their lives..
..for those in our own locality who are self-isolating; may we notice them in their need & respond from a distance to offer practical help & encouragement..
..for our children whose education has been curtailed for the time being, & specially for those who will lose the opportunity to sit exams to prove their abililty & diligence..for their teachers & parents as they share the regret..
..for those wounded or broken by abuse within the Church, as we pray for the victims, & we seek restoration for the collective failure to protect the young within our care..& for Survive in York who work with the victims..
..for ourselves, for a calmness the world cannot give, & for a willingness to help Christ in need in our anxious neighbour in prayer & practicality..
..let us ask Our Lady, help of all in need, to pray with us & for us..Hail Mary..