Laetare Sunday.. “Laetare” means rejoice.. mid Lent Sunday day off from the abstentions of your lent resolutions day for music in Mass; we are blessed to have it each Sunday but keep that quiet.. for pink vestments.. happily we don’t have any.. “rejoice”.. a steady journey towards Holy Week & Easter, & a journey out of lockdown..
“but they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets” & who were “they” who ridiculed despised laughed?.. the priests & the people.. so in face of such meltdown & unrest he brought in a special emissary.. Cyrus King of Persia.. an outsider, a pagan, an unbeliever “does God work through unbelievers?” Laetare rejoice.. indeed he did & he still does..
..in face of our infidelities & dis-graceful behaviour he turns to others, outsiders, potential religious migrants.. “..the Lord has ordered me to build him a Temple..” the obedience of Cyrus ; Lord have mercy “..who is there among you of all his people?” ..who is there among all of us ? ; Christ have mercy “..may his God be with him.. let us go up” ..& will you?.. obediently & grace-fully? ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..it feels a bit like cricket.. if you are captain & you win the toss, you can choose to bat first or to bowl.. in lectionary for today it says “readings for Year A may be used as an alternative” so I have decided on our behalf we will bat & go for Year A gospel, story of man born blind; it is a “Line of Duty” story full of real life encounter, intrigue, sub-plots.. we could bat on with this gospel for 3days but with only 7mins max we need to look at some of highlights “blind from birth” poor man had never seen a sunrise, or seen our valley of paradise, or looked into your eyes & seen the face of God radiate divine love from within you.. disciples read/misread his infirmity as a punishment for his sinfulness or sins of his parents.. some of us still hold on to a theology of suspicion that, when life goes wrong, it’s perhaps an intervention from a God who feels badly let down or compromised ..“is covid a sign of divine displeasure Fr Bede?” “born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him” really?.. you know well enough that person of Christ is seen more visibly in those who carry handicaps, disabilities & diseases.. Clare Jennings after her stroke; Marie Podgorski bed ridden in a home for 3years, & Christ dazingly at work in them.. transfigured “Lord it is wonderful for us to be here” see, these are my beloved daughters, my favour rests on them.. at heart of gospel 4 lines of 74 lines is the cure.. some aspects you might have found disturbing “he spat on ground, made a paste with the spittle put this over the eyes of blind man” revolting to hear it described, abhorrant to blind man who could only feel what was going on, a violation.. then “go & wash in pool of Siloam” not pool by Todd’s Farm but up Shallowdale..”I went & when I washed I could see” an obedient act of faith abundantly rewarded.. rest of story 60 lines of real disappointment as those who should have known better questioned, cross-examined [emphasis on cross], wanting evidence, time-lines, a “Line of Duty” forensic investigation not into what really happened, but what we would have liked to have seen happen.. what we’d like to be looked at again & seen in context.. our context not the divine context.. a climate of fear & deception, denying facts, pressurising witnesses, all out of fear of consequences of facing speaking the truth..”blind guides” Jesus labelled them elsewhere. Even the blind man’s own testimony called into question “I have told you once & you wouldn’t listen” & under increasing pressure “why do you want to hear it all again?.. do you want to become a disciple too?” he stood up to them, gave as good as he got & more.. his faith, his sight, he knew now for first time, & he spoke it confidently & convincingly..”& they drove him away”.. since birth he had been sidelined; a blue disability badge, a white stick, & now he could see.. see too much & truthfully.. he was ostracised, written off..& Jesus, having heard of his insightfulness, went looking for him; “do you believe?” “Sir, tell me who he is so that I may believe in him” & Jesus said “you are looking at him; he is speaking to you” & the ultimate reply then & now “Lord, I believe”..& do you?.. truthfully do you believe?.. will you cross from 60 lines of self-disappointment, & risk a 4 line personal encounter with Jesus which, instead of game-changing in your life so far, will be life- changing.. “do you believe?”.. “we are not blind, surely?”.. the face masks fuel the self-deception.. no-one can see me, my blindness within self-protected.. “I only know that I was blind & now I can see.” Week last Monday BBC 10pm news a story from Yemen ..one of a library of stories from Yemen over last 3yrs..as we, as part of a Saudi Arabian led coalition, bomb Houthi rebel fighters, causing a humanitarian crisis of a scale the world has never seen. We met Aghmed Magibe age 9 in city of Taiz population of 2.6m ..BBC correspondent Orla Guerin met him in ruins of his school.. a two storey block, no doors or windows left, just concrete floors some partially collapsed, & inside in four or five classes with no walls.. 300 children at work.. some with writing paper most without, all squatted on floor; the children rarely miss a day, hungry for learning; the teachers haven’t been paid for years, so most don’t turn up. Aghmed was there at front, teaching maybe 50 in class, no blackboard no text books, just teaching by voice declention; his dream job he explained is to teach.. a smile to die for.. his favourite topics he teaches the Koran & science.. at distant crack of gunfire he winces in fear.. at end of day you see him making for home; hand in hand with him, being led by him, his sister Fatima..Aghmed & Fatima blind from birth, being led home by his pal Aghmed calls his “car” as he stumbles blindly on debris & rubble.. “in so far as you failed to see “see” me on BBC news, or after hearing this now, fail to find his story on iplayer, you fail to see me” a victim of blind guides, hypocrites, rabbis priests monks, wearers of fine habits & vestments, in collusion with a government whose arm sales to Saudi Arabia keep thousands in work in BAE in Preston, & which kill thousands of holy innocents.. ”Fr Bede, is there an unforgivable sin?”