LENT IV (A)
We have to do the works of the one who sent me…. John 9: 4
In the later years of the Roman Empire, a group of pagans was being baptized by immersion in a river. The men in the group had been trained as warriors; so they agreed to be baptized, but only if they could raise their right arms with their swords in hand, out of the water. It must have been a strange sight to see all those men under water with their arms and swords sticking out.
All of us, it would seem, have some part of our lives that is not yet fully attached to God – a ‘right arm,’ as it were, that still needs baptizing. We’re willing to let God have just so much, but no more. But God is jealous & demands ALL of us, not just the convenient part. That’s where things get sticky.
The blind beggar in today’s Gospel was a dependent creature, wanting desperately to see but powerless to restore his own sight. In a sense we are ALL like that, longing for a clear vision of what life is all about but powerless to see. We are also incapable of manufacturing abundant life on our own.
Everywhere there are people in need of healing of one kind or another – physical, emotional, spiritual. Everywhere there are people in need of God’s healing power to make them whole. As members of Christ’s body, we have been graced with a vision of life in which we see ourselves as God’s instruments of healing, even though we are often pathetically unqualified to do so. Those who walk with Christ are called to be a healing presence in the lives of others, but that can only happen by the grace of God.
One of the reasons we are here today is to receive the grace to BE such healing instruments. Our Lord nourishes us, gives us His tremendous love, & then says, “You feed them, you give them my love!” In the final analysis, for you & for me, what it comes down to is this: do WE have the compassion?
Shortly before his death, the famous American medical missionary, Dr. Tom Dooley, returned to the U.S. to raise additional funds for his hospital in Southeast Asia. As a doctor, he knew he had terminal cancer & would soon be dead. The big question on his mind was whether to spend his last days in the country of his birth or return to his hospital where he was needed. Then a telegram arrived from some of those he had trained to assist him at the hospital. It began …
“We need you here. While you are gone we are the fingers of your flesh to heal the sick. We are your ears to hear their cry of pain. We are your heart to love them.”
This is our calling too, but to fulfill that we must be people of prayer. Mother Teresa of Calcutta knew that humanitarian impulse alone was too flimsy to sustain her nuns in the kind of work they would be called upon to do, so she insisted that they spend 2 hours/day on their knees in prayer. Working continuously with the poorest of the poor requires a profound spirituality.
I know that after one year as a Chaplain to a hospital for seriously ill patients in London, I felt emotionally drained & numb. So much suffering can be a real downer for those who try to be care givers. That’s why we need to take advantage of our Lenten opportunities for prayer to fulfill our vocation as Christ bearers. AMEN!