‘May Jesus, the light of the world, lead us on’

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The following homily was given by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades March 22, 2020, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, during a livestreamed Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.

How strange it is to celebrate Sunday Mass in an empty cathedral. Yet, I am keenly aware that, though physically separated, we are spiritually together through our prayer, our faith and our love. And at this Mass, we are connected online. Thank you for spiritually connecting to this Mass, which I offer for all the people of our diocese.

Together we walk in the dark valley of the coronavirus pandemic, but we walk by faith, faith in the care of God, our Good Shepherd. We prayed in the Responsorial psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” With faith, we pray with the psalmist: “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.” The courage of faith! May the Holy Spirit give that courage to all of us during this time. May this courage of faith sustain all those who are sick, all those who are worried, all those who are hurting!

Today’s Gospel of the healing of the man born blind teaches us much about faith. It is the story of a simple and sincere man who was blind from birth and about his journey of faith. At first, he encountered Jesus as a “man” among others. When the people asked him “How were your eyes opened?” he simply replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’” Later, when some of the Pharisees interrogating him said that Jesus was not from God and was a sinner because He violated the Sabbath, the blind man objected and said that “Jesus is a prophet.” His faith was growing. The Pharisees then continued to interrogate him, insisting that Jesus was a sinner. With courage, the blind man responded: “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

Notice how the blind man’s faith was growing, first referring to Jesus as a man, then as a prophet, and then as a man from God. Hearing this, the Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue. When Jesus heard about this, He went to find the blind man and, when He did, Jesus asked him: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This is the moment when the blind man’s eyes were truly opened. He was given spiritual vision. He was able to see with the eyes of faith and thus called Jesus “Lord.” He said to Jesus: “I do believe, Lord.” His faith had grown to the point that, as the Gospel tells us, he then worshipped Jesus.

What a beautiful story of growth in faith! The man who was healed of his physical blindness was also cured of spiritual blindness. His eyes were opened by faith. Sadly, the Pharisees remained in spiritual darkness. They were spiritually blind and would not open their eyes, their minds, or their hearts to Jesus, the light of the world.

We who were enlightened by Christ at our Baptism can be tempted to return to spiritual darkness, to be spiritually blind like the Pharisees. This happens when our hearts become hardened to the truth of the Gospel,