John 9:1-41, 4th Sunday of Lent
The healing stories in the Gospel take on new meaning in times like this! Our Lord’s healing of the blind man in today’s Gospel story offers us a much-needed message.
This healing miracle, unlike others, did not happen instantaneously. While the other healings of our Lord were achieved with almost just one word or a single touch, this one involved several steps–including the use of the bizarre mixture of saliva and spittle.
And then, after the Lord’s elaborate healing ritual, the man wasn’t healed yet! He had first to find the Pool of Siloam to wash his own eyes.
If we read between the lines, as we are always expected to do when we read the Scripture, we will realize that in this particular instance, the blind man was not merely a receiver of his healing; he was also an agent of it: He had to do some work so that he would be healed.
More than anything else–and more than any other previous reading–the idea of the Pool of Siloam struck me today. If only we had such a miraculous pool where the world could go and wash itself to get the healing we need today! Does not such a pool exist somewhere, waiting to be discovered? Wouldn’t that be fantastic news amidst all the fears we that we face each day of this pandemic?
There’s a very important message here for us who are looking for healing at this time. We can’t just sit around waiting for the Lord to do all the work. It takes two, the Lord seems to be telling us. We need to pray as hard as we can to ask Him to perform the healing, but that’s not all there is to it. We need to do our part too–even if it means religiously washing your hands with soap and water for the duration of three Hail Mary’s (equivalent to the prescribed twenty seconds!).
But there’s more: In times of trouble and need, the Lord invites us to help and serve others. The New York Times just ran a timely and inspiring story about the heroism of Catholic nuns during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 when the Archbishop of Philadelphia called upon them to help tend to the sick. Here’s an excerpt:
“Although most of the nuns had little experience of the outside world and no medical training, 2,000 sisters answered the archbishop’s call. They signed on for 12-hour shifts, navigating the unfamiliar streetcar system through a city made still with fear. Dressed in white gowns and gauze masks, the sisters treated patients who represented a cross section of Philadelphia: immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, Poland and China; black families, Jewish families, and the city’s poorest, its orphans, its homeless and destitute, all in need of care.
“They tended to stricken men, crammed 30 to a ward, with the dirt from their factory jobs still smeared on their faces and hands. Hallucinating patients tried to climb out of windows, tore at the bedsheets, threw glass tumblers at their nurses and begged God for mercy. In private homes, the sisters found parents dead in their beds while their hungry children cried in the next room. ‘The windows were closed tightly, and we felt we could taste the fever’, one nun recalled later.
“They washed linens, served hot soup and mixed medicine. They brought water, ice, blankets and comfort. “The call ‘Sister’ could be heard every minute during the night,” one remembered of her hectic shifts. Another spoke about her initial trepidation on her first day: ‘I was struck, at first, with a fearful dread, for I never came in close contact with death but once in my life. But realizing what must be done, I quickly put on my gown and mask, and being assigned to the women’s ward, I began my duties’.”
These nuns didn’t lead the sick to a miraculous Pool of Siloam for healing. They were that pool!
Today we hear a lot about the heroic doctors and health workers in every country who are putting their lives on the line–some losing their lives!–to save others. What of the rest of us?
I think we can be sources of hope for one another when it is so fashionable and so tempting to spread fear and desolation on social media. But if we know our Bible well enough, we know that it is not God who uses fear as a favorite tactic. If there is one recurring refrain in Scripture, it is: “Do not be afraid.”
People are worried and scared as it is–and we have every reason to be. But it does not help when we amplify or exaggerate the bad news–especially when they have not been verified. This pandemic has a way of making us concerned only about our own survival, and if we are not careful, we can actually become selfish, mistrustful and suspicious of others.
The Gospel story today invites us to respond in a different way. While scientists all around the world are racing to find the Pool of Siloam for the coronavirus, all of us are being invited to be that Pool, to be–in our own way–a source of hope and positivity in these troubled and uncertain times. Like the nuns of 1918 in Philadelphia, let us all be a light in the darkness, especially in these dark times.
What will and can you do today?