Laetare/4th Sunday in Lent
3 April 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As a child, I can remember the "Mr. Magoo" cartoons on WGN. Mr. Magoo was a carefree and happy man who was most certainly visually impaired. While not blind, he was so nearsighted that he was constantly getting into funny or dangerous situations due to his poor eyesight.
Granted, this was a cartoon, and so the story lines were light hearted and humorous. But the reality is, most who suffer from visual impairment are not laughing. In this corrupted, sin-filled world, it is more often understood as a burden, suffering, and hardship to live one's life in darkness.
In a city such as ours, it is difficult to imagine such darkness. Even in the middle of the night, many of our homes have bright street lights near them, so there is always light to see. If one looks up in the sky, it is often difficult to see stars, due to the amount of electric lights around us.
The point is, many of us cannot even imagine the lonely darkness that this man experienced. And this man never had the joy or pleasure of experiencing sight before he lost it. He had always been blind. Add to that the miserable -- and false -- suspicions of his neighbors that particular sins caused his ailment, and we see an even sadder existence.
But don't be too quick to judge the disciples for their question. You ask the same thing. She is such a good person, why does she have to suffer with cancer? What did he ever do to end up this way? And it's not always about others, but you still ask it. "What have I done to deserve this?!"
That is not something to take lightly. At those times, you are judging God! You puff up with devilish pride and think you know better than the Almighty. You stubbornly cling to your blindness, in the face of our all-seeing God.
Still, the answer is, God is not zapping you to punish you for anything in particular. Yet you are a poor, miserable sinner, who deserves no good thing, and receives good only by the grace and mercy of God. You are born in the blindness of sin. By nature, you cannot see the Lord, or recognize any good work that He does. And Old Adam actually wants to "keep God in the dark."
That blindness warps your understanding of health and life, just as the disciples' view was warped. In 21st century terms, they would remark about this man's "quality of life." Society has grown cold toward many who suffer, and you hear phrases like, "I wouldn't want to live that way," or the gruesome joke, "If I ever get like that, take me out back and shoot me!"
How awful! How cold and sinful! Life is a gift, and as God's creatures, you never have a right to take that gift away. You are not to be the judge of any such "quality." Your own sin blinds you as to how the Lord is showing His glory and bestowing His mercy in the lives of those suffering, and those to whom they are witnesses. Jesus is sustaining them, and bearing witness to the love, mercy, and care of God through us all.
Today, our dear Lord says, "Rejoice!" Yes, here in the middle of a season of repentance, Jesus gifts you with rejoicing. Even though the world may be dark and lonely for you, rejoice, because Jesus has come to give you sight. Although you have remained "in the dark," persuaded by the devil to enjoy it, our dear Savior has journeyed to the cross, where He gives you salvation to rejoice over.
Rejoice, for He has opened your eyes to your sinful self. The Lord has given you to see you have been convicted and crushed by His Law. He shows you the devastation of life without Him. But rejoice that He has given you new sight, so you can "see that the LORD is good." He displays His perfect love and forgiveness and mercy that renew you and give you life.
Rejoice, because He takes your ailment on Himself. "Who is blind, but My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as My dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? (Isaiah 42:19). Everything tough in this life is taken on by Jesus. At the cross, Jesus has taken on every burden and hardship and handicap. He receives your blindness and deafness as His own. And rather than something that is spiteful of our God, that ends up a blessing to rejoice over!
And now, it is not that He turns a blind eye to your sin, but He diverts His attention in His mercy. Your heavenly Father looks at you, yet observes His Son. He beholds you and admires His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. And so, the Lord God in His mercy, gives you the image of His Son as you stand before Him. Rejoice, you were born blind to His goodness, but He has healed you and given you sight. Thanks be to God for His holy and merciful vision, given to you! Amen.