To fully understand today’s Gospel (John 9:1-41) of Jesus restoring the sight of the man born blind, we need to go below the surface of the story. This is so often the case when Jesus speaks or acts. He wants us to look deeper into the inner meaning of the story. To do that in this passage, each of us needs to think of our ourselves as the one who is blind, the one who needs the touch of Jesus to help us to see. So that’s the first step. If we think we can see, that we have everything sorted out, that we think we know all the answers, then we are in trouble. It is when we know we are blind and need God’s light that we are getting somewhere.
So that means first, that we shouldn’t think we have all the answers to the problems of the world – how to persuade people not to use violence – how to make the world a place where people do not starve or have to be refugees – how to prevent crime etc. But we also need to realise that we don’t have all the answers in our own lives either. There are always choices for us to make. Big decisions sometimes, but more often little actions or words that can make a difference to our future, and also help others. We need to realise the danger of making hasty decisions, to realise how hard it can be for us and for others to work out what is the best thing to do – how to choose what to do when we do not know what the future holds. In other words, we have to learn how to see what God might want us to do or to say, rather than just blundering on with our own thoughts and actions.
St Paul puts this well to the Christians of Ephesus in our 2nd Reading today. (Eph 5:8-14) He tells them, as he would tell us, that as followers of Jesus, we are “light in the Lord”. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and say “Now life is all sorted”. No, he makes it clear that if we are in the light, we have to “be like children of the light”. What he means by this, is that like children we need to be ready to learn; and by that he doesn’t mean learn more facts. No, he is talking about our need to constantly learn from God how to be Christians in our daily lives. As he says, we have to to try “To discover what the Lord wants of us”, we have to “Wake up from our sleep… and let Christ shine on us.” Or, to go back to the Gospel we have to ask Jesus to help us to see. Or, as my dear Mum used to say, quoting an old proverb, we must remember to “Look before we leap.”
The problem with this is that we can never be fully aware of all that lies ahead of us, can we? God surely doesn’t want us to be so cautious that we never risk anything the slightest bit adventurous. Yesterday we remembered the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary saying yes to God. When she said yes she took a risk, not least that she might be rejected by Joseph and her family. The disciples of Jesus also took a big risk when they left everything to follow him, and they had no idea where that would take them. So although we must be careful, we must try to follow what we know to be basically good, from things like the 10 Commandments and the moral teaching of the Church, that must not stop us taking risks for God, just like they did.
This is surely why prayer is so important. Not prayer which is asking things of God, but the quiet meditative prayer where we try to listen to what God is saying to us, to try to think our life through carefully and prayerfully day by day. To think back through the day to what we have done, and maybe see what we could have done better, and to think forward to the day ahead, and ask God to be with us and guide us in whatever we will be doing and whoever we may be meeting.
We also need to ask God to help us to see opportunities in which he will be able to work through us. To give a few simple examples, we cannot know about the person who falls over on the other side of the road, so we cannot pray about what to do, but we can pray that whatever happens we’ll be ready to act for God. We cannot know that we’ll meet a friend or a stranger who needs a word of help or comfort, but we can pray that God will make us never too busy to stop and give us the words to say, when it happens. Most of us will never, thank God, have to face the crisis of what happened in Westminster this week, but we need to thank God, do we not for all the people who did act then in one way or another to help those injured or distressed. Whatever happens to us, as Christians, we must always have our eyes open, so that we can act for God, and remember what that famous song says “Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.” That is what makes us good human beings.