Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Lent
John 9: 1-41
In today’s Gospel, the scene is Jesus restoring sight to a man born blind — at which point Jesus makes this announcement: “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” …That’s what I want to reflect on this morning — what that might mean to us, these centuries later: “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” “As long as I am in this world? What does that mean?
I want to begin by reflecting on light: when we think about it, we really don’t know what light is: We don’t see light, light is what enables us to see the rest of the world.
Equally, if I asked you to explain to me what darkness is, you would be hard put to explain how darkness happens, what it is. And maybe there are other ways of seeing besides eyes and light — in a certain sense (blind persons have taught us this): If we are attentive, our bodies will —or can learn to —detect when there is an impediment or something approaching in front or on the side of them — there is a certain sensitivity in their bodies that will warn them that something is there. And people can learn to recognize differences in vibrations that inform them, but they have to be attentive.
I’ve never forgotten a story that I read a long time ago, of a Frenchman, Jacques Lusseyran, who was blind from birth. But he could tell, when he was walking: “There’s a hill up ahead,” or, “there’s a mountain over there.” He was interviewing a very highly recommended man for a very important secret position in World War II. Lusseyran detected in this man’s voice a cue that spelled dissembling, but thought, no, he must be wrong, and invited the man to the position. Sure enough, the man betrayed them. Our bodies can provide a sensitivity that is very similar to seeing. Blind persons often have developed that kind of gift, an awareness of a field of vibration. It is the result, however, of a very deeply developed attentiveness, a deep inner life which offers vision that is not external eyesight seeing.
What might Jesus be wanting to teach us when he speaks of himself as “the light of the world … as long as I am in this world? And after he leaves? Does he leave us?
I want to sidetrack a moment to remind us of how much our own perceptions of our world have changed since — well, since we were young, from a very small sense of country-patriotism, to recognizing ourselves as global, as part of a planet that is home to an immense related continuum of connected life-forms, all integrated with each other, dependent on each other, existing totally separate. We have come to recognize a cosmic identity, and we see that our planet is relatively small. We’re making connections with other planets, far beyond anything we could have imagined. Perhaps we begin to suspect that some new reality is approaching our track. Are we once again discovering fields of vibration that alert us to realities that are approaching our area. New neighbors? How will we respond?
Or, more importantly, how do we respond? When we recognize Jesus as the light of the world we must see the whole creation held in being by the Divine Power of God. When we recognize Jesus as the Light of the world, we overcome our blindness; begin to see the world as related, as impinging on each other, as responsive and “response-able” for each other. When we see a homeless migrant, we recognize a beloved neighbor; when we see a nuclearized ocean we recognize a poisoned home for schools of fish; when we see prejudices of color or religion, we recognize our suffering sisters and brothers. These present connections are just like the fields of vibrations, the flashes of sensitivity that we humans are now beginning to recognize. Perhaps we will begin to pay attention, to see through to the reality of what Jesus might mean when he says “I am the Light of the world.”
Maybe we humans need to ask Jesus to lead us in the path that can bring us now to have a deeper, wider, more embracing vision of Jesus as “the Light of the world,” continuing always to open our minds, and especially to enkindle our hearts to recognize his presence in our ever-changing, ever-developing world.
“As long as I am in this world”? Will Jesus ever leave this world? Or might it be the case that Jesus — the Light of the World — will be here when we recognize the precious divine origin of every creature, when we honor, respect, appreciate the being of all that is held in creaturehood by our Creator? Might that produce the field of vibration that tells us our God is with us? We will know that Jesus is the Light of the world.