If you are familiar with my homilies of the past months or of the past several years, there’ll be no surprise in my telling you that I am convinced that the experiences of these biblical persons we hear about in every Sunday Mass were no different from our own with regard to God’s involvement in our human lives.
I do not believe that they heard clear, verbal commands anymore than we do. Their knowledge of God was, just like our own, that of faith and trust in an unseen, unheard God. The main reason we honor and revere them is that, in the most trying situations, they lived by faith in that invisible, inaudible God.
And we can be sure, by the way, that it was exactly the same for Mary and Joseph and the apostles and early disciples — no matter the literary liberties the sacred authors used in their writings. These were persons of very strong faith. They’d hardly be worthy of our admiration and imitation if all they had to do was take verbal directions from mysterious inner voices and follow them step by step. Their greatness, instead, was in their believing when they could not see, could not hear, the divine presence. They managed, somehow, to trust a God who would reach out to them in the most subtle ways, who would be in and around them, but perceived only through the lens of faith, trust, and belief.
Have you ever tried to explain to anyone why you believe in God? And do you know why that’s so hard to do? It’s because we can’t, and we don’t, embrace God; quite the contrary, it is God who embraces us. We can’t comprehend the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. God is with us like the air we breathe so as to remain alive, the atmosphere that sustains us simply by our inhaling it. Maybe that’s why one of the most ancient symbols of God’s presence to humanity is the cloud.
Jesus’ encounter with the blind man, which we heard in today’s gospel excerpt, ends in an almost ominous way. He says to the devious Pharisees: If you were really blind, you’d be blameless; but since you claim that you see, when actually you have made yourselves blind and deaf to the God who lives within you, you live in sin.
If we’re willing to let the lesson sink in and think about it, we recognize at first that it contains a disturbing question, one we may rather not consider. The question is, is it possible that with all our busyness, even our admirable, constructive activity, we remain, at least partly, blind and deaf to the Creative Spirit?
If Lent is making any inroads into our lives, has it at least been a time during which we have tried to achieve an inner stillness in which we have given God the chance to speak to us? Are we becoming more open to the wisdom and insight that can come only as the gift of God? Do we want our love to be deeper, nobler, more beautiful and creative? Do we want to know better what we should be doing?
Not even God can put all that, and more, into a mind and heart that are shut tight.