Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday in the 3rd Week of Easter
Called through Blindness and Death

Readings: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 117:1bc, 2; John 6:52-59

We are all quite naturally attracted to the Christ who brings light and life, the One who raises the dead to life and who makes the blind to see. And that is as it should be. After all, that is what we are celebrating especially in this season of Easter. Indeed, in the gospel today, Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life. While in the first reading, we hear of how Saul is given new sight. Still, it is important to notice also how this new life and new sight is given.

It’s quite startling, isn’t it, that when the light from heaven strikes Saul to the ground, Saul is blinded for a time? His new sight comes only later, after he first loses his initial ability to see. And although, in the gospel, Jesus does refer to himself as the bread of life, he does so in a way that throws his listeners into confusion. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? In a way, not unlike Saul, the eyes of their understanding are also blinded. In order for Saul and Jesus’ listeners to gain new sight, they must first die to their earlier way of seeing things. The same can also be said about the disciple Ananias. He too is called to die to his initial opinion and judgment of Saul – Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem – so that God might use him to be the instrument of Saul’s healing and conversion. It seems clear that the Lord brings people into the fullness of life and light by first calling them into darkness and death.

Strange as this might seem, we actually have similar experiences, do we not? When some of us have to undergo surgery, for example, we often have to be put under general anesthesia, so that we can be made well again. We are put to sleep so that we can awake to a more wholesome life. Something similar happens in human relationships too. Sometimes, we may think we know someone even before we have had a chance to talk to the person. But our knowledge might be based solely on what others may have told us, or worse, on the color of the person’s skin, or the faith that the person professes. Whatever the case may be, as it was with Ananias, we often only get to know the other better when we are willing first die to our prejudices. In the same way, the relationships between parent and children must also keep changing to remain truly alive. We all know what can happen when a parent insists on relating to adult children in the same way as when they were toddlers. In a real way, the earlier relationship must die, so that a new and more life-giving one can be born.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian who was killed by the Nazis in the Second World War, once wrote: when Christ calls a man (woman) he bids him (her) come and die… But, as we are reminded by our readings today, this is a dying that leads to a fuller life, and a blinding that leads to keener sight.

How is the Crucified and Risen Christ calling us today?

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