Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jesus Sophia, Our Wisdom, Our Word, Our Hope of Endless Light (John 9:1-39) by Barbara J. Billey, Candidate, ARCWP

Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus lifts a veil of darkness from the eyes of a man who has been blind from birth and restores his sight. Soon thereafter, darkness enters again as the man encounters the Pharisees who are relentless in their efforts to prove Jesus a sinner, and not of God. What does Jesus want to teach us about seeing and faith?

The Pharisees’ scorn and judgment does not deter the man who has been healed from proclaiming Jesus as a prophet. The man courageously challenges the Pharisees’ beliefs about the ways of God. He wisely suggests they might also desire to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Because he won’t reject Jesus in favor of Moses, the Pharisees cast the man out of the Jewish community. Their definition of him as one who is a sinner by reason of his blindness from birth is now fixed forever.

Imagine the man’s experience of alienation and fierce desolation. This is when Jesus, compassionate Chosen One, comes a second time and brings light to the man’s darkness. “Yes, I believe”: beyond healer and prophet, the man sees Jesus as God and worships Him.

Jesus says, “We must do the deeds of the One who sent me while it is still day for night is coming, when no one can work.” In her book The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd recounts the true story of the Grimke sisters, two women living in Charleston, North Carolina in the mid-1800s who believe African Americans and women are, in their words, “a person under God.” They give up everything: wealth, family, community and religious tradition. They risk imprisonment, even death, to emancipate slaves and to acquire equal rights for them and for women.

Despite constant fear, fatigue and self-doubt, the Grimke sisters negotiate the dark and dangerous terrain of religion, society and culture. Here, reliance on the Bible and social convention are used to justify oppression of women and African Americans. Like Jesus and the healed one, the sisters remain steadfast to their beliefs, and in the process, are judged as social pariahs. Nevertheless, they bring light to darkness by raising awareness of the issues regarding the inhumane violations of slaves and the oppression of women. They lay a solid foundation for women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who years later advocate for women’s rights to vote.

Jesus says, “I came into this world to execute justice – to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.” How are we seeing? While the faith of the man whom Jesus heals deepens, the Pharisees become more deliberate in their rejection of Jesus. They can only see Jesus through the lens of a sinner, thus they are unable to receive the kind of sight and freedom Jesus offers. Like the Pharisees, do we falsely believe we possess the light, while our prejudice and complacency force us to reject the revelation of God? Do we hold as truth and live our lives strictly according to what political and religious authorities tell us?

Jesus comes as light to a man who is blind and a beggar.  In his darkness, the man is willing to be healed and to proclaim the truth about Jesus, no matter the cost. After his second encounter with Jesus and based on his expression of faith, the healed one seems freed from the bondage of spiritual blindness. Was his capacity to see the presence of the Divine in all things heightened? Was he able to be light for others?

Jesus comes to us, too. How are we responding to the One who is light? Our contemporary culture promotes self-sufficiency and rejects the need for God. We radically respond to Jesus when we open our eyes to the needs of those around us, when we believe we have what it takes to make meaningful change, and when we do His healing justice work. We can expect joy and vitality when our hearts and actions align with Jesus.

Jesus Christ Sophia is our wisdom, our Word, our hope of endless light. Through loving relationships, prayer and Eucharist, Wisdom Jesus illuminates our way to engage the justice work of lifting people from their oppressions. He frees us to embrace our prophetic calling and to emerge from our blindness - personal and political - into the light of Jesus’ ways of seeing.

As we approach the anticipated Easter reality of our Risen Christ, let us pray our Eucharist today in solidarity with the entire Church who welcomes “Lumen Christi,” the Light of Christ. Let us enter the open, fluid space of sightless seeing, of mystery and not knowing. Let us trust Divine Presence with us here, lifting the veil of our darkness so we are free to be light for others.

Barbara J. Billey, Candidate ARCWP

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