I saw a headline saying
that the Pope is praying for the “lonely elderly”
and realized that,
though I’ve been at home alone for almost a week now,
I’m not lonely.
It’s Lent—always a time to stop and pray
and think about our relationships—
with one another, with our family, our friends, strangers,
and with God.
A time to take stock,
and this year we have lots of time to do just that.
So I’ve been spending time thinking and praying…
and talking with my chickens
and walking in the garden.
My days have not been lonely at all.
But some people ARE lonely.
They’re feeling restricted, caged in, isolated.
They’re blind to the beautiful sproutings of spring—
the crocuses in bloom,
the green spears of daffodils pushing up,
the return of the songbirds, the bright sunny skies,
the robins and blue jays showing up
to join the year-round sparrows.
Their loneliness, their isolation, keeps them from seeing.
It’s like the passage about the man born blind that we just read.
John creates this story to show that Jesus is the light of the world.
The religious leaders do not “see”—do not understand—
because they only pay attention to the sabbath rules
that Jesus is breaking.
The blind man sees.
And it’s like Samuel, in the first reading,
who looks at outward appearances
and wants to anoint Eliab as king,
but he learns to see David’s heart and anoints him instead.
Too often we look at the scriptures
and see only the literal language of the past.
We are blind to the meanings
hidden in those symbols and metaphors from 2,000 years ago.
We have no frame of reference for the stories that carry our faith.
The man born blind finds his parents unwilling to stand up for him;
his neighbors take him to the religious leaders;
his religious leaders excommunicate him.
People in our time find themselves free
yet suffering exclusion in the same way:
LGBT folks, partners in interracial marriages, divorced folks,
those different somehow from what others think is right:
their color, gender, marriage partner, divorce, religious belief.
It’s a lifelong work to try to see as God sees,
to learn to walk as children of light.
One of the saintly folks at Holy Spirit,
after spending the morning helping out at Claver House,
sent me a note after the soup kitchen closed down on Monday that showed that she has learned to walk as a child of light.
“There were only 15 guests who showed up,” she wrote.
“Having just returned from there,
I am full of the most terrible heartbreak.
How truly wrenching it is to be in the midst
of such desperation, poverty, and hopelessness
that most of us are ‘safely’ distanced from.
It would break your heart to be with these people,
to watch a guy shaking so badly
that he puts his head on the table
trying to overcome what was probably a drug withdrawal.
And she wrote this about the volunteers who help there.
“The people who for years
have been committed to feeding their souls and bodies
are nothing less than saints
with a deep awareness of the need to help in any way they can
to comfort these lonely, unkempt, sometimes smelly people,
their clothes stained with dirt, wearing out-sized shoes,
who can still laugh and joke with each other and keep going.
It is the most spiritual experience one could witness—
it is like receiving Communion, the broken body of Christ.
It changes you on the spot to realize
there is so much misery and need in our greedy world.”
She is a follower of Jesus, a light to the world.
And so are you!