I hope you already know that the most important celebration for the Church takes place as Easter begins on Holy Saturday night. If you’ve never been to this great Easter Vigil, then you have missed something very special. It begins in darkness, and then in the darkness the new Easter Fire is lit and from the fire the Easter Candle is lit. That candle is then lifted up and carried through the dark church building, as a sign that Christ who is our light has destroyed the darkness of death and drawn all who trust in him into the eternal light that is God himself.
This is the theme to which all our readings today are pointing. We heard in the 2nd reading (Ephesians 5:8-14) “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.” And in the Gospel (John 9:1-41) we heard how Jesus brought light to the man who was blind ; a vivid reminder that we are all blind, unless we allow God to help us to see, as he helped Samuel in our 1st Reading (1 Sam 16:1-13) Think too of that famous hymn “Amazing Grace” “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Light then, is one of the great images we use to describe God, so let’s meditate a little on what light can teach us about God. Luckily last week in the TV series “The Wonders of the Universe” the theme was light, and all I could think was “How wonderful, and how can any scientist studying such things not believe in God?” So, first of all, you cannot see light itself, you can only see what light does, what light lights up. Indeed, you cannot look directly at our source of light, the sun, without blinding yourself, you can only look at it indirectly or when it is transformed into the beauty of a rainbow by passing through water .
But the presenter also reminded us that light is the source of life. Light is what the plants we eat use to grow. So without light we would have nothing to eat. Indeed in a sense you could say that we eat light not just via fruit and vegetables, but also by gaining essential vitamins directly from being out in the light. He also pointed out how light enabled us to evolve from a tiny blind organism, into the being we are now, with eyes and mind and imagination.
If this is what light is like, so amazing and so mysterious, think then what the Creator of light must be like. Like light, God cannot be seen except in and through the things he has created, so we see the glory of God all around us if we only look properly. But not just around us, but also in us. Lift up your hand and examine it, look at the way the fingers and thumb move, and meditate on the mystery of God who created it. And in others. Today we are giving thanks for our mothers, so look at the mother you love and see the glory of God. And look too at the one mother that Jesus gives us all from the cross, his own mother Mary, and see God’s glory in her as well.
Finally think too of our destiny as children of the light. As St Paul said to us today “Anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light.” St Peter goes further, (2 Peter 1:3-4) where he says that the power of God does not just make us good, but also makes us partakers of the divine nature. This means that when we receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion we are actually gaining a foretaste of our future, when without losing our individual personality, we become one with God, transformed by his power into glory. This is precisely why we pray for our dead “May perpetual light shine upon them.” As St Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)
So St John tells us the story of the blind man today not because he wants to tell a remarkable story, but because he wants to convey a deeper truth. Right at the beginning of his Gospel he announced that Jesus is “the true light that gives light to everyone” and just before Jesus heals this blind man we have that famous passage where Jesus says “I am the light of the world” Our Gospel today makes a big contrast between those who think they can see, and those who know they can’t. We have to be very careful that we Christians do not become like those Jesus and the blind man were in conflict with, who thought they could see. This is one of my worst sins – arrogance – thinking I am right and everyone else has got it wrong – getting angry or impatient with idiot drivers or idiot officials etc etc. I guess many of us are like that, which is why we need to go to Confession before Easter, not least to remind ourselves that every time we think we can see, we need to turn to God and ask him to cure our blindness.