In the Gospel of John, which we heard on the Fourth Sunday of Lent this year just as the COVID-19 crisis was descending upon us, Jesus and his disciples encountered a blind man. The disciples’ first response to the man’s affliction was not to offer assistance or comfort. They did not ask, “What can we do for you?” or “How can we help?” Instead, they demanded to know who was at fault, asking Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
When we humans encounter affliction and suffering, our first response is often to try to assign blame. How could this happen? Who caused this? Why did it happen? But pay close attention to how Jesus answers his disciples in the Gospel story. He says that the situation is no one’s fault, and then He goes on to say the blind man’s affliction is an opportunity for the works of God to be made visible. He finishes up this astonishing speech by saying “I am the light of the world” and then heals the blind man of his affliction.
Light always shows up best against a backdrop of darkness; and as we follow Jesus through the Gospels, we see him over and over again making the works of God visible against backgrounds of suffering and despair. As we follow Jesus through the Gospel of John and the other three Gospels, we see his light glowing amongst the blind, the lame, the lepers, the outcasts and those suffering from other physical, emotional and social afflictions.
In the past several weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused affliction among us; and it will continue to cause affliction in the days ahead. Some of us will be afflicted physically; some will be afflicted mentally; some will be afflicted financially; and all of us will be afflicted socially. In the midst of our affliction, let’s keep the Gospels in our minds and hearts, heed the words of Jesus and follow His example.
Instead of criticizing, assigning blame or asking why, let us do as Jesus advised and treat this affliction as an opportunity for the works of God to be made visible. Let us reach out to help those most afflicted in any way we can. Let us do all we can to support our healers in the healthcare system. Let us brighten each other’s days with texts, emails and phone calls. Let us be mindful of the needs of others as we shop to provide for our own families. Let us stand firm in our reverence for human life and our desire to protect the weak and frail among us.
And wherever we encounter darkness, let us be light.