By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
This is a poem by Friar Richard Hendrick a Franciscan Friar living in Ireland.
Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death. But, They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise You can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet The sky is no longer thick with fumes But blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi People are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.
On the surface, the story that we just heard from John’s gospel is about a blind man who was healed by Jesus. Ironically it’s also about people who could see well enough but were blind to what was right in front of them.
I get that. How many times have I found myself standing in front of an open refrigerator door looking for something that I knew was in there? And how many times does my husband have to step in and pull out the item that I was looking for? It was there all along. I just didn’t see it.
Or how many times have I been on a walk, especially this time of year, and missed the beauty of nature in full bloom? It’s not that I choose to do that as much as I simply get distracted by my thoughts.
The man in this morning’s gospel had no choice about what he could see or not see. He was blind from birth. People would pass by him all the time, talking about him as if he weren’t there and speculating about the cause of his blindness. He was in the same place every day and every day they chose not to see him.
But Jesus saw him and felt compelled to heal him even though the blind man didn’t ask for that. Jesus just did it – and he happened to do it on the day of rest – the Sabbath. When the Pharisees heard about that, they didn’t like it one bit.
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
Yesterday morning, while scrolling through all the smattering of news I can access on my phone, I came upon something worth stopping for.
The story of Dan Peterson and Norah Wood. You may know it.
Dan Peterson was shopping at the local Publix in Norcross, Georgia. Mr. Peterson was, as he told it, pretty severely depressed. He had just lost his wife of many years and I can only imagine what an incredibly lonely task it was to be out shopping for just himself.
Norah Wood was at the grocery store too with her mom. She was four years old and getting a ride in one of those big carts. Norah was in her cart not feeling particularly lonely at all. In fact, when you watch the security video of what follows, you see she is perfectly filled up.
Norah waved at Dan as their carts passed. She called out to him, “Hey Old Person”. The three of them were strangers to one another. But that didn’t stop Norah. Dan paused kind of dumbstruck. Next she asked for a hug. “Absolutely” said Dan. Norah asked for her mama to take a picture of them together.
Then Dan said, to Norah and her mom, “You don’t know. This is the first time for quite a while that I’ve been this happy.” And hearing him recount the story you realize just how much Norah was a blessing to Dan.
The story went viral and got picked up for national news. Thousands of letters of encouragement came flooding into Dan’s mailbox. It is a story that just felt good.
In keeping with the spirit of this day, I have a little confession to make. I don’t want to overstate it. I think it’s really just sort of ‘garden variety’, human kind of a stuff. I bring it up, only because it seems to ride ‘shotgun’ in a lot of our lives. Although, maybe I’d better just speak for myself. Sometimes, these little thoughts will pass through my mind like: I wonder why that person talks so much and doesn’t seem to notice that maybe other people would like to have a chance to talk too. Or, that person clearly has way too many grocery items to be going through the express lane. I’d never do that. Why can’t that person think of other people’s feelings, Or, why won’t that person play by the rules? And why does that person always have to talk about how their glass is always half empty? Well, that’s probably enough. Maybe more than enough.
The only conclusion I can reach for that kind of thinking is that it rests on the simple question of why people, family, co-workers, the town council, (why stop there?!), the Governor and Congress, oh what the heck, why can’t everybody behave a little more like me. I’d never do any of those un-thoughtful things, heaven knows.
Or would I? Or do I? Am I one of those people others would like to do a little fixer-up job on? Is it I Lord?
We are closing in on the last days of the season of Lent, which you probably know. Although, it’s possible to lose track of where we are. It’s been known to happen. But maybe you know right where we are. Maybe these past few weeks have been times that have brought you closer to your own heart, or someone else’s, and that when that happened it was like the Good Shepherd had come and found you and carried you home. Maybe that realization came when you saw someone take someone else’s hand into theirs, and with bright clear eyes say to this person you’re pretty sure they’d never seen before, ‘oh sweetie, you’re precious, precious. That’s what I think.’ Or maybe something you’d decided to do for Lent – forgo a luxury, make sure you say your prayers each morning and each night, lay your hand on someone’s shoulder while prayers were said for their healing one Wednesday – something you gave yourself to do in these past weeks, opened a window in you to God that you didn’t even know was closed.
Or maybe it’s been a flop. You’ve missed the whole thing, like arriving at the platform for a train that left an hour ago. And then said to yourself, ‘well I never wanted to get on that train anyway!’
Or maybe you started off pretty good, but, well, life happens and this and that, you know. Maybe, honestly, the best you could pull off was getting you and your family to church one Sunday in Lent, mostly in one piece and with a minimum of tears, all things considered. Whatever it has been is what you have to offer. And so, whatever it has been, trust in the slow workings of God’s grace and give thanks.