Sunday Week 4 of Lent Year A

We only see by not seeing. We have been learning from birth not to see. Not to see the full spectrum. Not to see the chaos of light that pours into our eyes. The art of vision is exclusion. To learn not to see everything at once so that we can see anything at all. We learn to pay attention to less and less around us and by doing so we learn to see more and more.
It’s no wonder babies cry … pounded by all that meaningless colour and shape, with only the intense and formless awareness of their own needs to keep them company. But out of that mess of light they learn not to see what changes so they can see what stays the same: eyes, a face, a smile.

Have any of you seen “Shakespeare in Love”? Come on, give me a show of hands … Anybody seen it more than once? I’ve got to admit I’ve seen it eight times! Eight times! Why? Well I’m not sure what I see in it … but there’s something there that moves me to prayer again and again. Maybe it’s the experience of sitting there smiling for two hours. Maybe it’s the energy of it. Maybe I’m getting more romantic as I get older. Maybe. But there are two images which persist. One is of Will Shakespeare running everywhere at breakneck speed—impulsive, energetic, alive—chasing after his impossible romance. The other is from the final scene. “How is this to end?” Shakespeare’s star-crossed lover, Viola, asks the Queen. “As stories must when love’s denied,” Elizabeth tells her, “with tears and a journey.” And parting, Will is ready to give up all his writing as a painful cruel illusion but Viola, instead, plots out his next play, Twelfth Night, with herself as heroine. Her last words are “write me well.”
That’s what Jesus keeps saying to me. Write me well Rob. Write me well.
Well, at 8 o’clock this morning my “wait for inspiration” homily-writing strategy had failed me. Two hours and three false starts later there I was confused and frantic. It’s not that there’s too little here today but too much. What do I have to not see to be able to see? Too much light!
So I was driven to that last resort of all preachers: I prayed. “You want me to write you well? Well where are you Jesus?” And out of the blinding muddle of brilliant images and signs and sayings two glimpses quietly emerged—both of tenderness. Of Jesus touching this man’s eyes and, unasked for, giving him sight. Not to start a controversy. Not to make a point. But moved to make visible the hidden desire of God. That desire which is always tenderness and blessing and love. Then Jesus drops out of the picture while the blind man’s blessing is perverted by everyone who can’t see blessing when they meet it. They turn blessing into a curse and throw the man out of their church. And here’s the second glimpse that came to me: Jesus found him. Went looking for him, found him and gave him his friendship.
In all the muddle and dazzle of our lives Jesus gives all of us that quiet invitation and challenge: “write me well.” But to write him well we have to see him well. Lot’s of people get caught up in this story only to get lost and go astray. In all the muddle and dazzle they miss the tender desire of God and only manage to write Jesus badly. They see sin and punishment, guilt and lies, heresy and judgement. Only the one unused to seeing manages to see the tender presence of Jesus. And even he sees it slowly—it takes “tears and a journey,” but he learns not to see the God of his accusers but the tender guy who has given him eyes and offered him friendship.
What do we have to learn not to see this Lent? Who is Jesus trying not to be for us this Lent? Who is the Jesus hidden in the muddle and dazzle and wanting to be glimpsed? What tenderness is ready for you? What friendship offered? Will you write him well?