In this annual series, current and former volunteers reflect on the Lenten Gospels and the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: Social Justice, Simplicity, Community and Spirituality. Presented by Catholic Apostolate Center and Catholic Volunteer Network.
Fourth Sunday Lenten Reflection By Joanne Blaney, Maryknoll Lay Missioners
“So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” (John 9:9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38)
Today’s Gospel reading tells us that, “Jesus put mud on the eyes of the blind man and instructed him to wash in the Pool of Siloam (meaning Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” (Jn 9:6-9) At that time, the belief by many, including the disciples, was that blindness was caused by “sin.” The Pharisees, looking on in judgment and with harshness, ask the newly cured blind man. “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He responded, “He is a prophet.” (Jn (:17) They drive the blind man out and condemn Jesus because he cures on the Sabbath.
This Scripture passage challenges me to see the many ways that I am blind and in need of healing. It also calls me to focus on the commandment of love rather than “on the rules.” In my work with victims and offenders of crime and their families as well as the homeless community in São Paulo, Brazil, I am constantly stretched to open my eyes and heart in compassion to their real needs. Many of them are judged harshly by the public. I have learned from them the importance of solidarity, respect for differences and ways that we can work together in community. May Jesus continue to heal us in the Pool of Siloam so that we may see with “new eyes” our mission to our brothers and sisters and take concrete actions in solidarity with them.
Loving God, enlighten our hearts and minds that we may be healed of our blindness and harshness. May we follow the example of the blind man and be courageous in speaking the truth to those in power and to those who are excluding or oppressing others. Strengthen our faith and hope that we may respond in compassionate service to those in need. Enlighten us to see more clearly your presence in our world and to find ways to work together to change systemic causes of suffering. May your Holy Spirit energize and guide us in service! Amen.
Focus on Social Justice
Faith-based service can transform our blindness and help us to transform and empower others. My participation in the Catholic homeless community of São Paulo has taught me much about social justice. We gather for Biblical study, reflection and liturgical celebrations. Members of the community live in solidarity with the homeless and work to meet their needs for food, clothing and shelter. The city’s homeless population has doubled over the last four years to 25,000 and there is a high unemployment rate. The community has communal housing and work projects and participates in networks that work to change housing, employment and health systems that discriminate against homeless people; thus bringing about greater social justice.
Our Gospel today tells us that the Pharisees confronted the newly healed blind man, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us? Then they threw the man out” (Jn 9:34). Is this not how many excluded and marginalized people in our world are treated? This Lent calls each of us to heal our blindness by engaging in service to others, being with them and learning from them. We are called to move out of our comfortable routines knowing that the Spirit’s presence will open and enlighten us. One brief moment in the blind man’s history changed him forever. So, it is with volunteer/mission service. Make the decision today to volunteer at a homeless shelter, educational project for at-risk children or youth, a church sponsored service or an environmental or ecological project, etc. Service breaks open our hearts and minds so that we may begin to see more clearly how God speaks in our world! I invite you to join a service project and be transformed by serving those in most need.
Joanne Blaney, originally from Philadelphia, PA has been a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for 23 years. She serves in São Paulo, Brazil working with Restorative Justice with victims, offenders and their families as well as with groups in conflict. She also accompanies and participates in a faith-based community of people who are homeless.
Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Lenten Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can also find an extensive library of Lenten resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.