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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

One thing we notice as we hear the story of the blind man gaining his sight from Jesus is how the man grows in his faith and confidence. First he calls Jesus by his name, “Jesus”. Jesus is just another man that he is meeting. Then later when he is being quizzed by the Pharisees, he calls Jesus a prophet. And by the end of the Story we see him worshipping Jesus because he realises Jesus is no ordinary man. He is the God-man, the One who can do so much more than we can ever imagine. His whole life long he had lived in blindness, and suddenly he sees.

The Evangelist John wanted in his Gospel to bring us to recognise that Jesus is indeed the God-man, the One who has entered our world to give light when there is darkness, to bring hope when there is despair, to provide direction when we don’t know which way to go. To know Jesus is the Son of God is to recognise we are not alone, that there is Someone who wants to come, who wants to “find us” as the Gospel says, and bring us light when there is darkness. The psalm puts it well, even if we should walk in the valley of darkness, he is with us to protect and lead us.

So, the Evangelist John tells the story of the blind man. But he wants us to realise that what happened to the blind man when he met Jesus two thousand years ago, can happen spiritually today when we meet Jesus in our heart, in the neighbours we love and in our community. Perhaps we are only meeting virtually or at a distance, but Jesus is present to us.

Our Christian faith tells us that the Church is not the building or the Mass or the sacraments. The Church is the people of God. The Church is the Body of Christ. Even if public celebration of the Mass is cancelled and access to the sacraments is limited, the Church continues. After all, remember we even use the expression “the domestic church” to say that each family is a small family church. Jesus is present in our family and his presence can be felt the more we live for one another, love one another.

But all of us are part of the family that is the Church. All of us have been baptised, many of us have been confirmed, so the Holy Spirit is at work in us, helping us to be Jesus to one another, and Jesus present among us in our family. The time will come again when we will receive the Eucharist. But for now we can make what’s called a spiritual communion with the Mass. We can do this in our words or in a prayer such as, “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”.

As well as making a spiritual communion, we can be the Church-communion by living for others even in the middle of social distancing and following HSE guidelines. St. Paul tells us: “be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you”.

The blind man gained his sight and more and more believed in Jesus as the Son of God. The Pharisees, as presented in today’s Gospel, become more and more blind. They refuse to see.

We have a chance in the week ahead, despite all the difficulties, to be children of light in the way we think of others, pray for them, help them even at a distance, be there for them, send greetings, encouragement, offer words of advice and hope. All of this will be us discovering day by day what the Lord wants of us in each circumstance.

In doing this, we’ll show that though public celebration of Mass is cancelled, the Church is not closed. It is open in me, in us, letting Jesus be present in and through us, bringing light, healing and hope.