Half time is precious time. In a basketball or football match, half-time gives the team time to regroup. This is an important time; the team can review how the game is progressing, how players are performing, what needs to be done if the team isn’t playing well and wants to avoid defeat, or if the team is leading, how it must stay focus to win.
This Fourth Week of Lent is half time in our Lenten journey. This time is God’s grace. It gives you and me time to review how our Lenten journey is progressing. If we are keeping faith with God and progressing well, then, stay the course. We will complete it. If we haven’t made any headway with our Lenten practices or if we have deviated from the Lenten journey to let God transform us, then, let’s make the necessary changes. There is still time. Half time means there’s still time for us to do better.
We can miss God’s grace to help us do Lent better at this half time mark. We might be experiencing fatigue because of our journey through the past weeks of Lent. Fr Mark Toups says this can be a burden we are struggling with at this point. We know we are more than halfway through Lent but we are not yet done — not yet there. And this fatigue can blind us to what more God wants to give us. This is the focus of his reflection for the Fourth Week of Lent:
The key points Fr Toups makes are:
- At this point of Lent fatigue tempts us to cheat. Once we cheat, we open ourselves to cheating more on Lent. We will then compromise our Lenten efforts.
- We might be fatigued at this time because we have had an intense experience of God in prayer as we considered life more profoundly.
- In previous weeks we took stock of our lives and considered what we wanted more out of life. We did this by reflecting on the realities of our lives. As we did this, we might have realized how many expectations we had are still unrealized. Yet, we might accept that this is how life must be for us now — with our regrets and disappointments, our unmet desires and hopes. This is the way it is; this is how our lives simply are.
- We do this because when we compare what we hoped for and what we now have, we see that our present life is perhaps as good as it gets. We feel we don’t want to ask for more from God or anyone else. So we take care of our own lives and we provide for ourselves.
- There are many reasons why we may not ask God for more. Because we can provide for ourselves. Because we didn’t experience God answering our prayer. Because we tend to see God in the negative experience of someone not coming through for us.. All this makes us tired and we feel there’s no need or point to ask God for more. We are fatigued. And in our fatigue we settle for less with God; we assume that it is ok not to expect that God wants to give more. Such is our life. Yes, there is no need to ask for more.
- The gospel of the Fourth Week of Lent is about a blind man who thinks he lives only to beg. This is the best he can do in his life. Whatever little he gets is as good as he can get. This is what he knows his life to be about. Yet Jesus comes to offer him more — healing.
- The man is physically and spiritually blind. Yet he has to trust Jesus who heals him by asking him to wash in the pool. He trusts that Jesus is offering him the “more” God promises to give.
- What stirs Fr Toups’ heart in the Gospel passage is how blind man comes to Jesus in conversation and gives his heart to Jesus.
- We too, Fr Toups says, are called to bring our hearts to Jesus. For it is in encountering Jesus that we will find our hearts stirring. Such stirring will move us to God who has much more to give us.
- At this point in Lent, then, when we can easily be fatigued, where will you and I bring our hearts to? To whom if not Jesus? After all, he himself is the one whom God wishes to give us. Jesus is the “more” God is waiting to delight us with. Will you and I want to do this?
Fr Mark Toups ends his reflection with challenging questions. These must matter for us, not just at this point in Lent but every day of our lives. In the light of Fr Toups’ reflection, here are 3 points for us to reflect on the Gospel story of Jesus healing the blind man. They can help us better consider how God is laboring for our good and wellbeing:
a) We want to be good Christians and live the Christian life well. This is honestly a challenge to do competently and accomplish exceedingly. We try hard to live it according to Jesus’ teachings but often find ourselves falling short now and again. When we fail, we try again only to find ourselves failing and falling. This experience is like how we sometimes take two steps forward only to fall a step back. When this happens frequently we can find ourselves easily fatigued. Sometimes we just want to give up altogether.
Have you had this experience in your Christian life? Does this happen often? Why? In such moments what do you do — pick yourself up and try again, or let go, accept that you are tired and convince yourself that there is no point doing anything more.?
We all have had such moments. If you could return to them, and do them differently, what would you now do better in ore or two of those moments? Reflecting further, can you now see a lesson you did learn before and can now help live the Christian life much better if you become fatigued again? Write down this lesson on a card and keep it in your Bible or journal to encourage you in the future.
b) The blind man’s faith heals his blindness. We have been given the gift of faith like this blind man. That is why we always hunger for God. We do because we believe God wants to give us something more. Yet we all suffer from different kinds of blindness. Some examples are pride, selfishness and greed. What makes or keeps you blind to the truth about Jesus and hinders you from coming to him? How does this blindness stop you from receiving Jesus’ mercy and love that can save you?
Do you feel “impaired” or blind to see or come to Jesus because you are a person with same-sex attraction or are a family member or friend who accompanies and supports a person with SSA? Why do you feel like this? What is it that is blinding you from seeing Jesus and embracing the truth that he is your Saviour?
Take some time to consider the questions above. If you could tell or describe this blindness to Jesus, what would you say? Now take consider what do you want from Jesus to overcome this blindness? Is this the “more” that you want God to give you through Jesus?
Bring your thoughts and feelings to Jesus in prayer and share them with him. When you are done doing this, sit in silence and become aware of Jesus’ presence in you. What do you sense Jesus saying to you?
c) The blind man cannot see Jesus. Jesus can see the blind man, and he opts to go to him. Jesus does this because he wants to have a face-to-face encounter. Pope Francis calls Jesus’ action a “closeness” which he describes in this way: “We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to God, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters. Closeness: that is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith.”
We are called to be Christ-like with our lives, especially in what we say to one another and how we act towards everyone around us. Recall a time when someone came up to you and embodied “this closeness” of Jesus that came into your life and surprised you. How did you feel? What did you think?
If you could do the same for someone at this challenging time of the COVID-19 contagion, who would that person be? How do you want to embody the “closeness” of Jesus to him/her? Many people now are scared and confused because of the COVID-19 contagion. Many are also suffering and in pain. Others in the world have lost family and friends. How can the person you have chosen benefit from your action to bring Jesus close to him/her this week? What can you say or do to re-create how you felt or what you thought then when the “closeness” of Jesus came to you once before?
This Week’s Prayer & Reflection