Meeting & Believing

4th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Last week, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well. This week, he heals a man who was blind from birth. Through these personal encounters with Christ they came not only to know him but believe in him.

At the start, the woman at the well only perceived a Jewish stranger, a presumed enemy, a seemingly crazy or arrogant fool who offered her water without even having a bucket. But over the course of their encounter she realizes that this intriguing figure is a prophet, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Similarly, right after his healing, the man born blind simply refers to Jesus as ‘a man.’ He informs his amazed neighbors, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” Next, when he’s brought to the Pharisees, they ask him his opinion of Jesus: “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” Now, after some reflection, he suggests that Jesus “is a prophet.”

The Pharisees, unwilling to believe, question the man’s parents about his being born blind. Then they put him under oath (invoking a traditional formula): “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner!” But the honest man replies, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

In the face of their ongoing hostility towards Jesus, the man born blind observes, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. (Indeed, nowhere in the entire Old Testament is there recorded a healing of someone born blind.) Therefore, the man with new sight concludes: “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.

The Pharisees insult the cured man and toss him out, but when Jesus hears that they threw him out, he finds him and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answers with openness, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” And Jesus says, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” The man with clear vision replies, “I do believe, Lord,” and worships Jesus Christ.

A recurring theme throughout St. John’s Gospel is how peoples’ encounters with Jesus reveal to them who Christ really is and deepen their faith in him. In addition to the man born blind and the woman at the well, Nicodemus, Peter, John, and others have their relationships with Jesus develop over time through encountering him and appreciating the deeper meaning of these encounters.

The woman at the well and the man born blind both came to know Jesus as the Messiah. We today are further blessed with the knowledge that Jesus is God. Yet Jesus not only desires that you and I know things about him; he wants us to believe in him. Many people today relegate Jesus to merely being “a wise teacher” or “a good man” while simultaneously denying that he is Lord. But if Jesus is not Lord, then he was neither good nor wise to claim to be the Christ and demand our full devotion. To be consistent, we must be for him or against him. We cannot safely cover our bets by going just halfway. As Jesus warns in the Book of Revelation, “because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” So how do we move from Jesus being a mere notion to a personal reality?

First, realize that the Risen Jesus, though ascended into heaven, is alive and active in our world and in your daily life already. He would draw you into a deeper personal relationship with himself through encounters like he had with the people in the Gospels. I suggest to you (just as I did at last Sunday’s Masses) five places of personal encounter with Christ: the Scriptures, daily prayer, the Sacraments, the stories of others, and your lived experiences.

  • Encounter Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, through Sacred Scripture, the inspired word of God. St. Jerome said ‘ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.’ So meet him in the Scriptures, especially the four Gospels.
  • Encounter Jesus in daily prayer. Jesus says in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” He knocks on the door of our soul, and daily prayer opens our door to meet him.
  • Encounter Jesus in his Sacraments. In the Eucharist, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, in every Sacrament, Jesus meets us in a personal, mystical, and grace-giving way.
  • Encounter Jesus in the stories of others; the stories of the saints (whose lives are reflections and icons of Christ) and stories told by other Christians who have personally experienced Jesus’ goodness and power. Meet Jesus through their stories, like those neighbors who came to know Jesus through the blind man’s and Samaritan woman’s testimonies.
  • And encounter Jesus in your own lived experiences. The Lord who guides the galaxies likewise attends to the small things as well. Jesus would meet us in the many moments of our days using our experiences of work and leisure, of nature and other people, to share revelatory signs of himself.

So encounter Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, in daily prayer, in the Sacraments, in others’ stories, and in your own experiences, so that our living Lord may lead you into a deeper relationship with himself.

In conclusion, I wish to speak on a different but related topic. One year ago, St. Paul’s Church Renovation Subcommittee began exploring options to renew and beautify St. Paul’s Church — our first, major, interior renovation in three decades. This spring, enjoying the consensus support of our parish councils, we are excited to unveil our renovation plan and a capital campaign to fund it. Stay tuned for comprehensive details to be shared through talks and materials in the next few months. Until then, I ask for your patience and your prayers for the success of this effort, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls through many people encountering him here, in a renewed and beautified church.

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