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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Christian Faith: A Human & Divine Encounter

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5)

               

How does Christian faith and an awareness of God enter our lives?  There is no single, simple response to this question.  But in most cases, it involves others, family, friends, even sometimes, persons we just happen to meet in a community in which we find ourselves.  Even when we enter a community of faith as small children, it will be a life-long process of growth as we meet others who present us with a living faith that engages us.

               

Pope Francis, as he began his papacy in 2013 issued and encyclical letter entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium).  It emphasized the mission that has been bestowed on every Christian from their very baptism.  As he put it: I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation (EV 27).

               

This vision a Christian community of disciples as sharers of the Good News is one of the motivating elements of the current gatherings underway in the Catholic community.  The Synod on Synodality, unusual or unfamiliar as the phrase may sound, is really about opening the vision of Church in which all members are active sharers of the faith for the sake of others.  Our faith is always a communal faith.  We hold Chrisitan faith so that it might be given away to others and that all might gain new life through this Good News.

               

On this 4th Sunday of Lent there are two options for the Gospel reading.  One of them is directed to those just entering our community as newly baptized, but it also speaks to all of us who may have been baptized years ago.  It is the story of person who has an initial encounter with faith and Jesus (John 9:1-41).  It relates the gradual and progressive way in which a blind man slowly arrives at sight and light and faith through the encounter.  This is an evangelization story.  In many ways it expresses how the faith of any one of us has been planted and nurtured through encounters with others and their faith.


As John relates, Jesus encounters a man who has been blind from birth.  He reaches out to the man and heals his blindness, restoring his sight.  This is a wondrous act, a miracle.  Suddenly, a person who could not see regains sight.  But there is a bigger wonder, a greater miracle that is found in this story.  The blind man gained his physical sight, but then gradually he came to a new kind of sight as well.  He came to see with spiritual vision.


The spiritual sight gained by the blind man in John’s Gospel was very gradual and involved many others, including his neighbours, some Pharisees, as well as another encounter with Jesus, in which the man expresses his faith that Jesus is the Son of Man, the active presence of God among us.  It had been a difficult process and one that involved energy, time and a willingness to trust for the man.  Spiritual sight was an awareness of God with him in the person of Jesus and a world that had changed with that presence.


A disciple’s faith is like this.  It involves a search or quest for understanding.  It also involves the examples and engagement with others and a sharing of the faith lived.  And, it involves the wonder of grace, God’s life that is ever with us all.

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