Another Sunday in Lent, another loooooong Gospel lesson from John that will tempt the preacher to ramble all over the place in an attempt to catch the myriad themes inherent in the story. While I’m dealing with my visceral reaction to the way the disciples treat the man born blind (MBB) as if he’s just a theological prop to be debated and dissected, I’m choosing to write instead about an interesting qualifying statement made by Jesus.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Jn 9.5)
You’ll recall from the Prologue to John’s Gospel, a text Episcopalians hear read every First Sunday after Christmas, that one of the key components of Jesus’ identity in John is that of light. In that great cosmic poem, Jesus is described as “life and light” (1.4-5) and “the true light which enlightens everyone” (1.9). Later, as Jesus continues to be challenged by the Pharisees, he claims for himself the role of light bearer, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8.12). Yet here we are, merely a chapter later, it seems like Jesus is claiming that his light can be extinguished.
As we round the halfway point in Lent, having now passed through the awful right of passage known as “Daylight Saving Time” and now on the other side of the vernal equinox, the season seems to be all about growing light, while our feelings will be all about growing darkness as we head toward the noon hour on Good Friday when darkness fell over the whole earth. So, which is it? Light or dark?
Truth be told, by now I’ve done what the disciples did to the MBB. I’ve created a theological straw man to prove a preconceived point. See, Jesus will die on Good Friday. It will get dark. Very dark, but darkness and death will not have the final word. The light of the world will shine through the resurrected Jesus, and continues to shine through his Body, the Church, even to this day. Jesus may be ascended to the right hand of the Father, but he hasn’t left the world, he is still very much with us and in us, and his light continues to provide hope in the midst of darkness that threatens us from all sides. The qualifying statement of Jesus is only a qualifying statement if we don’t believe in the continuity of his message and the holiness of his Church. If we do believe these things, then the ramifications are clear, as members of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, we are the light of the world.
Now, to figure out how to be light. Thankfully, Jesus told us about that just a few weeks ago.