Five Steps of Faith, and a Murky Mirror

Homily at St Philip Evans, on the 4th Sunday of Lent, with Second Scrutiny.

Whenever adults are to be baptised Catholic at Easter, we have these readings 3 weeks before. They help us reflect on the journey of faith which brings us to baptism – or for us who were baptised as infants, to making an adult decision to continue with our faith. On Easter Night or Easter Day, we will all be invited to renew our baptismal promises. Let us not do so blindly!

 

Step 1. God turns up in your life. For the boy David, it was a prophet turning up for tea with a pot of anointing oil. For the blind man, it was Jesus placing mud on his eyes. When was the first time you became conscious of a person or idea which you felt was connected to God?

Step 2. You are curious enough to want to find our more. The blind man – still blind, and with mud in his eyes – was willing to follow Jesus’ instruction to go and wash in a certain pool. Some of our elect here today responded to a school newsletter inviting them to learn more about the Catholic faith. Can you remember what first made you curious about Jesus or the Catholic Church?

Step 3. Trouble comes! It might be trouble from other people who tease us about our faith or try to argue, like the Pharisees did, about the right way to do religion. Or it might be trouble from our own mind, which says “Hold on – if I follow Jesus, I might have to give up certain things I enjoy.” What, for you, is the biggest obstacle to believing and living your faith?

Step 4. You’ve survived the trouble and it helps you realise that God is getting through to you. You might not know how you know, but you know that the message of Jesus is important for your life. This makes it crucial to ask the right questions. The blind man says, “Tell me who the Son of Man is!” – in other words, tell me more about Jesus. From this year’s group preparing to be Catholic, I have faced some fascinating questions, about what the Church says about ghosts or life after death. Let me throw out a question in return – if God appeared to you and promised to give a straight answer to just one question, what would that question be?

Step 5. The blind man says “I believe!” and worships Jesus. At Easter Mass, each one of us will be asked if we believe in Jesus. To say “yes” is not just to declare we have an idea about Jesus in our heads. It is to affirm that we put our trust in him, we follow his teachings in our life, and we come to Mass on the Lord’s Day because he asked us to do this in memory of me. So with this in mind – Do you believe in the Son of Man?

We don’t get the full picture of our faith straight away. The blind man encountered Jesus but spent time with mud in his eyes. Was he healed when Our Lord put the mud on, or when it was washed away? And why did Jesus do that? Was it perhaps because we see “through a glass darkly”, God’s light reflected in the murky mirror of our human existence? Jesus comes to us through glimpses of his presence in a messy world? Very few of us get the blinding light of St Paul having a vision on the road to Damascus. The water of life is mixed with the dust of this world. Most of us live with the Lord giving us just enough nudges of his loving presence to encourage us to carry on. It’s normal to have just enough faith. Blinding visions are quite the exception!

Today’s sermon has been full of questions – questions you’ve had a moment to think about but noGeneric image of a robed prophet chance to discuss. This is why we have activities like the monthly Call to Question group, where we can go deeper into questions of faith. It’s also why I’ve been asking us in these months to pray “Invite me Lord, to know you better, through … study”. Jesus is inviting us to know him better. For those of you who have been taking part in our faith exploration groups this year, how will you deepen your knowledge next year? And this question is for all of us – is a 7 minute sermon each weekend enough to nourish our faith? Don’t we need more? And here’s my last question. What would you say if you met the blind man and he asked: “Tell me who the Son of Man is?”