March 2, 2008
Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

First Reading: 1 Sam. 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
Psalm 23
Second Reading:
Eph. 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Beyond Conflict

Human nature is such that we hate conflict, and so we device various means to avoid conflict because it feels uncomfortable to face conflicts.

“Our nature is to walk away from conflict, especially when it involves destroying a relationship. Since people cannot grow beyond what could be done to resolve conflicts, and rather than talking about it, we prefer to push aside, remain silent or quiet over a situation. For some people or friends – or even couples and lovers in disagreements, it could take days, weeks, months or years before they speak to each other again.

The reason is that no one wants to be the fool, or is willing to make the first move to break the silence caused by that conflict, simply because that first initiative could be perceived by the opponent or the other as “acceptance” or “defeat.” In any case, bridging conflicts seems the hardest thing for humans to do because it takes a gutsy heart and utmost humility to give up one’s pride for the sake of peace, and to restore respect for each other.” [modified insight from a parishioner – Rowena Liamzon].

But what makes it impossible for us to grow beyond conflict? I am convinced that it is when we prefer to stay continuously in our narrow-mindedness; it is when we love “darkness” rather than “light!” In a state of narrow-mindedness, we focus primarily on our own personal interests and not another’s.

In this spirit of self-centredness, we enter into destructive and unproductive state of affairs. For example, we are often afraid and very uncomfortable to threaten the system or the status quo. So therefore, instead of courageously standing our grounds to challenge those that force us to make uncharitable choices or decisions that affect us and others; instead of confronting that which is wrong by saying, “This is not right, this is morally unacceptable,” we deceive ourselves saying, “Oh, what the heck; everybody is doing it, anyway!” In a very simple way, we follow or go along with the crowd because we cannot afford to make life anymore difficult for ourselves or family or friends.

However, today’s gospel reading reminds us that when we behave like this, we become blind, and unable to see God’s spirit at work in us. We essentially refuse to give witness about WHO God is or WHAT God means to us, what he does or has done in our lives. In short, when we presume to possess the power to tell God how to behave or act around us – as did the Pharisees, we affirm our own blindness to his presence in our lives and in our world.

Like the Pharisees, we too sometimes, detest Jesus or any other person that causes any kind of “conflict” to our comfortable lives.

The issue is, “Why can’t we grow beyond conflict?” We are often afraid of other people working outside our structures. We fear people who may penetrate into our secret lifestyles and get to know us “in toto” or more than we would normally permit. Hence, we barricade ourselves with invisible walls, unpleasant faces or snobbish attitudes just to warn other not to come closer to us. We are afraid of people that cause us to adapt, adopt, change or modify the system, the status quo, or our lifestyle. Within such a scenario, the Pharisees reacted harshly towards Jesus because they found it unbelievable and incomprehensible that a “nobody” like Jesus, could penetrate into their system, and worse, of all the days – Jesus chose to heal a blind person on a Sabbath day. It was incomprehensible to them that a common person as Jesus should upset their comfortable lifestyle – their established religious practices of the status quo. As human nature would direct it, they tried every way imaginable to discredit the depth of Jesus’ power and spirituality.

Some of us also act in similar ways when someone tells us who we truly are; and when we perceive our integrity has been attacked, it hurts us to swallow such a remark. Subsequently, we fight back with venom just to defend or protect our integrity. In a nutshell, we seem to hate to hear the real truth.

But are the Pharisees the only culprits who discredit Jesus’ spirituality and the power to heal and to restore us to wholeness? No! Like the Pharisees, we also, from time to time, discredit Jesus’ ability; we do not trust him with our life, as did the blind man. It is quite unfortunate that some of us come to KNOW God only when we realize that may be, and I stress may be – our spouse or child or parent or sibling or family member or friend faces a serious health problem or lives a risky lifestyle. But even that, we sometimes turn a blind eye to the situation – hoping that the problem will go away on its own, or that it would be resolved through some miraculous intervention.

Today’s gospel reading suggests that it is even when we suffer conflict – inner conflict – personal conflict – family conflict – social conflict – political conflict or faith-related conflict that we must not be blind to God’s presence or his willingness to redeem and to make us whole again – bringing us from darkness into light, from pain to hope, and from loss to joy. Restoring the sight of the blind man from darkness into light is a perfect example of Jesus’ ability to make us completely whole when we believe and trust in him. Perhaps, it was with this understanding that St. Paul urges us “to find out what is truly pleasing to God in order that we may not take part in any unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them instead” [cf. Eph. 5:8], in the hope of transforming all that we consider, “conflict.”

May our participation in this Eucharist encourage us o grow beyond conflicts and so seek the power of God that makes inner healing possible in life!

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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