Can you live without the sacraments?
It seems obvious to answer this question with a ‘yes’. We all know many people who have never celebrated a sacrament, and they are still breathing. They are alive. Therefore a person can live without the sacraments.
Or can they?
The question is a bit deeper than you might first think. Let me explain.
The problem is with our understanding of what constitutes ‘life’. Western society has reduced its understanding of ‘life’ to what is more accurately called an ‘existence’.
I will be happy when
Sadly most people, much of the time, feel as though they are not really living. There might be light at the end of their tunnel when I change my job, when my boss resigns, when I sell the house, when the earthquakes stop, when my cancer is cured, when i have paid off the mortgage, when I get a holiday, when my children leave home, when my enemy leaves town, when I win lotto or when i give up smoking. The list is endless.
In the midst of my struggles, and the absence of a solution, I resign myself to the idea that this is life and i just have to live with it. But this struggling existence is not really living at all.
there must be more to life
I might be coping or surviving, managing or existing, but deep inside I know that there must be more to life.
Then I add to my difficulties the false idea that in order to really live, I have to overcome life’s difficulties. I must get away from these problems and challenges. The big questions of my life become ‘how can i find a new job? Should I sell the house? Will I move to more stable land? Which website will give me the cure I seek? And the questions become endless.
The problem is that these issues, while significant and even dominant, are never the real issue. We know this to be true because twenty years ago I knew I would be happy when I passed the exam. I passed the exam and my happiness lasted only hours. Then I needed something else. So I got the new job and won lotto (sadly a metaphor not a reality) and still I was not completely happy.
If you recognise your own life in this pattern of disappointment, rejoice! This is a great moment of opportunity for you. The eyes of your heart are being opened!
While secular influences and pressures (especially advertising) seek to convince us that their product or service will deliver the happiness you seek, this not true!. You are giving in to a deception.
there is an answer
The key to the answer is found in the depth of the human heart. God has planted, in the heart of every human person, a sense of our original calling and destiny. This deep drive propels us towards God.
At one level this delights and inspires us. And in the same moment such available grandeur terrifies us and we again settle for what is easy and artificial.
Our heart-felt hunger and yearning is so immense that we compulsively settle for available trinkets of temporary satisfaction. And then, minutes later we are once again thirsty. We are again vulnerable to the next fix of fleeting fantasy.
How foolish is this way of life? How exhausting this journey.
from blindness to faith
In today’s gospel reading Jesus heals the man born blind. Perhaps we find the miracles of Jesus too difficult to understand. How can we cope with what we may not have seen with our own eyes?
Many people cope with the miraculous by reducing it to what they can understand. They say Jesus just ‘increased his psychological vision’, or ‘opened his eyes of faith’ rather than actually giving him physical sight.
The gospel truth is that Jesus did give the man physical sight. But the really good news is that this is not the best thing that happened to the man-born-blind that day.
In fact, the restoration of physical sight to this man seems to have created a commotion. The poor guy. All those questions: Who did this? Where is he now? Were you really blind before? Where are your parents?
Then the people drove him away.
even more than we ask or imagine
Now the really good bit. “Jesus heard that they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Now we are at the real heart of the matter.
No doubt this man had longed to have physical sight all his life. Perhaps the fact that he was blind made him something of a victim. He would have learnt to cope and survive and exist and endure and manage with his disability. But what kind of life would that have been for him?
And even after Jesus had restored his physical sight, he was now in the same boat as most of the rest of the world who can see and hear and talk and walk. He very quickly would have discovered that this is not enough to sustain and give meaning and purpose to a human life. Deep within the healthy human is a longing for much more than sight and sound and legs and arms and houses and land and lotto. This deep desire is planted in every human heart.
This longing is the question to which Jesus is the answer
And this is the great miracle we see Jesus working in today’s Gospel reading. The healed man found himself ostracised from his society, but this opened the opportunity for his deeper friendship with God: The man proclaimed “Lord I believe, and worshipped him”.
In the sacraments of the Church we are enabled to look beyond our present struggles and anxieties to the real answer to all our human desires.
If you are not convinced, try it. The Sacrament of Reconciliation with weekly Mass is the place to start.
If you have not been to confession for years, now is the time. Simply begin by saying to the priest “I haven’t been for years and I have no idea what to say, but I think it’s time I came…”
The priest will guide you through the rest.
Readings for today, Fourth Sunday of Lent