Sunday, 2 March 2008

IX. Jesus falls for the third time

'Third time lucky' is what we sometimes say when we have experienced things that go wrong. I cannot imagine that this was the experience here. I thought for a little while today about what it feels like when you cannot imagine the future. 'Darkness' is the adjective that comes to mind. When we fail it is almost instinctive to curl up into a tiny ball and return to the fetal comfort of the womb, not daring to look out. Coincidentally, today it "Laetare" Sunday, when the Church calls its people to hope during the long season of abstinence, fasting and prayer that is Lent, preparation for Easter. No one likes to be in the dark. Actually, that is not quite true. I quite Like it, but that is only because of the uncertainty it makes me feel, the danger. Darkness, quite naturally makes us feel uneasy. For some people, it makes them frightened. I imagine that for Jesus, this third fall made his feel desperate, afraid and abandoned. There is nothing to do when that happens, but hold on, wait.

Sometimes people think that religious people should always be happy, but that is unrealistic. Life is a chequerboard of good and bad. 'Shit happens', and sometimes it isn't even our fault. In the Gospel today the Church listened to the story of the man born blind in John 9. It is a striking story for many reasons, but there are two in particular which enabled me to think about this station. Firstly, this man has always been in darkness - he has never known 'the good times' which have been accorded to people able to earn a living of their own accord, and he has been reliant on the kindness and cruelty of others all his life. Secondly, when he has been healed and the Pharisees are questioning him about Jesus he is honest and forthright. He does not know exactly who Jesus is, but he knows that a good thing has come to him, and that good things come from God: ' 'Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. All I know is that I was blind and now I see.'

That Jesus falls for a third time on the road adds to the darkness and the cruelty of the passion. Disasters crueler than can be imagined happen to innocent people. But, none of this takes away from the light of the resurrection. The presence of God amongst suffering. When we fall and fall again in our lives, when everything is dark around us, it is not because Christ is not there. It because we have folded up into a ball and our eyes have been hidden from the light. In this station Jesus shows that he has experienced how this feels. But, as the blind man teaches the Pharisees: 'Everything in the darkness is the same as it is in the light.' God is never that far away.

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