Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,

I WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE

At a recent prayer meeting in Delhi Mr. Paul Dhinakaran Jr. narrated the story of his father – the world famous preacher Mr. G.S. Dhinakaran, founder of ‘Jesus Calls Ministries’. Once whilst preaching to a huge audience there was a lady sitting right in front of him, who was very fidgety and didn’t seem to pay any attention to the preacher. She was turning left and right to those sitting by her side in an apparent act of disdain of the preacher and rejection of him. This made Mr. Dhinakaran very angry. Though he was preaching just at that time about God’s love and compassion yet he was experiencing within him terrible anger till he could not control it anymore and shouted at her, “why are you sitting right in front of me if you do not want to listen to what I am saying? Please leave from here immediately and do not distract me”. The lady promptly left from that seat and people helped her to get another seat at the back. At the end of the convention, the lady came up (rather was brought up) to Mr. Dhinakaran. She had lot of apologies and a request for prayer over her. She said she was totally blind in one eye and had very little vision in the other, so she fidgets most of the time due to insecurity. This made the preacher sink. He had misjudged her. He thought she was doing it on purpose. He realized he was the one who was blind and not the lady. He asked for her pardon and cried bitterly for God’s mercy saying, ‘Have mercy on me a sinner O Lord and open my eyes that I may see’, and God healed him of his inner blindness and put him on the course of being a humble, responsible, mature and wholesome person.

Such embarrassing occasions of wrong judgement and distorted interpretation do occur in our life some time or the other. A wrong interpretation influences our emotions in the wrong way and may also lead to wrong actions which we regret later. They tell us how true the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is when he says: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Mt 7: 1-2).

We will do well to heed the advice of St. Paul :

“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1Cor 4:5).

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’. To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12: 18-21).

We love to sing that beautiful hymn:
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I am found, Was blind but now I see.

This movement from blindness to sight is a daily journey with the Lord, all the work of God’s grace until we reach our eternal home. We have to ask for it and it will be given to us, as the Lord has promised: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt. 5:7). The heavenly Father will never deny the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (cf. Lk. 11: 13).

The Gospel begins with a call for repentance and conversion of heart as the gateway to eternal life. There is no other entry point into God’s Kingdom. Every act of repentance leads us from blindness to vision, from darkness to light, from sin to new life, from death to life. Every time we realize our mistake and, without self-defence, want to be renewed in our attitudes we testify that there is life eternal which is greater than our small selves. We affirm the ‘resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come’. We realize that our small world is not the end and that we don’t live for ourselves alone and for this life alone but for God and his Kingdom – this Kingdom opened for us by Christ through his life, suffering, death, resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit.

At the very beginning of his ministry Jesus proclaimed that he has come for the “recovering of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18). The giving of ‘sight to the blind’ was not just the recovery of physical sight but the gift of ‘inner sight’ that testifies to the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Before healing the blind man Bartimaeus, Jesus first asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And he replied, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight’. Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well’. On receiving his sight he ‘followed him on the way’ (cf. Mk 10:46-52). One cannot be healed by Jesus and go another way; one has to follow Jesus because faith in Jesus is inner enlightenment. To have faith in Jesus is to know the truth that makes us free. The question that I always need to ask myself is, ‘do I want to be free or do I want to remain shackled by my attitudes, past memories, hurts, prejudices and habits?’

The miracle of the healing of the man born blind as narrated by John makes it very clear that the ‘sight’ Jesus offers us in not only physical but above all ‘spiritual’. Jesus tells the Pharisees who refused to accept the call of the Gospel, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see’, your guilt remains” (Jn 9: 41). To be spiritually blind is worse than to be physically blind.

Jesus opens our eyes to know God our Father who loves us and wants us to love one another as the children of God. He teaches us the path of forgiveness, of humility and meekness, of peace and reconciliation, of childlikeness, of truthfulness, of justice and righteousness, of the ultimate sacrifice of our life for the Gospel. This is to walk the path of new life. Knowing Jesus we cannot remain the same. It is to become a ‘new person’, a ‘new creation’ (cf. 2Cor. 5:17). We know the difference between enslavement and freedom, between decay and freshness, between death and life. It is ours to choose where we want to be. As St. Paul warns us: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8).

We have the story of Saul who was breathing out fury against the early Christians determined to annihilate them but when he met the Risen Lord he was brought down from his horse. His eyes opened and he was healed not just of his physical blindness but of his inner blindness. He was no more a man filled with feelings of hatred and violence to destroy the nascent church but with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to spread God’s love and goodness and newness everywhere. Gone were his arrogant boasting and his pharisaic self-assuredness. He realized he was the greatest of all sinners and ever dependent on the mercy of God in all circumstances. In a miraculous and marvelous way the Risen Lord made him his humble but chosen vessel to proclaim everywhere the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Salvation begins when we stop criticizing and judging others but, acknowledging our own mistakes and sinfulness, ask for God’s forgiveness saying, ‘Have mercy on me O Lord for I have sinned’.

One of the marks of holiness of life is to refrain from judging others whether justly or falsely. They say about the Venerable Fr. Agnelo de Souza SFX, one of the first members of the Society of St. Francis Xavier (or Society of Pilar) founded in Goa in 1887, that he would not judge others even when there was reason to do so. “As far as talking about others was concerned, it had become a habit with this man of God not to make remarks about any one. He would not criticize about other people’s shortcomings. He had understood how much even the sinners need to be forgiven… he preached many times of the sin committed with the tongue and used to say: whoever controls the tongue is not only a saint but is perfect… Qui non offendit lingua, hic est perfectus vir i.e. whoever does not offend with his tongue is a perfect man” (cf. A True Man of God: Venerable Fr. Agnelo de Souza by Fr. Sergio Mascarenhas SFX, Xaverian Publications Society, Pilar, Goa, 2013, pp 112-114).

[Born in 1869 he made his final profession in the Society of Pilar in 1908, was appointed spiritual director of the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, Goa in 1918. He collapsed in the pulpit of the Seminary Church on November 19, 1927 while preaching his sermon on the eve of the traditional feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and died the next day coinciding with the feast – which perhaps was his greatest desire, as his love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus was indeed very great. His cause for beatification is in full swing. This year (2019) marks the 150th anniversary of his birth. The thousands who throng to his tomb at Pilar, Goa is a sign of his powerful intercession before God. May he be for us example and intercessor].

St. James compares the tongue to the rudder of the ancient wind-driven ship which is guided “wherever the will of the pilot directs” (James 3: 5). Therefore the tongue needs to be controlled, otherwise it can be a “small fire” that sets ablaze a whole forest … a restless evil, full of deadly poison” with which “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3: 5-10) i.e. blessing and cursing from the same mouth!

We may add here that what we express with the tongue is first in the mind and in the heart. Therefore we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). A pure and clean heart is the mark of the disciple of Christ. He has said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). When we see God in our hearts we will not pass judgment on any one in any circumstance but always speak good of the other as all the saints have taught us through their example. Ven. Fr. Agnelo de Souza is one of them.

May this season of Eastertide be truly a wonderful experience for us of new life in Christ.


Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi