<p>In this episode we discuss the lectionary readings for the fourth Sunday in Lent (A): 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41.</p>
Of all the emotions associated with darkness, none is more powerful than depression. Those of us who have experienced it know that, like darkness, depression is frightening. The great American writer David Foster Wallace was not exaggerating when he described depression as a “large dark billowing shape,” “the billowing black sail of hell.”
Sigmund Freud theorized that depression is anger turned inward. Child psychologist Dorothy Martyn defines it as “a loss of stature in your own eyes.” As we all know, anger at oneself and loss of stature can be justified. In my own life, depression has always had a trigger, usually a perceived failure of some kind— something as significant as the break-up of a relationship or as trivial as the purchase of the wrong kind of air-conditioner.
Still, anyone who has been depressed, or dealt with a depressed person, knows that it is a sickness that cannot be cured by the sufferer. No amount of telling a depressed person not to be depressed— or explaining to them why they shouldn’t be— has any effect, other than often making the situation worse. In fact, the condition feeds on itself to the point where the depression can become indistinguishable from the person. To a depressed person, the Apostle Paul’s assertion that apart from the Lord we are not only in darkness, but that we are the darkness, does not sound so far-fetched.
So what is the answer? Can a depressed person be helped? How does the light get through? Sometimes nothing works, not even medication. But other times, the “black sail” is pierced by compassion. Someone, maybe a good therapist or pastor, tries to understand and empathize with the pain rather than oppose it, and as a result, the depression begins to lift. Light shines into the darkness from outside, in the form of a loving and patient advocate.
It is not surprising, then, that Jesus is called the Light of the World (John 8: 12). He was and is the very embodiment of Compassion, the one who died for people who have every reason to be depressed. But through his death and resurrection, we are made light. Our feelings, as dark as they may be, no longer have the final word. We can boldly join The Smiths in singing, “There is a light that never goes out.”
As sheer drama, this trial scene [in chapter 9] is one of the most brilliant passages in the gospel, rich in the tragic irony of which the evangelist is master. The one-time blind beggar stands before his betters, to be badgered into denying the one thing of which he is certain...But the defendant proper is Jesus himself, judged in absentia. In some sort, the man whom Christ enlightened pleads the cause of the Light. When he is "cast out" it is Christ whom the judges have rejected.