Deacon Peter McDade (my Dad)
Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)
Readings: First Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
On this, the Fourth Sunday of Lent 2020, our preparation for Easter, the primordial and most important liturgical celebration of the Church’s liturgical year, is being thrown into disarray by a small virus which has devastating potential to wreak havoc on our health, wellbeing, and lives.
For the first time in our contemporary history, celebration of Sunday masses has been suspended until further notice. Archbishop Mark has granted a dispensation to all from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass. It is expected to continue well past Easter!
These are indeed, dark times. We are being denied “the summit and source” of our spiritual journey, the Mass (lumen Gentium 11, Vatican II, & Catechism: 1324) at a time when more than ever we need the light of Christ in our lives. It is in these times we are particularly called, through our Baptism, to be the Light of Christ in our world. To shine our light through understanding, love, and support of those in need. It is particularly challenging for our outreach ministries like St Vincent de Paul, Hospital Chaplaincy, ministering to the sick, to name a few where social distancing strategies can have their greatest negative impact.
It is a time for us to demonstrate enhanced alertness, sensitivity and patience in all we do. As some say, “We are on a wartime footing” – maybe being a little dramatic but it gets the point across. More than ever before, we are being called to be dedicated Disciples of Christ. It can be our personal transfiguration as we struggle to climb the mountain of life.
How fortuitous then, that our Readings today focus on “light”. Today we recall Our Lord’s healing of a blind man that brought many more things to light than just one man’s eyesight. It teaches us how blind we can be to what’s going on. The Lord wants to cure us of the worst blindness: a spiritual one. Through faith in the Son of man, we receive a deeper interior vision beyond our physical sight thanks to Christ, the light of the world.
In today’s First Reading the prophet Samuel has been sent to the house of Jesse to identify and anoint the new king of Israel, a replacement for King Saul, who was a tall, golden-haired, powerful man. Samuel thought Jesse’s son Eliab and any of the other five sons presented would be a good replacement. The Lord puts paid to that idea: “man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
David, the youngest son was not considered important enough to even invite to the feast. His father sent him to go do something “useful” while the rest went to the feast. But it was David who Samuel chose! We all know how the story of King David goes from there.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the Lord has brought us from darkness to light, and that light has exposed the good and the bad. Humanity was in darkness until the light of Christ came to lead us out of it. It seems paradoxical that light is needed to recognize darkness, but before the coming of Christ, the darkness of sin did an admirable job of presenting itself as very enlightened. Paul puts Christians who’ve now received the light of Christ on guard against a worldly outlook that seems enlightened, but actually is darkness and fruitless.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord heals a blind man and helps him and others to see with an entirely new level of light, the light of truth. This light shines on everyone involved in the story, and that light is Christ.
The man born blind received an opportunity to see that Jesus had been sent by the Father and had the power of God to heal. He saw a miracle happen. The disciples thought his blindness was due to either his sin or the sin of his parents. Our Lord corrected them. His healing was to show God at work.
Much the same way as we can see today the power of God’s healing in the medical research and studies being undertaken to overcome the virus. It is much more than mere intellectual grunt. It is in how we respond as Christians to the challenge, the man born blind could not deny what was right in front of his face. At this point, the Pharisees had decided to cast out anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah. He didn’t claim Jesus was the Messiah, but when he presented irrefutable logic to the Pharisees: “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him … If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”
Our Lord had not just restored his sight; he’d given him the light to see salvation at his doorstep and the need to give witness to it. Christ showed the Pharisees that they weren’t blind, a motive for innocence for their attitude. They chose not to accept what they saw.
Vision/insight Needs True Light
No matter how good our eyesight is, we cannot see in the dark. The Catechism teaches us that “human nature has not been totally corrupted [due to Original Sin]: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin” (Catechism: 405).
Christ restores our vision to its fullest spiritual potential through his light and his perfect vision. And that is precisely what we need in these dark and challenging times – prayer, faith, and trust – that we might be the light of Christ. Not in any platitudinal or euphemistic way – but in displaying hope and love in our response to the challenges as we prepare for the ultimate – Christ’s resurrection. In how we react and treat each other and strangers at this and all times.
Let Christ light up your life
We’re so used to living in spiritual darkness as a consequence of original sin that we grow accustomed to living in the dark. We need to consciously step out of it. Whilst a worldly outlook on the world may seem the logical result of bad experiences, it is truly a gloomy one.
Lent is a time of penance and sorrow for our sins, but it is also a preparation to celebrate the light of the Resurrection. Let’s pray that Jesus’ resurrection light will guide us in our response to the darkness and gloominess of our world today as we respond to the call to be the real Light of Christ.
Artwork by Suzanne Ley, Ohio, used with permission. See her beautiful art at https://www.suzanneleyart.com/works