Lent IV [A]: I Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41
This is the Fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, derived from the Latin word “rejoice,” (based on the words of Isaiah 66:10). Today’s readings both remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul, and instructs us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness. By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the first reading, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Ephesians of their new responsibility as children of light: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Jesus’ giving of sight to a blind man, teaches us the necessity of opening the eyes of the mind by Faith and warns us that those who assume they see the truth are often blind, while those who acknowledge their blindness are given clear vision. In this episode, the most unlikely person, namely the beggar born blind, receives the light of Faith in Jesus, while the religion-oriented, law-educated Pharisees remain spiritually blind. "There are none so blind, as those who will not see." To live as a Christian is to see, to have clear vision about God, about ourselves and about others.
In the context of the Lenten RCIA scrutinies, the Church challenges us to see this man’s journey from darkness to light as a paradigm for our own spiritual lives—from the darkness of doubt to belief (for catechumens preparing for Baptism); from the darkness of sin to the light of repentance, mercy and freedom (for those of us already baptized, who are called to renew our Baptismal promises, and to “own” our Baptism more consciously). From earliest times, today's Gospel story has been associated with Baptism. Just as the blind man went down into the waters of Siloam and came up whole, so also believers who are immersed in the waters of Baptism come up spiritually whole, totally healed of the spiritual blindness with which all of us are born. Raymond Brown comments that in the lectionaries and liturgical books of the early Church, there developed the practice of three examinations before one's Baptism. These correspond to the three interrogations of the man born blind. When the catechumens had passed their examinations, and were judged worthy of Baptism, the Gospel book was solemnly opened and the ninth chapter of John was read, with the confession of the blind man, "I do believe, Lord," serving as the climax of the service. The early Christians looked at their Baptism as leaving behind blindness and darkness and stepping into the glorious light of God. In other words, they realized that their becoming Christians and then continuing as followers of Christ, was indeed a miracle - as great as, if not greater than, the healing of the physical blindness of the man in the Gospel today.
The Pharisees suffered from spiritual blindness. They were blind to the Holy Spirit. They had religion but lacked the spirit of Jesus’ love. They were also blind to the suffering and pain right before their eyes. They refused to see pain and injustice. There was no compassion in their hearts. In short, they were truly blind both to the Holy Spirit and to the human misery around them. “The blind man’s progress in spiritual sight is paralleled by the opponents’ descent into spiritual blindness.”
According to Pope Benedict XVI, the miracle of the healing of the blind man is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize Him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as "children of the light".
Life messages: 1) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. In real life, we all have blind-spots -- in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light. It is even possible for the religious people in our day to be like the Pharisees: religious in worship, in frequenting the Sacraments, in prayer-life, in tithing, and in knowledge of the Bible – but blind to the poverty, injustice and pain around them. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind-spots. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. Let us pray with the Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay, “God our Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.”
2) We need to get rid of cultural blindness. Our culture also has blind-spots. Often it is blind to things like love, happiness, marriage, and true, committed sexual love in marriage. Our culture has become anesthetized to the violence, the sexual innuendo, and the enormous suffering of the world around us. Our culture, our media, our movies and our values, are often blind as to what it means to love selflessly and sacrificially. Our culture, in spite of scientific proofs, is blind to the reality that life begins at the moment of conception, and it callously promotes abortion.
This cultural blindness can only be overcome as each one of us enters the living experience of having Jesus dwelling within us and within others, through personal prayer, meditative reading of the Bible and a genuine Sacramental life.
3) We need to pray for clear vision: Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the United States Congress used to pray, "Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” Jonathan Swift said, "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." It resides in those who never give up hope. Let us pray for the grace to see and experience the presence of a loving and forgiving God.