Friday, April 1, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

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Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A
Readings: 1 Sam 16:1,6-7,10-13; Eph. 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

Light and darkness, sight and blindness are the contrasting images the readings of this Sunday. The central message is that Christ heals our spiritual blindness in our Baptism and makes us witnesses of the truth. That is the meaning of the second Scrutiny celebrated this Sunday for those preparing for Baptism at Easter. The celebrant prays over the Candidates and anoints them with Holy Oil in a rite of exorcism that symbolically restores their spiritual sight so that they begin to see Jesus and to follow him like the man born blind in the Gospel. The purpose of the second scrutiny is to symbolically restore the spiritual sight of the catechumens, so that they can see Jesus and follow him. For those already Baptized, Christ renews our vision as it were from 10/10 to 20/20 vision, so that we can begin to see as God sees (cf. 1 Sam 16:7). The verse before the Gospel introduces the central point of our celebration. "I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The entire liturgy therefore celebrates the mystery of Christ - the light of the world; the light that dispels the darkness of our minds and our hearts. We celebrate Christ who heals our spiritual blindness. The three readings help us to see a sharp contrast between light and darkness; spiritual sight and spiritual blindness. In the first reading, Samuel struggles as it were in darkness, trying to find a king, but can only succeed to find the young David when he begins to see as God sees. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we were once darkness, but now because of our Baptism we are light in the Lord. We are therefore challenged to be children of the light, for the effects of the light are seen in goodness, in right living and in truth.

The story of the man born blind in the Gospel is not so much about the man being healed, but about seeing as God sees. Here we meet a blind man with sight as compared to the intellectual Pharisees who are blind. The Gospel reminds us that our Baptism illuminates us to see and embrace God’s vision, life, goodness and truth. Our Baptism commits us to be bearers of the truth and to confront the spiritual blindness of the world with the truth. The passage clearly contrasts light and darkness, faith and the refusal to accept the truth. The passage leads to a controversy with the Pharisees. Because they are in the darkness of their own prejudice, they refuse to recognize Jesus as the messiah; they refuse to acknowledge that Jesus has the power to heal the blind man. The blind man gives Jesus the opportunity to show forth once again his own true divine identity for all to see and believe. In the story, Jesus not only gives the blind man his sight, physical light, but he also gives him the light of faith. When Jesus asks the blind man if he knows the Son of Man, he says, “Who is he sir that I may believe in him?” Jesus says to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” The man then says, “I do believe, Lord.” On the other hand, the Pharisees, because of their prejudice, are totally blind to Christ and even attribute his miracle to Satan. The story is not simply about the healing of the man born blind and the Pharisee refusing to accept the power of Christ to perform such a miracle. Rather, the story is about you and me in moments of our own spiritual blindness and darkness. In the selfishness of our hearts; in our inclinations for pleasure; in our material covetousness, we become spiritually blind and lose our spiritual sight. The message we take home is threefold: 1) In baptism, Christ has healed our blindness and given us the light of faith, so that, like the healed blind man, we may proclaim Christ boldly despite the opposition from those still in darkness. 2) Just as the blind man after being healed by Jesus began to witness to Christ, we too are challenged to spread the light of Christ wherever we are, even in times of opposition. 3) Just as in the Gospel story, we must not allow dishonesty and the distortion of the truth to dim our light, because Christ is our Light.

©2011 John S. Mbinda
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