1 Sm. 16:1b, 6-7, 10:13a; Ps. 23; Eph. 5:8-14; Jn. 9:1-41
(Audio recorded live, 19 March 2023)
On this 4th Sunday of Lent, we have arrived at the midway point of our Lenten journey. The vestments are the color of rose, which is a joyful reminder that while we focus on sacrifice and acts of penance, we have all been saved by the sacrifice of Christ. And so, today, indeed every Sunday, is a day not for weeping, but rejoicing.
Typically, most celebrations are held during the day. Whether it be weddings or birthdays or Mass, we do these things in the light. The theme of dark and light are prevalent throughout our readings today. The prophet Samuel was told by God to go anoint one of Jesse’s sons, but he did not know which son to anoint. In this sense, Samuel was in the dark. God also tells him not to judge by appearance: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” The bonus with David was that he was also handsome and made a splendid appearance, but God had something in store for him that would take him from the humble work of shepherding sheep to uniting the tribes of Israel.
The image of the King as shepherd is also prevalent throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Shepherds were common among the people and the way in which the sheep followed their shepherd became a metaphor for the way in which the King would lead the people. There is a difference, however, between the slang term “sheeple,” meaning someone who blindly follows a leader, and being a “sheep.” Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (Jn. 10:27-28a). It is one thing to follow Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law; it is another to blindly follow one guru after the next. What is more difficult, chasing after the wind or remaining steadfast in Christ? I would argue the latter, because it is easy to grab on to the latest fad, but the reality is, fads come and go, but Christ is eternal.
St. Paul encourages us to live as children of the light. For believers, Christ is that light. He is a light because he teaches us how to live, how to be holy, how to love; He is a light because he comes to us in sacrament to heal and nourish us; He is a light because the world is full of darkness and Christ dispels darkness. St. Paul says, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret.” We should take no pleasure in exposing the sin of others, rather, we should be mindful of how painful it is when our own sin is exposed, and therefore, seek to correct it. Christ is the light that exposes what is dark within us. There is a beautiful prayer before a crucifix:
Most glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, sure hope and perfect charity. Fill me with understanding and knowledge that I may fulfill your command.
This is great to pray daily. How often are we asking God to expose the darkness in our heart? We might be surprised what God reveals to us.
The theme of dark and light continues throughout our Gospel as Jesus gives sight to the man born blind. In the Hebrew tradition, if one was born with some kind of deformity such as blindness, it was considered punishment from God for the sins of an ancestor. That is why the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They wanted to know why God “punished” this man. The reality is that God did not punish him at all, as Jesus says, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” The miracle Jesus performs gives the man new sight. And while his physical sight was restored, it is ultimately his faith sight that is questioned. From the Pharisees to the Jews to the man’s own parents, we see the man’s faith growing more and more as he is interrogated. Each line of questioning brings him closer to Jesus until Jesus himself comes to the man and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The kind of sight Jesus gives goes far beyond the physical, it is spiritual and enlightening. Before his encounter with the Lord, he was in darkness; after his encounter, not only could he see, he became a believer. That is the gift of faith.
And so, as we continue our Lenten journey, let us keep the eyes of our soul fixed intently on the Lord who dispels the darkness of our heart. And may the communion we share bring us ever closer to Christ, who lights the way on our pilgrim path.