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Friday, 20 March 2020

4th Sunday of Lent Year A 2020

 4th. Sunday of Lent (A)
(1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41)

As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.

Now, there was nothing so unusual about a blind beggar in Jesus’ time, why should He have specially noticed this one?  The disciples had apparently been talking among themselves about the man; and it would seem that at least one of them knew him, because they were discussing the fact that the man had been born blind and they were expressing opinions as to why that was.  Not being able to reach a satisfactory conclusion they turned to Jesus and said:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus was always alert for and responsive to the least indication that His Father was at work, and at His disciples’ question He immediately ‘resonated’, sensing that His Father was behind both the blind man’s presence and the disciples’ animated discussion among themselves and their questioning of Him.  And so, He answered them directly:

Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but it is so that the works of God might be revealed in him.

Very shortly Jesus will be told about the sickness of Lazarus, ‘Lord the one You love is sick’ and again, His answer will be more or less the same as ‘today’s’ answer to the disciples’ question regarding the man born blind:

            This sickness will not lead to death, but is for the glory of God.  (John 11:4)

Notice the answer in both cases, People of God: Jesus tells his disciples “This man’s blindness, Lazarus’ sickness, has been brought to My attention today in order that I should, through them, make known the will and the work of My Father.”

Night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.

Oh, how responsive was our Blessed Lord to His Father’s working!  Oh, how we Christians and Catholics should live more, ever more, with Our Lord ‘on the alert’ for God’s, for our Father’s, goodness and solicitude ever watching over us by His Spirit to further our salvation in and with His most-beloved and only-begotten Son!! 

Jesus, looking at the man born blind, spat on the dusty ground and made a paste.  What a strange, what a striking, thing to do!  It was bound to draw attention, not only that of His disciples watching Him but of the Jewish leaders who would soon hear about what Jesus was now publicly about to do: something of the utmost significance to the Jewish leaders so very familiar with their Scriptures’ description of God originally creating man:

The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

Now, Jesus, the Word of God through Whom all things were made, being about to renew a man’s life, symbolically foreshadows the creation of a new People of God from those till now regarded as being born spiritually blind:

When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.  

Having utilized dust of the earth to coat the eyes of the man born blind, only the bringing of those eyes to life was needed for the symbolic re-creation; and in order to do that, Jesus performed another symbolic action, like that of Elisha the prophet sending Naaman, the Syrian army commander, to go and wash in the  Jordan:

"Go," He told (the blind man), "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So, the man went and washed, and came back seeing!

At the last Supper Jesus would say to His Apostles:

            You are clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (John 15:3)

Here, the blind man having heard and obeyed the words Jesus spoke to him, on having washed himself was able to see again! Moreover, on seeing aright he found himself morally and spiritually able and willing to believe in, suffer for, and confess Jesus as his Saviour.  All this symbolized a new People of God to come who, washed in the waters of baptism and confessing their faith in Jesus, would thereby receive the Gift of God -- the Holy Spirit -- the breath of divine Life, as Jesus said:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

The Pharisees, of course, heard of what Jesus had done, as indeed Jesus intended they should, because He wanted them -- celebrated because of their supposed ‘spiritual awareness’ -- to learn from an occurrence where not only the man and the miracle, but also the time and the place, were of His Father’s own choosing:

It was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

The Lord of the Sabbath was at hand to bring about the fulfilment of the Sabbath.

Their interpretation of the Law held the majority of these Pharisees firmly bound to fixed and unbending legal trivialities:

Some of the Pharisees said, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them.

The majority, blind in their opposition to Jesus, after much arguing and discussion rejected the man whom Jesus had healed:

They said to him again, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?"  He answered them, "I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing."  They answered and said to him, "You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?" And they cast him out.

Being thrown out of the synagogue involved social ostracization which was why the man’s parents feared being involved in their son’s relationship with Jesus, as St. Paul himself would experience:

I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:8)

This alienation from their son was as Jesus Himself envisaged:

If anyone comes to Me and (is not prepared to) hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  (Luke 14:26)

The man whose eyes had been dead and were now living, had subsequently been rejected by the Jewish leaders because of Jesus, and so Jesus sought him out in his isolation.  The actions Jesus had performed on the man had, as I said, prefigured God’s creation of a new People of God, and now the man himself was ready to have his whole being -- not just his eyes -- made truly alive; and so, we read:

Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?"  He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"  And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you." Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him.  And Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind."

People of God, wonder at the sublime wisdom of our God; admire Jesus the perfect and beloved Son, so eager and ready to follow and fulfil His Father’s will: Jesus our Lord and Saviour Who has sought out each one of us and joined us to Himself by giving the light of faith to our eyes that could so easily have been blinded by the glittering allurements of the world, and by infusing loving hope into our souls previously obscured, darkened, or perhaps even weighed down by sin! 

But I would have you also recognize the warning, with which our reading from St. Paul closes:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them; for it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

We know of such shameful deeds long going on all around us – and now are bringing down upon us God’s dreadful punishment -- and we know that we must take care to have no part in them; however, we should realize that such avoidance of sin in no way exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, which is the minimum required by Jesus of His disciples.  Israel and Judah had been sent to exile in the past because the people, as a whole, had ‘given up’ on the God of their fathers … doing what came naturally, following the example of the surrounding nations.  Today, the same is happening in Mother Church with so many nominal Catholics slackening the reins of their obedience and commitment, and doing what unbelievers do, while trying to persuade themselves that ‘it doesn’t matter, God doesn’t seem to see’.  On their return from exile to the Promised Land certain of those erstwhile deportees had resolved to serve God and His covenant more faithfully: people such as the Pharisees and Scribes were very devout and deeply committed.  However, over time their very religiosity became a stumbling block: they came to love themselves more than God and trusted in their own observances instead of hoping in His mercy and goodness.   And today we have, in the Church, modern versions of such failings: from scholars, not Scribes, from enthusiasts not Pharisees; but all showing – in their lack of humility before God and the Church – the same failings as their forerunners.

People of God in the present situation of Mother Church in our world today each of us needs first of all to be convinced that in the eyes of God, we matter, each of us individually … and that awareness should give us, along with confidence in Him, also a renewed sense of personal responsibility for the welfare and good esteem of Mother Church.  This is what St. Paul had in mind when he told his Ephesian community:

Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, (let) Christ give you light.   See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.   Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is; for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light, (as true children of Mother Church.)