Father Donald Senior, CP

March 22: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Let there be light

1 Sm 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

The Lectionary readings for this Lent are especially geared for those adults preparing for baptism at Easter. A moving part of the ritual of the Easter Vigil is the lighting of candles — first the great paschal candle and then candles held by the entire congregation. All of this signals the advent of new life with the resurrection of Christ. During the ordinary baptismal ritual, those accompanying the child or adult to be baptized also witness the lighting of a candle with the same meaning.

The symbol of light is found throughout our Scripture readings this Sunday. The Gospel selection from John is the famous account of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind. Frequently in John’s Gospel, key sayings of Jesus form the basis for a healing story or for a discourse. 

Here, Jesus declares, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” This is an extraordinary feature of John’s portrayal of Jesus. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus uses the divine name “I am” found in the Old Testament reflecting John’s conviction that Jesus reveals the true face of God to the world. 

As Pope Francis has beautifully put it, “Jesus is the human face of the Father’s mercy.” Frequently, Jesus’ declaration “I am” is fused onto a basic human need or longing. Thus “I am the bread of life,” “I am the way, the truth and the life,” “I am living water,” and so on.

In this account of the man born blind, Jesus declares, “I am … the light of the world.” The whole enticing story that follows illustrates this point. Standing near the Jerusalem temple, Jesus encounters a beggar who is blind, and dramatically makes clay from his saliva and smears it on the man’s eyes. He then instructs him to go to the pool of Siloam, the great spring feeding the ancient city of David, and wash his eyes. When the man does so, miraculously he is able to see for the first time in his life!

This could be a great Gospel healing story if it ended right here, but John has other things in mind. Often, specific actions or events take on a deeper symbolic meaning. Such is the case here, when the man is confronted by the religious authorities, who are skeptical. “This man is not from God,” they declare, for he has violated the Sabbath.

In the drama that follows, the hostility and obtuseness of the religious leaders seems to increase, even leading the parents of the healed man to be fearful of defending him. But the man who has been healed becomes bolder in his defense of Jesus. Jesus is a “prophet,” the man declares.

When the authorities declare that Jesus is a “sinner,” the beggar confidently affirms, “One thing I know is that I was blind and now I see.” He refuses to be cowed by their threats and ridicule: “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” Exasperated, the authorities “throw [the man] out,” but Jesus seeks him and draws from him a final declaration of faith: “‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshipped him.”

Jesus’ final words sum up the dynamic movement of this story: “I came into this world … so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Open to the healing touch of Jesus, a blind beggar begins to see; caught in their own arrogance, the religious authorities become “blind” to the truth.

The beautiful selection from the letter to the Ephesians drives home the point of all this. We were once in “darkness,” the author proclaims, but now “you are light in the Lord.” We are urged to: “Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” 

Too often, we know, people hide their misdeeds in the shadows. But, as followers of Christ, we are urged: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”



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