Living in the 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 Pope Francis often refers to the need for “discernment” in his speeches and homilies. No doubt this is part of his Jesuit heritage, since St. Ignatius of Loyola counseled his religious to make “discernment of spirit” an important part of their decision-making. Discernment in this spiritual sense means making decisions about our life choices in the light of God’s Spirit, a process already counseled by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10. Is what I am choosing a reflection of Gospel values? Is what I choose to do in accord with God’s will? Do my decisions bring life to others? The notion of choosing wisely and in accord with the light of God’s Spirit binds together the readings for this Fourth Sunday of Lent. The opening reading from the First Book of Samuel describes one of the most momentous decisions in Israel’s history. At a time when the first king of Israel was failing, the prophet Samuel is commissioned by God to go to Bethlehem to anoint as the future king one of the sons of Jesse. He is told not to judge merely by appearances but to choose as God chooses, by “looking into the heart.” Samuel does as he is told and after Jesse lines up seven of his sons, none of them pass muster. Finally, Samuel asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse notes there is still his youngest who is out tending the sheep. When David is called in — “a ruddy youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance” — Samuel knows he is the one and anoints David as the future king. So begins the Bible’s love affair with David, who, for the Christian faith, is a prototype of the Messiah Jesus. The responsorial Psalm 23, which says, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want,” portrays God as the ideal shepherd and protector of Israel, a role that David, however imperfectly, is called to fulfill. The call to choose wisely and to live as children of light is the message of the second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians. “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” “Try,” the author pleads, “to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” The letter cites an early Christian hymn: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” The anchor for today’s readings is the long selection from the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus’ healing the man born blind. This is a marvelously crafted story that proclaims Jesus as “the light of the world.” Jesus sends the blind man, “who used to sit and beg,” to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, the ancient spring that fed the City of David. Healing the man’s physical blindness is only the beginning of the story. The real focus is on the interaction between Jesus, the man healed and the religious authorities. The former beggar’s open and refreshing spirit enables him to progressively realize who Jesus truly is. He identifies Jesus as his healer, then as a “man from God” and, at the end, acclaims Jesus as “Lord” and worships him. Meanwhile the religious authorities, set in their ways and blinded by resentment of Jesus, become all the more rigid in their rejection of Jesus. They mock the man born blind and threaten his parents with expulsion from the synagogue. The story ends with Jesus’ paradoxical saying that sums up its message: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” The man healed was open to the truth and listened to Jesus. The religious authorities closed their minds and hearts and were unable to see the light of the world in their midst. Lent invites us to slow down and think more deeply about the values that guide our lives and our decisions. How might we truly seek to follow God’s will, even in the everyday choices we make?