Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

March 19: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Walking in the light of Christ

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

I never knew what darkness was until I spent a few days camping in the Sinai desert. In cities like Chicago, the night has become day because of the artificial light that bathes our streets, sports venues, businesses and homes. There are no sources of artificial light in the middle of the Sinai. Once it gets dark, it is impossible to see one’s hand in front of one’s face. The upside is that the night sky displays the myriad stars whose light is obscured by the intensity of the city’s artificial light. Unfortunately, the light of the stars is too faint to offer any real illumination. Those who first heard or read today’s Scriptures were familiar with the experience of the total darkness that comes with the night — certainly more familiar than we are. Paul exploits this familiarity by contrasting the moral lives of those who are guided by the light of Christ with those who walk in darkness.

The light of Christ makes it possible for us to see ourselves and others as we and they really are. That light exposes the self-delusion, rationalization, and dishonesty that keeps us in darkness. The light of Christ frees us to be honest with ourselves as we recognize the persons that we have become because of the choices we have made. The story of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind can be everyone’s story. That man, who lived his whole life in total darkness, had one advantage over those who can “see.” He could not retreat into denial. He was painfully aware of his need for a healing that would lead to his gaining his sight.

The healing of the man born blind is a powerful sign of what can happen to us if we recognize our blindness and ask for healing that will enable us to walk in the light of Christ. The blind man received his sight after washing in the pool of Siloam. We have received that help at our baptism. The first Christians called what we call baptism “illumination.” They recognized that the grace of this sacrament enables us to see things as they really are. We ought to claim that grace for ourselves so that we can walk in the light of Christ.

It is sad that the story of the blind man’s healing was marred by an account of religious rivalries. Instead of rejoicing along with the man who was healed, the authorities doubted the authenticity of the healing and questioned him and his parents. It is likely that the details in this part of the story reflect the tensions that developed between some rabbinical authorities and Jewish Christians. With the growth of Christianity, relations between Jews and Christians became more antagonistic and continued that way for centuries. The story of the tensions between Jews and Christians is sad and tragic. These relations have been changing in recent years, as Christians have come to recognize and appreciate the Jewish people as their elder sisters and brothers. Unfortunately, there has been a resurgence of antisemitic activity in both Europe and North America — something that authentic Christians recognize as contrary to the Gospel.

The first lesson from the book of First Samuel appears to be out of place in today’s liturgy since it does not reflect the motif of light found in the other two readings. Instead, it tells of the anointing of the young David who was destined to be king of Israel. This narrative continues the liturgy’s retelling of story of salvation. The retelling began with an account of the fall on the first Sunday of Lent and then continued on succeeding Sundays by recounting stories of Abraham, Moses, and today, David. We Christians, who have been grafted on the vine that is Israel, claim these stories as our own.

David is a significant figure in both the Old and New Testaments.  The book of Second Samuel tells of God’s promise of an eternal dynasty to David. The genealogies of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke list David as an ancestor of Jesus. People seeking healing often address Jesus as “the Rom 8:8-11 son of David.” They did so because they believed Jesus to be the chosen instrument of God to fulfill the promises made to David. Jesus did fulfill those promises, but in a way that exceeded the expectations of his fellow Jews. Jesus, the son of David, has freed both Jew and gentile from the power of sin and death.



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