Fourth Sunday of Lent – A –
“Light of the World”
The fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally known as “Laetare Sunday,” from the Latin word for “rejoice”, expressing the Church's joy in anticipation of the Resurrection of our Lord. Today’s Scripture readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul, and instruct us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.
The first reading from the First Book of Samuel describes the anointing of David as the second king of Israel and illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light.” Today’s Gospel passage reminds us that we are to live as children of the light, seeking what is good, right and true.
The paradox of blindness. The healing described in today’s Gospel occurred when Jesus came to Jerusalem with his Apostles to participate in the feast of Tabernacles or the festival of tents (Sukkoth). As part of the celebration of Sukkoth, four huge golden four-branched candelabras were lit in the courts of the Temple. The healing of the blind man, told so dramatically in that setting, brings out the mercy and kindness of Jesus, "the light of the world." However, it was not well taken by everyone there.
The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees: The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were blind in many different ways. They had religion but lacked the spirit of Jesus’ love. They were blind to the suffering, pain and injustice around them. Although the Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, spiritual blindness is very common in modern times. Such blindness refuses to see the truths of God's revelation. This blindness refuses even to admit that Christ is the Son of God. In their pride, the spiritually blind claim that everything ends with death. They seem to ignore everything God revealed about eternal life through Jesus Christ.
John Henry Cardinal Newman was a professor at Oxford University. When he was an Anglican priest, along with the other scholars, he started the Oxford movement. When he was thirty-two years old, his health was bad, and he took a break from his writings and went to Europe to recuperate. But unfortunately, he contacted a deadly fever. He wanted to return to England, but no transportation was available. As he waited, his life became lonely and tedious; he was experiencing great physical and emotional despair. It is then that he penned a beautiful hymn asking God for light: “Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on: Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene-one step enough for me.” In his confusion and distress, Newman prayed to the God of Light to lead him from darkness to light, from confusion to certainty, and from sickness to health. God heard his prayer and led him home safely. In 1845, he was converted to the Roman Catholic faith.
Life messages: 1) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We know about the blind spot we have to deal with, when we drive a vehicle. In real life also we may have blind-spots -- in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. It is possible even for the religious people in our day to be like the Pharisees: religious in worship, frequenting the Sacraments, and have good knowledge of the Bible – but blind to the needs of others, and blind to injustice, pain and suffering around them.
A man died and went to the gates of heaven. St. Peter looked up his records and said, “You don’t seem to have done anything good for anyone.” The man answered, “Well, once I gave 50 cents to a beggar.” Peter looked at Paul who was standing by and asked, “Paul, what shall I do with him?” Paul replied, “Give him his 50 cents back and tell him to go to hell.” We do not want to hear it. So what do we do?
2) We need to pray that we may have clear understanding about our state of life. Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the United States Congress used to pray, "Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”
We are God's chosen children, called to stand out by the way we show love and concern for others. Lent is a good time to renew our vision and to fix our eyes again on the Saviour who came, so that we may receive forgiveness for our sins and be filled with God’s grace in the Sacrament of Eucharist.