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Sunday, fourth week of Lent

March 6, 2005

Blessed Laetare Sunday!

You may remember that I mentioned “Gaudete Sunday” during Advent. Well, “Laetare” means “rejoice” too. We rejoice because we’re more than halfway through our time of spiritual preparation for Easter :).

Our season is starting to shift. Up to this point, we’ve heard almost exclusively from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew. Today we move to St. John’s Gospel, and stay there for the rest of the season, with only 2 exceptions (Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week). St. John’s Gospel is markedly different from the other three (which are collectively referred to as the synoptic Gospels), both in style and in content. His main purpose in writing is stated at the end of his book: “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). As we approach the mystery of Jesus’ Passion and death, we need to be very clear about who He was–the Son of God–in order to understand the meaning underlying Jesus’ words and actions, and the significance they have for our own lives. We turn to St. John, that he might teach us.

Readings: I Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 (God chooses David as king)
Psalm 23 “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want”
Ephesians 5:8-14 (You have come from darkness to light. Act like it!)
+John 9:1-41(Jesus heals the man born blind)

Baptism not only gives us new life, it gives us new vision. God gives us a hint of what’s coming in the first reading, when He tells Samuel why He has rejected Jesse’s oldest son. “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). This is a depth of vision we need, a vision that goes beyond surface appearances to underlying realities.

The anointing David received points toward Baptism as well, when we are anointed with the holy oil through which we share in the ministry of Christ as priest (offering ourselves to God and offering Christ to His Father in the Mass), prophet (sharing the Gospel through our speech and actions) and king (developing self-control, self rule).

The reading from Ephesians speaks of vision too, in speaking of light. St. Paul tells us that in coming to Christ, we have come to the light and we have been given light. In this light, we can see the deeds of darkness for what they really are–unworthy of our dignity as children of God–so that we can avoid them.

Finally, our Gospel highlights Jesus as the Light of the World, the One who brought light to the life of a man born blind. This man is symbolic of all of us. He was born physically blind, but we are born spiritually blind–unable to see because of original sin. First Jesus restored the man’s physical sight by anointing his eyes with mud and sending him to wash them in the pool of Siloam. This washing is itself symbolic of Baptism, which heals us of the blindness of original sin. Then the man who could now see with his physical eyes, went through a process of learning to see spiritually. At first he only identified Jesus by name. As the Pharisees persisted in questioning him, the man’s faith grew. “He is a prophet” (John 9:17). Then, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:33). Finally, when Jesus sought him out again and invited him to believe, the man replied, “I believe, Lord”, and fell down and worshipped Him (John 9:38). This is an image of catechesis. Baptism gives us spiritual sight, but we need to grow in our ability to use it. We do this through times of testing (as the man did when the Pharisees repeatedly questioned him & then bodily threw him out of the synagogue) as well as through study and through prayer (talking with God, imaged by the final conversation with Jesus).

In contrast with the new physical and spiritual sight of the former blind man, the Pharisees refuse to believe. They’re indignant when Jesus observes that He came into the world to make the seeing blind. “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (John 9:40-41). There are none so blind as those who will not see…

May we strengthen the new vision we received in Baptism, that we may be able to bear even more of the brightness of Christ.

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