4th Sunday of Lent, Year A.
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 – Ephesians 5:8-14 – John 9:1-41.
Today is Laetare Sunday, the Sunday halfway through Lent, when the Church urges us to rejoice as we anticipate the joy of Easter. We rejoice in the anticipated transformation that will come with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We rejoice because there is divine anointing for us like David’s. We rejoice because the darkness of evil has been overcome and we are living in the light. We rejoice because we, who were born in the blindness of unbelief, have been given the gift of seeing by faith and the assurance that our joy will be complete.
Today we experience joy like that of the man born blind who was miraculously healed by the Lord. The miracle assures us of what happens when we place our faith in Jesus, the Word of God, just like the blind man who trusted His words and received his sight. Even when he didn’t know who Jesus was, he placed his trust in Him and did exactly what he was told.
His joy was two-fold, because he received the gift of sight and the gift of faith. The latter gift was received in three stages.
In the first stage, when some local people asked him about his cure, he told them, “The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, ‘ go and wash at Siloam’; so I went, and when I washed, I could see.” Initially he perceived Jesus as an ordinary mortal man – a remarkable person, certainly, and possibly a medic who knew a cure for blindness. As we well know, especially in the context of the current pandemic, people who are very ill are desperate for medication or a vaccine that might be able to heal them physically.
In the second stage, when he was interrogated by the Pharisees, his understanding of Jesus had moved on. “What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?” “He is a prophet” he replied. At this point, his perception of Jesus had taken a giant leap forward. The more he thought about what happened to him, the more he convinced he became that Jesus was no ordinary man. A prophet of God is no ordinary man.
In our lives too, our personal faith grows and develops. The more we encounter Jesus, the more we think about Him, know about Him and welcome Him into our hearts, the more we are humbled in His presence, for He is Lord.
In the third and final stage, when the man had another face-to-face encounter with Jesus, we see that Jesus became for him not just a prophet but his Lord. Remember that in stage 1 the man only heard Jesus (faith by hearing cf. Rom 10:17; John 20:29), but in stage 2 he saw Him as a prophet, a man of God. In this final encounter with Jesus, he was asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” and his reply was, “Tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.” Following Jesus’ assurance that “You are looking at Him; He is speaking to you”, the response of the man was of faith “Lord, I believe” and of worship. Having been restored by the Lord and Messiah Himself, the joy of the man born blind was total.
We too bow down before the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus Himself leads us to grow in faith and to encounter Him ever more intimately.
In the Holy Mass we go through the three stages of this man’s changing perceptions of Jesus. Firstly, at the beginning of Mass, God heals us of our sins. Secondly, in the readings, He speaks to us as a prophet through the word of God. Thirdly, in the Eucharist, we receive him into ourselves as Lord and God – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
My dear friends in Christ, God calls us today to rejoice amidst the uncertainties and panic of our time because He is our God and our healer. We shouldn’t hesitate to bring before Him our sins, fears, worries, anxieties, broken lives, shattered dreams, impatience, human greed, pride and spiritual blindness to be healed. He wants us to come to Him! God tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “I will lead the blind in ways they know not, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them, I will turn the darkness before them into light and rough places, smooth. These are the things I will do” (Isaiah 42:16).
Jesus wants us to rejoice because He uplifts us in spite of our shortcomings. David was anointed king of Israel in preference to his elder brothers, each of whom was perceived outwardly to possess the necessary qualities and stature. He who was last was made first. No matter where you are in your life at the moment, it doesn’t matter so much how you ‘feel’ because ‘feelings’ can sometimes be deceptive; be assured that, when you are doing the will of God, actively living the life of faith and placing your trust in God, you become God’s favourite and He guarantees to uplift you. When God bestows favour on you, His gift is given through divine grace working together with your human co-operation.
When we listen to God, as the man born blind did to Jesus, and when we do the will of God, as David did his father’s will, grace and mercy will always follow us and we shall always have joy deep within us.
I conclude with the words of St. Paul in the 2nd Reading: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord…. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you”. On Laetare Sunday let us rejoice that we, who once were groping about in the darkness of unbelief, have received the light of faith through the Lord Jesus Christ. May the light of faith reveal to us daily the will of God, and may His joy and peace be with us and remain with us always. Amen. God bless you.