4th. Sunday of Lent -Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Christian: A Person Who
Has Received the Light”
All too often we judge people’s worth by our own human logic and worldly standards. Have they made it in business, in sports, or in the arts? Are they well off? Are they attractive? Do they come from the upper strata of society? Have they achieved celebrity status? These are all human but false standards for judging people’s real worth. The true standard is given to us in today’s readings. The first reading tells us that whoever has not “received the Light” judges the things and the world through human eyes; but in reality they cannot see. The Gospel presents the course to follow if one wants to reach the ‘Light’. The second reading completes this theme by telling us what we should do to defeat darkness.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13. In the first reading Samuel is sent by the Lord to the house of Jesse to choose a king from among his sons. On seeing the eldest of Jesse’s sons, Samuel says to himself that he must be the one. The Lord says to Samuel, “Do not look upon his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. One after another, the sons of Jesse are presented to Samuel. Samuel says to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these. Are all your sons here?” Jesse answers that there is still one left, the youngest who is looking after the sheep. “Send and bring him,” says Samuel. Upon his appearance the Lord says, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” We too may be surprised the way God does certain things. Whenever he has to choose somebody for a great mission he seems to take pleasure at upsetting all the rules of human logic and common sense. Take for example when God decided to choose a people for himself, what does he do? There are the Egyptians: they are a highly religious people, great builders, great scientists; and what about the Babylonians: rich people, powerful and highly developed. God’s choice does not fall on them. He prefers Israel to all the others, because Israel is… the ‘least’. Jesus does just the same: he chooses the small ones, the sinners, the poor, the shepherds, the ones who are despised and gives them first places at the banquet of the Kingdom. The Catechumens and Candidates, and all of us also are often tempted to judge by appearances. Almost unconsciously we keep looking at our problems and we access what happens “through the eyes of man”. If we listen to the voice of God and accept it in faith we will learn to look at the world and humankind through the eyes of God. In our baptism we have been chosen to point to Jesus by the witness of our Christian lives. Too many people including ourselves may seem an unlikely choice. Our greatness lies in the fact that we have been chosen, not in ourselves alone. Allowing God to work in us, we can keep alive the story of God’s wisdom by his eccentric choices! Psalm 23:1-6. The selection of David the ‘shepherd’ as the king makes the “Good Shepherd” psalm an appropriate choice. God’s care for his people as the ‘Good Shepherd’ mirrors his self-description of himself as the ideal shepherd in Ezekiel 34. This Psalm, loveliest of Israel’s songs of confidence, picks up the idea of shepherding from the first reading, and applies it to God: ‘YHWH is my shepherd’ it sings, and it rejoices in God’s ability to lead ‘through the Valley of the Shadow of Death’, and the fact that God ‘has prepared a banquet for me in the presence of my adversaries’. The psalmist ends by singing that he will live in YHWH’s house for the length of his days. Ephesians 5:8-14. In the Bible the fight between good and evil is often compared to the contrast between light and darkness. In the second reading Paul points out to the Ephesians: “Once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.” Paul is telling his Christians that baptism has taken them out of the world of darkness and they are now in the ‘Kingdom of Light’; and so they must practice deeds of Light. To speak of darkness and light is like speaking of death and life, of old life and ‘new life’, Pagan life and Christian life. Many of the chosen people, led by the Pharisees, had rejected Jesus. From the middle of the first century on, however, Gentiles were flocking into the Christian community. God’s choice settled on those in darkness, not on those who believed themselves to be in the light.
Without darkness the evil things are deprived of their vital habitat. They are like fish out of water… they cannot keep on living. This saying of Paul’s is a reminder to all Christians that they have a duty to denounce evil courageously and to call evil and injustice by their proper names.
The Gospel, a key story in John, describes a controversy between the Pharisees and a man who was born blind but whose sight Jesus restored. In the course of the dialogue it becomes clear that the Pharisees are becoming more blind and obdurate, whereas the cured blind man grows steadily more enlightened and more sure of who Jesus really is, finally saying, “Lord, I believe.” We see in this story the stages by which the blind man develops faith in Jesus. Despite a number of challenges and obstacles from his neighbours, his parents and especially the Pharisees, the blind man gradually comes to the awareness that the person who healed him is more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a person
sent from God. Jesus is the Lord.
Unlike many others who experience Jesus’ healing as a result of their faith, this man experiences faith as a result of the healing. The blind man has just been through an extraordinary experience, the healing of his physical blindness was accompanied by a spiritual conversion. An interior light is received. When Jesus comes back, the blind man falls to his knees before the Lord.
The Pharisees for their part do not give up. They still refuse to open their eyes to the ‘Light’ and to recognize the signs of Jesus. The healing of the blind man shows that real blindness is not so much the physical lack of sight, but rather failure to believe that Jesus is the ‘Anointed One’, the Messiah who has been sent by God. There is much more blindness, starting with the disciples who think that the man is blind from birth because of some sin committed either by him or his parents before his birth. His neighbours who hear that Jesus healed the man are not led immediately to seek him out and believe in him. Rather, they bring the blind man to the Pharisees for questioning. For the Pharisees, the fact that the healing took place on the Sabbath was enough to discredit Jesus as a man of God.
The healing does not lead them to desire to know Jesus better but provokes a furious refusal of the message along with the messenger. They insult Jesus and the healed man and eventually threw the healed man out the synagogue. When Jesus meets the healed man face to face he reveals himself to him. It is the one who was blind at the beginning who now sees who Jesus really is. This Gospel reading reminds Catechumens and Candidates and all of us that during our Lenten journey it is only Jesus who can heal our spiritual blindness. Jesus is the ‘One’ we must seek out, he is our Saviour. This story provides a rich fare for Lenten reflections. Used as one of the ‘Scrutinies’ (examination of baptismal candidates), the motif of washing leading to sight, anticipates baptism at the Easter Vigil. The blind man’s brash fidelity during Jesus’s absence offers John’s persecuted community a model of courageous witness. Through opposition and persecution the blind man moves from a confession of the “the man Jesus”, to “prophet”, to “worshipper of God”, and finally to a confession of Jesus as the Son of Man. Christians today who have been ‘enlightened’ through baptism are commissioned to confess and witness to their faith when Jesus seems absent from their lives. Imitating the journey of the man born blind leads them toward greater insight about Jesus. Christians progress to an inner enlightenment, so that they can ultimately confess the ‘Crucified One’ as the Son of Man, who when lifted up, will draw all people to himself.
Lest the Jewish leaders be too harshly blamed, Christians today must ask about their own blindness. Recent Church statements have rejected the use of violence in the name of God, condemned racism, and preached tolerance for other religions. Yet history is replete with Church-sanctioned violence, racial prejudice, and religious intolerance. What ‘blindness’ will future generations call us to account for? Let us pray that we allow the healing power of Jesus to lead us to a new vision.
The Word of God holds a mirror up before us. It strips us of our pretensions and shows us as the kind of people we really are. Most of us are like the blind man’s cautious parents; we prefer to sit on the fence and not to take a stand. We need to take note of the fact that, except for the man born blind, Jesus left the rest – Pharisees, neighbours, and parents – to their blindness.
Few of us recognize this light source at the beginning of our faith journey. As with the ‘Man born Blind’, it took time to reach that unique dimension of faith. Once that ‘Light’ of Jesus breaks into our darkness, we’ll never see anything quite the same again.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
4th Sunday of Lent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Samuel’s instructions from God are pretty clear, in some respects; he need look no further than Jesse’s house, among a limited number of sons. After that, and the details get cloudy. Jesse, as it happens, has a generous supply of sons, and only one of them is the chosen one of God. If you were on a mission from God, in search of ‘a would be leader’, what criteria would you use? Our Human Logic with all its prejudices or the guidance from the Voice of God through prayer? Mon. … The Lord prompts Samuel not to be distracted by appearance, height or other human considerations. This includes birth-right, intelligence, and charisma. What criteria are left? The answer, for God watchers is simple: find the least likely son in the picture and that is the next king of Israel, for sure. The difference between our choice and the Lord’s is that we see and judge on human standards and appearances, but God looks into the heart. Tue. … By human reckoning and wisdom, David was not among the likely candidates to be presented to Samuel. God often chooses the unlikely to carry out his purpose. This is to demonstrate that it is the Lord who is the primary agent in getting his will done. In choosing the least likely, God reminds us that what is important, is not human talent and ability, but the will and the power of the Lord. Wed. … Once we have accepted the ‘Light’ we have to deny walking in the darkness of sin and error or must accept the consequences of our chosen blindness. The battle between the forces of light and darkness are going on right now and we are all called upon to take sides. Lent is a wake-up call to leave the blindness of the past behind and to walk in the new ‘Light’ of Christ in the ‘Way’ that God has prepared for us. Thur. … The ‘punch line’ in the Gospel is that we are all born blind (spiritually of course), and like the man in the story, we are all offered sight through the power of Christ. Like the ‘blind’ in the passage, the disciples, neighbours, Pharisees, Jewish authorities and family members, do we reject the clear vision that Jesus presents to us in this ‘fifth sign’ in John’s Gospel? Frid. … The ‘Blind Man’ is the second story from John about our baptismal relationship with Christ. ‘I am the Light of the world’. Lent prepares us for Easter when we stand before the paschal candle to renew our ‘Baptismal Vows’, renouncing the ways of darkness and committing ourselves to the way of ‘Light’. Sat. … The story of the blind man and the story of David speak to us of God’s choices. God sees the heart and he chooses differently from the way that we do. Both David and the blind man are remembered and celebrated by the Christian community because they point beyond themselves to the reality of the divine by allowing God to work in them.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, by our baptism we have or will be chosen to point to Jesus by the witness of our Christian lives. Grant us the grace that we may allow You to work in us so we can keep alive the story of “God’s eccentric choices!”
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.