Friday, April 1, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Lent A: Reflections - Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A: Reflections by Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: 1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-6; Eph 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41

Christ, Inner Vision of Faith
 The Entrance antiphon of today’s Liturgy sets the tone for what we are celebrating today, Laetere Sunday, a joyous Sunday. This antiphon taken from the last chapter of Prophet Isaiah 66:10-11 says ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem, be glad for her…”   Joy for what God has done for us. Joy for the opportunity we have had the past three weeks to bear the ashes, which renews us in Christ. Joy for all the gifts God has given us, especially the gifts of the Cross which foreshadows the resurrection.
These gifts are not disconnected from specific gifts mentioned in the Bible lessons today. They include the gift of vision. God has given us the ability to see. And not to see is never a comfortable experience. But there are more to mere physical visions, and this we call spiritual vision of faith, the need to be able to see things and life’s events beyond mere appearances, through the Light and pattern of faith in Christ who enlightens and illumines us.  Let us look at the example given in the first reading.
After the failure of Saul one would have humanly thought that one of the first seven children of Jesse would be appointed the next King Israel, to Shepherd Israel. But this was not the case in today’s First Reading (I Sam 16). With the rejection of all the seven children the insignificant eight child of Jesse, David was finally appointed by God for Samuel to anoint as 2nd King of Israel. God reminded Samuel and Jesse that, “Not as man sees does God sees, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”
For the Pharisees who also depended on externalism and judgment from outside, Jesus in today’s Gospel must have done the wrong thing because he bestowed his healing mercies on this blind beggar on the Sabbath. From the Pharisees’ point of view Christ was a sinner or tools for Satan. Some of the Jews themselves doubted in the first place, that the cured man was blind from birth (v 18).  The blind man’s neighbors were also mixed up because they were all spiritually blind (v 8) to what God can do.  So also were the relatives of the blind man, who succumbed to the darkness of fear than witnessing the healing power of Christ? Fear not to speak the truth or labeling those who try to live the faith with bad labels or tags are not the solutions but forms of spiritual blindness.
However, thrown out of the synagogue, persecuted, denied and rejected by family members and close neighbors (vv 8-34) the cured man once again was found by Jesus, the Son of Man, whom he completely trusted and believed in (vv35-36).  When Jesus says in verse 39 “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see and those who see might become blind” he is drawing a contrast between the blind man who responded in faith to the light of vision brought him by Christ and the Pharisees who claim to see but faithless in the works of Christ.
Lent is a time we re-examine our faith in Jesus, even in the midst of persecutions. It is a time we bring our contemporary spiritual blindness to him for healing. These could be lack of charity in our relationship with our neighbors or lack of religious tolerance, deep faith and hope in the mysteries we celebrate. It could also be lack of appreciation for what God has done for us.  Let us pray at this Mass for the grace to always see God’s love for us beyond appearances. And continue to recognize God’s presence in our neighbors and daily events of life.