FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Christ the light of the world

INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

Today’s Gospel tells about the cure of a man born blind. We all suffer from different forms of blindness. We all have many blind spots. But there is hope for us if we are willing to admit them. [Pause]

Our sins are a from of blindness. Let us confess them, asking Christ to let the light of his grace shine into our minds and hearts. I confess to almighty God

HEADINGS FOR READINGS

First Reading (1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13). God chose David, the least of Jesse’s sons, to be king of Israel. This shows that, whereas people look at appearances, God looks at the heart.

Second Reading (Ephesians 528-14). Paul tells the Christians at Ephesus that once they were in darkness but now Christ has enlightened them. Therefore, they must adopt a life-style which is appropriate to their new state.

Gospel (John 9:1-41). Jesus is the light of the world. He not only gives sight to those who are physically blind, but the light of faith to those who are spiritually blind, provided they are open to receive it. (Shorter form recommended)

HOMILY

I suppose of all our senses the one we value most, the one we would least like to lose, is our sight. A blind person evokes our immediate sympathy. Why? Because he or she is cut off from so much. The blind person is literally in the dark. We all get a glimpse of what this means when a sudden blackout occurs.

Some years ago such a blackout occurred in New York. It happened right in the middle of evening rush hour. Imagine the panic and chaos it caused. The whole of downtown Manhattan was plunged into inky darkness. People were trapped in elevators and stuck in the subways. Outside in the streets traffic got so fouled up that nothing was moving.

John was caught up in the middle of all this. Luckily he was caught above ground. He was walking to a bus stop when it occurred. Even so, it had an overwhelming effect on him. He felt lost, helpless, and frightened. Then he bumped into someone. He apologised and got talking with the stranger. It turned out that it was a man who lived close to where John lived. The man offered to guide John home.

John accepted the offer and began to follow the man through the dark streets. ‘Stay close to me, and I promise to get you home,’ the stranger said. They advanced slowly, cautiously and carefully. The stranger talked as he moved forward. He seemed sure of where he was going and showed little sign of fear. This puzzled John greatly. When he got to the end of his own street, John finally recognised where he was. Up to that he hadn’t the slightest idea. As he parted with the stranger he shook his hand warmly. It was only then that he realised his guide was blind. In the darkness the only one who was sure of his way was the blind man. This was so because he had discovered another way of ‘seeing’.

The story of the blind man in today’s Gospel is not just a story of a man who was cured of physical blindness. It is above all a story of a man who was enlightened by Christ and came to faith in him. What saved him was the fact that he had no problem in admitting his blindness. The amazing thing about the story is this: the blind man saw more than the religious leaders, in the sense that he saw the goodness in Jesus and had more faith in him than they had.

The Pharisees had perfect eyesight. Yet Jesus called them blind. And sadly they remained in their blindness because they refused to acknowledge it and seek the help which Jesus was offering to them. To see well, good eyesight alone is not sufficient. There are many forms of blindness besides physical blindness. These other forms are in some ways just as crippling. Here are some examples:

Selfishness: this blinds us to the needs of others;

Insensitivity: this blinds us to the hurt we’re causing others;

Snobbery: this blinds us to the equal dignity of others;

Pride: this blinds us to our own faults;

Prejudice: this blinds us to the truth;

Hurry: this blinds us to the beauty of the world around us;

Materialism: this blinds us to spiritual values.

All these things do to the window of the eyes What curtains do to an ordinary window – they prevent the person inside from seeing what is outside. We can have good eyesight and yet fail to see so much that is good, true, and beautiful. We all have many blind spots. Hence we can understand what Helen Keller (blind from infancy) meant when she said: ‘The greatest calamity that can befall a person is not that he should be born blind, but that he should have eyes and yet fail to see.’

If we can be so blind regarding the things of the external world, how blind then can we be when it comes to the world of the invisible, the world of the spiritual. As regards physical seeing, we are inferior to most of the animals. They can see farther and better. Many of them can see in the dark. But we have been given ‘eyes’ that they do not have, the eyes of the mind and the soul. With these we can ‘see’ what is invisible, the spiritual realities which are infinitely more important than the material and visible ones.

The most important eyes of all are those of faith. The smallest child who has faith sees more than the smartest scientist who has no faith. Today’s Gospel story is essentially a faith story. The climax of the story is when the man makes an act of faith in Christ. The blindest people in the story are the religious leaders who have no faith in Christ. Their problem is that they refuse to see.

Jesus said that he came ‘to open the eyes of the blind’. He wasn’t talking about the physically blind only, but all those who had lost their way in life and who could no longer find their way to the Father’s house. Thus he Opened the eyes of Zacchaeus to the danger of riches. He opened the eyes of Mary Magdalen to the wretchedness of her life. He opened the eyes of the dying thief to the light of God’s mercy. All of these found their way into the Kingdom of God, while the Pharisees stumbled along in the dark.

Without faith we are in deep night and do not know where we are going. Faith helps us to see in the dark. The one who guides us unerringly along the dark paths of life is Christ. We put our total trust in him who said: ‘Those who follow me will never walk in darkness but will always have the light of life’. Those who have been enlightened by Christ can never again see themselves and their lives in the same light as before. Everything is lit up with an inner radiance.

In a sense we are all born blind. As we go through life our eyes are gradually opened to the vision of truth. We need not be afraid to own our many forms of blindness. Christ will touch our eyes with his gentle hands and gradually open them until we are able to see as he sees. We are not alone. We are members of a community on which Christ has shed his light. We must support one another. We are also called to act as guides to others who have not yet seen the light of Christ.

‘You will be very poor until you realise that it is not with your eyes open that you see the clearest’. (Helder Camara).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Jesus came to give sight to the blind. Let us pray through him that we may be cured of our many forms of blindness so that we can follow him more freely. R. Lord, that we may see.

For all Christians: that the light of faith may become brighter and stronger in their lives so that, having been enlightened by Christ, they can in turn enlighten others. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

For all those in positions of authority: that they may be able to judge wisely and act fairly. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

For all those who are in darkness, especially those who have no faith: that Christ may enlighten them. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.

That we may be saved from the greatest calamity of all: having eyes, and yet failing to see. [Pause) Let us pray to the Lord.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, in this life we see as in a glass, darkly. Open our eyes that we may walk with confidence along the road which leads to your Kingdom, where one day we shall see as we are seen. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

Thoughts of Helen Keller who went blind and deaf when she was only

nineteen months old

One day I asked a friend of mine

who had just returned from a long walk in the woods

what she had seen. She replied:

‘Nothing in particular’.

How was this possible? I asked myself,

when I, who cannot hear or see,

find hundreds of things to interest me

through mere touch.

I feel the delicate shape and design of a leaf.

I pass my hands lovingly

over the rough bark of a pine tree.

Occasionally, if I’m lucky,

I place my hand quietly on a small tree,

and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.

All this has convinced me of one thing:

the greatest calamity that can befall people,

is not that they should be born blind,

but rather that they should have eyes

and yet fail to see.