(Thought I should upload this before the weekend arrives!)
Homily for Mass – Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A)
(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: 7:30am, 9:00am & 5:00pm)
30 March 2014
(Readings: Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Ps 22; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41)
Something we frequently say in common speech is, “I see!” If we’ve been confused about what someone is telling us, and then we have that “aha!” moment, we exclaim, “Oh, I see what you mean!” Sight is a metaphor for understanding properly … of being able to “see” things in perspective; to be able to see things in their proper relation to everything else.
And so, the blindness of the man of the gospel is a metaphor for not “seeing” things in their proper perspective; of not “seeing” how individual things are in relation to others. When the blind man’s sight was restored by Jesus, light would have flooded into him – he was enlightened, illuminated. He could see with his own eyes – no longer relying on others to tell him – individual objects; he could see their size, their shape; he could see how things were in relation to other things.
The blind man’s enlightenment is a symbol of the enlightenment we receive in baptism. In the ritual of Baptism we hand the newly baptized a lighted candle, and we say of infants that they have been enlightened by Christ and are to always walk as a child of the light. In Lent we journey with catechumens who are preparing for the enlightenment of baptism, and we ourselves are preparing to renew our baptism faith at the Easter Masses. And so, during Lent, we are invited to reflect on the enlightenment that we ourselves have received in baptism.
The gift of faith, the light of Christ burning in us, helps us to see all of life in its proper perspective. We are able to see life in a “spectrum reaching from Genesis to the Apocaplypse” (1). The enlightenment that we have received allows us to position human events in a much bigger context … in the perspective of the divine plan of salvation. I often think how hard life is for people who don’t have that perspective, or who lose it. On the flipside, you see how faith can make such a difference in the lives of people when they face tragedy of some kind.
The enlightenment we have received also allows us to appreciate that there is not just this human plane that we are living in, but that there is heaven, hell and purgatory. The ability to “see” this colours our decision making, because we realize that there are eternal consequences from our earthly decisions. Knowingly walking down the path of sin jeopardizes our standing in heaven; and at the same time, knowledge of eternal blessings and rewards helps us to sacrifice here below, because we know that we don’t need to try to get all our reward here.
And so , having been enlightened in baptism, we are called to remain what we have become. St Paul, in the second reading tells the Ephesians (and us): You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord. He urges us to “have nothing to do with the futile works of darkness,” and on the contrary, “to expose” the works of darkness. That’s what we do when we go to confession: we expose our own works of darkness, like revealing to the physician the wound that needs healing. Of course, in confession, we’re coming to the divine physician, the healer par excellence. Saint Paul adds in another text, “Be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
And so, we who have been illuminated, enlighted by Christ in baptism are to shine like lights in the world, to shine with that light of Christ within us. When other people look at us, is that what they see? Do they see the light of Christ shining through our words and actions? Do they see someone who lives with the full knowledge of heaven, hell, purgatory? Do we live as if there is something more than just this? Do other people see in us someone who has a sense of the divine plan – that God is at work, reconciling the world to himself, calling all men and women to salvation?
May our Lenten discipline help us to be what we have become: light in the Lord. In whatever ways we might have become “blind” to God, or to what God is calling us to, may the Lord enlighten us, that we truly will shine as lights in the midst of the world.
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(1) Aidan Nichols OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, volume 2, p. 124-125.