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Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A - 30th March, 2014 (Laetare Sunday)


There is a very clear thread that runs through each of today’s readings. They all have to do with seeing or, perhaps more accurately, being able to see. 

In the first reading Samuel has been sent to anoint a new king for Israel. Saul had turned out to be a big disappointment. When Samuel had originally anointed Saul he was looking for someone who was, quite literally, head and shoulders above everyone else; someone who would literally stand tall before the enemies of Israel. This is the mentality that leads him to think he should choose Eliab, in many ways, another Saul. But God reminds Samuel that God does not judge by appearances but by looking in to the heart. God chooses David, the most unlikely candidate, to be the king. 

Not only was he the youngest, he was also the one that could be “spared” – he was the one that nobody would miss if he was sent to look after the sheep in the fields. All we are told about David is that he was a “boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing”. Just imagine someone standing in the next election saying: “Vote for me, I have a fresh complexion; I have fine eyes and a pleasant bearing”. Not exactly a political manifesto. We would probably just laugh at him. And yet, this is precisely the one that God chooses to be the king. In fact, we are told that the spirit of God seized upon him – there is no ambiguity in the choosing of David. He is the one, and there is no doubt about it. God sees things in a completely different way from even the sight of his prophet Samuel.

John’s gospel takes up the theme of seeing and develops it. Blindness in the New Testament always refers to faith, and the lack of it. The man born blind is not only a man who does not believe, he is a man who has never believed. The way in which John describes his journey to faith is very significant. This is not just a simple transformation from unbelief to belief. The transformation that happens in the blind man is much more gradual.

When the man is asked how he received his sight, in other words, when he is asked to explain how he came to believe he says that the man Jesus gave him his sight. Jesus is just a man, a good man, but still, one among many. 

When he is questioned further he is moved to recognise Jesus as a prophet. Then, when they begin to question his parents the man asks the Pharisees whether or not they now want to be his disciples too. All of a sudden it becomes clear that the blind man who had begun by recognising good qualities in Jesus; who then went on to recognise Jesus as a religious figure; has now become his disciple – in other words, he has committed himself to following Jesus and, in the context of Judaism, the only one that is worth following is the Messiah, the son of God. 

This is when the man who had been blind goes beyond following him and begins to worship him – to worship him - the only one who is worshipped is God. 

This is the journey from unbelief to belief. It is very similar to the story of the woman at the well that we heard last week; in fact, the steps in the woman’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah are practically the same as those of the man born blind. If you recall last week’s gospel passage you might notice that she first recognised Jesus as a Jew; then as a man; then as a prophet; and, finally, as the Messiah.

Faith is not something that just happens. Faith is something that grows and it grows through a long process of questioning and reflecting. It is only by going through this process that we come to see things as they really are. It is only by our entering in to this process that we come to recognise that Jesus is not just a good man, but that he is the son of God.

John goes on to make it very clear that the failure, or the unwillingness, to go on this journey, is the real sin. To refuse to see, to refuse to believe is what excludes people from the kingdom.

As St. Paul puts it: we have now moved from darkness to light – the same journey as that of the blind man. Now is the time for us to do the works of the light. Now is the time for us to do what we can see to be right, good and true. Our faith reveals to us what the works of the kingdom are. We can see clearly what we should be doing. When we do it our works become a light for others so that they too can see the path.

We are now at the fourth Sunday of Lent, the day that is called Laetare Sunday – the Sunday for rejoicing! We can rejoice because we have come to our awareness of the kingdom not by our own efforts but by having been guided by God. We rejoice because we have been chosen by God to be the light for our world. This gift that we have been given, the gift of our faith, is what we are sent from this place to share with those around us. We share this not by talking about it but, as St. Paul puts it, by doing the works of the light.
Possidius
 




Article posted on 30th of March 2014

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