o god, who through your word reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebration to come... collect for the 4th Sunday of lent
First reading: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a Responsorial: Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Second reading: Ephesians 5:8-14 Gospel passage: John 9:1-41
Healed by His mercy and raised by His grace by Fr. Joseph Scolaro
God’s ways are often difficult to understand and leave us questioning what his plan could possibly be. Particularly looking at the Scriptures, we see story after story of God acting in ways that seem contrary to human wisdom. He gives freedom to Adam and Eve, allowing them the opportunity to sunder the relationship He intended. He chooses Abraham, nigh on 100 years old and childless, to become our forefather in faith and promises him descendants beyond number. He goes on to exalt the younger twin Jacob over Esau despite his apparent shortcomings, and makes Israel his chosen people though greatly overshadowed by the many nations which surround them. The story of David is no different. Samuel is presented with seven sons of Jesse, and is surprised that, in spite of their appearance, the Lord rejects them. In the end it is David, youthful and ruddy, who is anointed king. The wisdom of God’s plan plays out, however, as David proves to be a great king, author of the psalms, an image of Christ, who descends from his house. As the Lord says to Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
Paul makes the same admonishment to the people of Ephesus. He challenges them to live in the light of Christ, to awake and rise from the dead, seeing the world in a new way. He does this by paralleling the darkness and the light, an image easy to grasp. For in the darkness, one can only fumble around, works will be fruitless as those who do them will be unable to see what they’re doing. Not only that, it is in that darkness that shameful deeds are done as they can be done in secret. But in the light, it becomes possible to do good works, and evil works can be revealed for what they are. Christ’s light makes this division apparent and shows the weakness of our minds and wills without it.
In the Gospel Christ teaches this lesson in a powerful way to the Pharisees, a group revered for their understanding of the laws of God and of righteousness. Healing a man born blind on the Sabbath, Christ reveals a deeper meaning to this illness. The illness was of no fault of his own or his parents, but was rather an opportunity for God’s works to be made visible through him. Through the illness and healing of this man, God’s mercy and love is made manifest. Yet the Pharisees, locked in their limited, human judgment, cannot see the good that was done. They are locked in the semi-darkness of the law, unaware of the light of the law-giver that is leading them to a deeper wisdom. The surprising twist comes when the man born blind, in the Pharisees’ estimation a man born in sin, lectures them. He, though he was blind, can see the truth of who Christ is. He can see the plain reality that a man whom God listens to and heals through must be good. The Pharisees, though wise in their own estimation, do not understand. The blind see, and those who see are blind.
Throughout the Scriptures, throughout our lives, we see these surprising reversals; we are reminded that God is so far beyond us. “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27). That pride of Adam and Eve, by which we still think to depend on our own judgment, must constantly be broken. God elevates the weak to show that all good comes from His hand alone, and all that we accomplish is by His grace. But rather than break us down, this is meant to lift us up, reminding us that if we depend on Him though good and through bad, whether we understand or not, we will be capable of so much more. We need only say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and nothing shall we want. Just as he chose the barren Sarah to bring forth a numberless nation, just as he chose the imperfect Jacob and young David to advance His plan, just as He chose a poor Virgin to be the mother of His only begotten Son, so too he chooses us, as weak as we are, healed by His mercy and raised by His grace, to bring His light into the darkness of the world.