Tuesday, March 21, 2017

4th Sunday of Lent

Our journey through Salvation History continues as we enter the 4th week of Lent.  Not only are we exposed to some pivotal moments in our journey of faith, but in remembering our Baptism, we continue to reflect on the symbols and meanings of this Sacrament:

1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Our first reading is from 1st Book of Samuel.  Samuel, as you may remember, was the last of the Judges, and to whom the people of Israel came to ask for a king.  This was not what God wanted, but he granted their request, and Saul is appointed as the first King of Israel.  At this point in the narrative, Saul is getting on in years, and the people need a successor.  None of Saul’s sons are suited to the task, so God points Samuel to David, whom he anoints as the chosen one.  But how does this story fit with our Psalm, which has us singing, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”  This well known Psalm reminds us that God is our shepherd.  David, who was out tending sheep when Samuel came calling, was also charged to be a shepherd to lead his people back to God.  Just as David recognized God, we too must recognize that God is the one in whom we should turn for all our needs.  As for how this reading connects with Baptism… this is seen in the oil with which David was anointed by Samuel.  We too are anointed with oil as we are baptized… anointed to be priests, prophets, and kings, as was David, as was Christ.

In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the evangelist exhorts them to ‘live as children of light”  for as he says, “everything exposed by the light becomes visible.”  For Paul, darkness is all too real, having been struck blind by his first encounter with the risen Christ.  That blindness and darkness is exposed and brushed aside by the truth and light that is found in Christ.  Paul reminds us that we were “once darkness,” but through the light of Christ we “arise from the dead” and are redeemed.  Light also plays a role in our Baptism.  During the Rite of Baptism we receive “the Light of Christ” in the form of a candle that has been lit from the Easter Candle.  When we are baptized, we become “children of light.”

Our Gospel, again from John, tells the story of the man born blind.  As with the story of the woman at the well from last week, we witness a story of conversion – a man’s journey, literally, from darkness to light.  Jesus does not accept the common understanding that a person’s ailments are the result of their sin, or the sin of their family.  Instead, he takes this opportunity to challenge everyone’s notion of blindness and light.  The blind man was marginalized not only by the Pharisees, but by all the people… What we would call a “social sin,”  where the actions and policies of an entire society are found to be “in the darkness.”  This passage not only challenges our notion of right and wrong, cause and effect, but is meant to force us into action for those issues that society may not readily want to face – to bring them into the light.  Through Baptism we are also brought from darkness to light. 

Final Thoughts:

St. Paul teaches us to be “Children of Light.”  Paul sees light as an antibiotic to all that is dark, base, and sinful.  Exposing everything to the light reveals its nature – ugly or beautiful – allowing us to see it for what it is, and to reject it or accept it accordingly.  The symbols of Baptism are meant to be cleansing.  The water, the oil, the white garment, the lighted candle, are meant to reveal how the Sacrament removes our sin and makes us a new creation.  The season of Lent is an opportunity to shed light on our lives.  To see where we have fallen short, to seek forgiveness, and renew our relationship with God.

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