HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
BY: Father Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
Our gospel reading (John 9:1–41) for this fourth Sunday of Lent is about Jesus healing a man who was born blind. Jesus spits on the ground, making a paste with the saliva, and then spreads it on the man’s eyes. He then tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.
John refers to the miracles of Jesus as “signs” because they are significant not only for what he does but also for what they point to. Obviously, nobody erects signs just so that he can admire them. Signs are erected to point us in one direction. Similarly, all the “signs” that Jesus performs in the Gospel of John point to his divinity and highlight at least an aspect of it.
The first of these signs is the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1–12). John tells us: “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, at Cana of Galilee” (John 2:11). The second is the cure of the son of a royal official (John 4:46–54). The third is the healing of a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–11). The fourth is the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1–15). The fifth is walking on water (John 6:16–21). The sixth is the healing of a man born blind (John 9:1–12). And the seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11).
Our gospel passage (John 9:1–41) for today is the sixth of the seven signs in the Gospel of John. Obviously, only God can make the blind see. The healing of the man born blind reveals that Jesus is God and that he is the light of the world.
Before the healing of the man born blind, Jesus declared, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Here, it is important to keep in mind that John’s portrayal of Jesus is profoundly anchored in the stories, scriptures, and traditions of Israel, especially those centered on the annual and liturgical festivals in the temple, as well as the symbols that relate to and re-present them.
The Jewish festival of Tabernacles is a week-long fall celebration that remembers the Israelites’ 40-year journey to the Promised Land through the desert. And one of the main symbols of this feast was light, which reminds them of the Exodus, when God led their ancestors by a pillar of cloud that became a pillar of fire by night.
During this festival, especially at the close of the first day of the festival, the four large lampstands in the temple are lit up in memory of the pillar of cloud and fire that God used to lead the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt. And it is said that the lampstands produced so much light that there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light.
It was during this festival that Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world”. He is basically saying that, just as the lampstands of the Feast of Tabernacles light every courtyard in Jerusalem, so he lights the world.
The mission of Christ is to light up the whole world, and we become partakers of this mission through baptism. Hence, the Sacrament of Baptism is called the “bath of enlightenment” first because it gives a catechumen the opportunity to learn more about the faith through catechetical instruction. Secondly, when baptized, a person becomes the “son of light” and even becomes “light” himself.
No wonder, according to Bishop Robert Barron: “Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of vision.” Being a Christian means opening ourselves to the light of Christ and allowing it to shine forth to the whole through our words and actions.
Jesus assures us in John 8:12 that he is the light of the world and that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. This is the light of his truth, the light of his word, and the light of eternal life. Those who receive this light will never walk in darkness.
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So, the healing of the blind man in today’s gospel passage is a sign that Jesus is both God with us and the light of the world. It points to the reality that Jesus became a man so that the blind might see and see as God sees.
Our first reading (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a) illustrates this seeing as God sees. God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse of Bethlehem, telling the prophet that he has chosen a king from among the sons of Jesse. However, God doesn’t tell Samuel which son he has chosen.
As Samuel casts his eyes over the sons of Jesse, he is immediately taken with Eliab. He thinks that this young man is the Lord’s chosen one because he is strong, handsome, and carries himself like a king. But God tells Samuel, “Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
But after seeing all the sons of Jesse, Samuel doesn’t have a sense that any of them has been chosen as the Lord’s anointed, so he asks Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse answers, almost as an afterthought: “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Send for him, says Samuel. And as soon as Samuel sets eyes upon David, he hears the voice of God: “There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Today we are reminded that appearances can be deceiving, and as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.” God does not look at our appearances, our mistakes, or what others think about us; he looks at our hearts and our desire to serve him. Let us ask him to open our spiritual eyes so that we can see and see clearly through the spiritual eyes. Let us strive to live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth.
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