Offers food for thought
Part 4 of the Lenten Series
Just as Christ, in the Gospel reading for that Sunday, so clearly showed us how being obedient and listening to the Father is essential to overcoming the darkness of sin and temptation.
On the 2nd Sunday of Lent we learned from Peter, James and John the importance of listening to Jesus. They were obedient to the words of the Father and listened to the Son (Matthew 17:1-8). After the divine light exploded from Jesus and his appearance was transfigured, they followed him down the mountain and into the valley of the shadow of death. They began to more deeply understand what it meant when Jesus said “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). How the messiah would bring light into the darkness and the offer abundant life.
The theme of transformation, of movement from death to life and sin to holiness, through listening and obedience runs deep in the Word of God. (CCC 144) Listening to Christ means getting to know him. Listening means obediently responding. As we increasingly "listen to him," turn our gaze to him, follow him, we too will be transformed from the inside out, and the divine life within us will transfigure our appearance to the world around us, so that others will be drawn into the light of his love and mercy, death and resurrection.
On the 3rd Sunday of Lent the readings led us to reflect more deeply on these transformative encounters with Christ and experiences of grace. The woman at the well, (John 4:4-42) just like the Apostles (Matthew 17:1-8), and the blind man in today’s Gospel (John 9:1-41)… followed the example of Christ who conquered the devil in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11)… they were all obedient, listened and they became the light of Christ to others.
God invites us to freely respond. We, like these saints before us, are continually invited by God to freely and repeatedly turn toward him and receive what is offered to us and thereby enter ever more deeply and perfectly into that communion of love. When we do that, at any moment in our lives, when we respond to that universal call to holiness, God immediately touches and directly moves our hearts. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy and promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire.
Although we focus on the physical healing part of the story in this week’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, because we place a higher value on being physically perfect than we do on our spiritual wholeness, the story of the healing of the blind man highlights much more than that. Listening to him, being obedient to his words, encountering Christ and experiencing Grace will always lead to our healing and make us lights in the darkness.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us of that we too were blind and in darkness, until the light of Christ came to lead us out and gave us that deeper interior vision. Today’s first reading points us to this truth, as God councils Samuel that “man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” (Samuel 16:7) Samuel thought Jesse’s son Eliab would be a good replacement, because he was tall and handsome. Samuel’s ‘blindness’ would have gotten in the way of God’s will being fulfilled, and so, without the divine light, David would not have been seen.
Others didn’t really ‘see’ the blind man, like David he was ‘invisible’, until the divine light shone upon him. The gaze of Jesus became so fixed upon this man, that the disciples eyes took notice of him and as they listened to Jesus they began to ‘see’ beyond sin, beyond human frailty, beyond sickness.
The blind man, believing without yet seeing, listened was obedient, cured, and became able to see and recognize Jesus the Messiah when Jesus reveals himself. In the beginning he was blind, he was in darkness. In the end he is in the light, because Jesus is the Light of the world. In fact, this story is an illustration of Jesus’ statement: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
After his healing, the blind man’s appearance is transfigured. In this encounter with Christ and experience of grace, the blind man becomes a light to others. There was such an obvious transformation from the "old" to the "new," that friends, family no longer recognized him and others began to ask, "What happened to you?" "How did it happen?" “Who did this to you?”
Throughout the story, the glory of God increasingly shines as the man grows bolder in faith. His bold witness of his encounter with Christ reminds us of how we shouldn’t let fear limit the power of the light of Christ to shine through, but to remember the word of God which says, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” And the Spirit taught well. Look at this uneducated blind man’s powerful responses.
After he suffered the consequences of his uncompromising witness, being thrown out, Jesus came to him. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen... him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”
Every Easter Vigil we bless and light the Easter candle, and we each bear a candle to show that the light of Christ has spread throughout the world, into the darkness, bringing new light. At our baptism, we received a candle with the words, “Receive the light of Christ.” This candle was lit from the Easter candle to represent that the light of Christ has been passed from Christ, to parents and god parents who in turn pass that light to their children.
The words of Paul in the Second Reading, “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” Paul is telling us that, like the man in the Gospel who represents all of us, we were also blind and stumbling in darkness. But now we live in the light of the Gospel and the New Testament. And that light is seen in the way we behave, in the way we relate with other people in “complete goodness and right living and truth”. Our lives are to have a transparency where there is no darkness, no hidden behavior which we would be ashamed to reveal to others.
Part One of the Lenten Series
Part Two of the Lenten Series
Part Three of the Lenten Series
Part Five of the Lenten Series
Part Six of the Lenten Series
Conclusion of the Lenten Series
Audio version of this homily, as preached at Mass
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.