Thứ Bảy, 25 tháng 3, 2017

MARCH 26, 2017 : FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 31

The LORD said to Samuel:
"Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, 
for I have chosen my king from among his sons."

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, 
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, 
"Surely the LORD's anointed is here before him."
But the LORD said to Samuel: 
"Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, 
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart."
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, 
but Samuel said to Jesse, 
"The LORD has not chosen any one of these."
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
"Are these all the sons you have?"
Jesse replied,
"There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep."
Samuel said to Jesse,
"Send for him; 
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here."
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold 
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
"There—anoint him, for this is the one!"
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, 
anointed David in the presence of his brothers; 
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Responsorial PsalmPS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2EPH 5:8-14
Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, 
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light, 
for light produces every kind of goodness 
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; 
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention 
the things done by them in secret; 
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
"Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light."

Verse Before The GospelJN 8:12
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.

GospelJN 9:1-41
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, 
that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered,
"Neither he nor his parents sinned; 
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
"Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?"
Some said, "It is, "
but others said, "No, he just looks like him."
He said, "I am."
So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?"
He replied,
"The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.'
So I went there and washed and was able to see."
And they said to him, "Where is he?"
He said, "I don't know."

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
"He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see."
So some of the Pharisees said,
"This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said,
"How can a sinful man do such signs?"
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
"What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?"
He said, "He is a prophet."

Now the Jews did not believe 
that he had been blind and gained his sight 
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
"Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?"
His parents answered and said, 
"We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself."
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, 
for the Jews had already agreed 
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
"He is of age; question him."

So a second time they called the man who had been blind 
and said to him, "Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner."
He replied,
"If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see."
So they said to him,
"What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?"
He answered them,
"I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
They ridiculed him and said, 
"You are that man's disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, 
but we do not know where this one is from."
The man answered and said to them,
"This is what is so amazing, 
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, 
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything."
They answered and said to him,
"You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?"
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
He answered and said, 
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus said to him,
"You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he."
He said,
"I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
"I came into this world for judgment, 
so that those who do not see might see, 
and those who do see might become blind."

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this 
and said to him, "Surely we are not also blind, are we?"
Jesus said to them,
"If you were blind, you would have no sin; 
but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, 
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
"Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?"
Some said, "It is, "
but others said, "No, he just looks like him."
He said, "I am."

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
"He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see."
So some of the Pharisees said,
"This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said,
"How can a sinful man do such signs?"
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
"What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?"
He said, "He is a prophet."

They answered and said to him,
"You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?"
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
He answered and said, 
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus said to him,
"You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he."
He said,
"I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.


4th Sunday in Lent – Cycle A

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage. 

1st Reading - 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

The books of Samuel were originally one book and actually form a continuation of the deuteronomic history of the people of Israel. It also marks a turning point in the history of God’s people as Samuel is the last of the judges. Under increasing pressure from the Philistines, Samuel struggles to keep Israel faithful to Yahweh. Defeats in battle and the failure of Samuel’s sons to follow his example, convince the people that Israel needs a new kind of leadership; a king. Samuel thought this was wrong, but God told him “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king. 8 As they have treated me constantly from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this day, deserting me and worshiping strange gods, so do they treat you. 9 Now grant their request; but at the same time, warn them solemnly and inform them of the rights of the king who will rule them.” 10 Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full to those who were asking him for a king. 11 He told them: “The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot. 12 He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials. 15 He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.   He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work. 17 He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.” 19 The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said, “Not so! There must be a king over us. 20 We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say, he repeated it to the LORD, 22 who then said to him, “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.” Samuel thereupon said to the men of Israel, “Each of you go to his own city.” (1 Samuel 8:7-22). 

Samuel then anointed Saul, who doesn’t work out too well, then God tells him to anoint David. It is of David’s selection that we hear today. 

because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” 10 In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” 12 Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There - anoint him, for this is he!” 13 Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. 

This whole story shows that the choice was God’s and not man’s. Man’s choice would have been the firstborn. In order to emphasize the authority behind this anointing, David is anointed with all his brothers as witnesses so no one can say “I didn’t know.” Eliab was the firstborn and has difficulty accepting David’s selection as can be seen in 1 Samuel 17:28. 

2nd Reading - Ephesians 5:8-14

The destination of this epistle has caused some discussion. Although the manuscript tradition preponderantly supports the title “to the Ephesians,” a number of early manuscripts read simply “to the saints and faithful who are in Christ Jesus.” It is also interesting that not a single member of the Ephesian community is greeted or mentioned – It was Paul’s practice to extend such greetings in his letters. The uncertainty over the epistle’s destination has occasioned a number of conjectures: It is the epistle to the Laodiceans alluded to in Colossians 4:16; It is Paul’s last message to the Church; It was prepared by an anonymous author as an introduction to a group of Pauline letters; and It was a circular letter, written at the same time as Colossians and Philemon and directed to the communities of the province of Asia. This last explanation is considered to be the most probable. 

All this discussion aside, Ephesus was in Western Asia Minor, established by Ionian Greeks in the 11th century B.C. It possessed the famous Temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and was a center of magical practice. The Church was established there early and was visited by Saint Paul. It is the place where Saint John is reputed to have written his gospel, and he may also have been buried there. An impressive basilica was built over his supposed tomb. According to one tradition, the dormation or assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary occurred on a hill near the city. Early in the 14th century A.D. it was occupied by the Turks and all that remains now is a small village called Selcuk which is located near the extensive ruins of the ancient city. 

Today’s reading comes from the section of the epistle which gives exhortations to worthy conduct. 

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

The contrast of darkness and light is the contrast of opposition to God and membership in the Christian community. 

“The darkness is being turned into light. There is not, as some heretics argue, a nature so alienated that it cannot receive salvation. ... Those who receive salvation – the righteous – are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Those who refuse, the unrighteous, are in consequence called darkness. ... The difference and distance between one and the other is clearly seen by their own fruits.” [Saint Jerome (A.D. 386), Commentaries on the Epistle to the Ephesians, 3,5,8] 

Live as children of light, 9 for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  0 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, 12 for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light.

What is a fruitless work (vain deed)? One which lacks substance or worth. Galatians 5:19-21 lists some of them. 

“He has said, ‘you are light’. Light exposes what takes place in darkness. Insofar as you are light your goodness shines forth. The wicked are not able to hide. Their actions are illuminated as though a lamp were at hand.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 392-397), Homilies on the Epistle to the Ephesians, 18,5,11-13] 

Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” 

This is probably a fragment of an ancient Christian hymn used in a baptismal liturgy (see also Ephesians 2:5-6; 3:9; Isaiah 60:1). 

Gospel - John 9:1-41

Last week we heard of the Samaritan woman at the well. This week we hear of the man born blind. Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles 
(September-October of the year before His crucifixion) in chapter 7. In Chapter 8 he is still in the vicinity of Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives and in and around the Temple. Our reading for today encompasses all of chapter 9. In chapter 10, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (Lights/Hanukkah) which occurs in November-December. 

We can deduce then that our reading for today takes place in or very close to Jerusalem, probably in October or November of the year prior to His passion. This reading contrasts Jesus (the light of the world) with the Pharisees (blindness). 


It was a firm Jewish belief that every affliction was a punishment for sin, and that the sins of the parents could be punished in their offspring (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). The disciples did not necessarily think that the man might have sinned before birth – in the foreknowledge of God, the punishment might have been inflicted for a sin that was to follow. This was their reasoning in asking the question. 

3    Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

Divine providence has determined that this man is to serve as the occasion of a work of God. 

4    We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.

Jesus now identifies the part He plays in fulfilling the divine purposes. In performing God’s work in respect to this man, He will be offering a divine light. The “we” reminds us all that we also have the duty to do the works of God.

Night is coming when no one can work.

Light is opposed to spiritual darkness. 

5    While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

This is another example of the “I am”(Yahweh) theme used by John and others. In John 8:12 (during the Feast of Tabernacles) Jesus spoke the same words. Like the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites by night, Jesus guides us through spiritual darkness. There is always a link between the words and works of Jesus. 

6    When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,

Spittle was commonly believed to have medicinal properties. 

and smeared the clay on his eyes, 

Literally, “anointed the clay on his eyes” 

7    and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent).

This was, perhaps, a test of faith (see 2 Kings 5:10-14). The pool at the southern extremity of Jerusalem from which water was brought for the libations of the Feast of Tabernacles. 

So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

The essence of the sign for John is not simply that sight has been restored, but light is given to one who never had it. 

8    His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” 10 So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?” 11 He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

This is a symbol of baptism and spiritual enlightenment. In the early Church, baptism was called “enlightenment.” As is so often the case, the words and deeds of Jesus cause immediate dissension. Siloam means “sent” and Jesus was sent by the Father. 

12 And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.” 13 They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.

The Pharisees are the arbiters of what is religiously proper, the dissension is communicated to them. Their complaint is against Jesus’ technical violation of the Sabbath. 

14 Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. 15 So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” 16 So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” (But) others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Recognition of who Jesus really is, is coming to the man born blind. When first asked, he had replied simply “that man they call Jesus” (v11). Now, he calls Him a prophet. 

18 Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” 20 His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” 

The Jews had summoned the man’s parents to verify that he had indeed been born blind. While affirming the undeniable, the parents refuse to commit themselves concerning his present state for the reason given in the next two verses.

22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

When John states that confession of Christ was punished by excommunication from the synagogue he may well be accommodating the language to the situation of later Christian times when this punishment was inflicted on Christian Jews, including perhaps some of John’s own readers. The putting out applied in Jesus’ time to those who defended Him would have been of a less formal nature. Formal excommunication is believed to have begun ca. A.D. 85, when the curse against the “minim”, or heretics, was introduced into the “18 Benedictions”. 

24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise!

A solemn appeal to tell the truth in its Old Testament form (see Joshua 7:19) 

We know that this man is a sinner.”

This is the affirmation the Jews seek: If, as he claims, Jesus has cured him, it can only be at the expense of having violated the Sabbath law, thereby constituting Himself a sinner. 

25    He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

The man refuses to debate with the Jews on their own ground concerning what constitutes a sinful violation of the Sabbath. He testifies to the one thing that is undeniable. 

26    So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

The demands for repetition of the man’s story are a study in frustration. They are seeking to attack the story on some detail or another. The man is fully aware of their intentions and makes no attempt to be diplomatic. By his accent on the “too” he reminds the Jews of the unpleasant fact that Jesus is gathering disciples despite their efforts. 

28    They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!

In their reply, the Jews, zealous for the Law according to their own conceptions bring out the contrast (see John 1:17). 

29    We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”

Moses has spoken with God, but Jesus’ origins are unknown. The Christian knows that Jesus is the one who speaks what He hears from His Father and is the only one who has seen God. 

30    The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. 32 It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

The man becomes quite bold in his answers. This gives us an example of the Christian who must testify fearlessly to the truth. Invoking a common biblical theme (Isaiah 1:15; Proverbs 15:29) he proves with irrefutable logic that Jesus could be no sinner but must be from God. The only Old Testament cure from blindness is found in Tobit 11:7-13, but Tobit was not born blind. 

34 They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. 35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 

Having been rejected by the Pharisees, Jesus offers him the opportunity to make the ultimate act of faith. 

36    He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

The man does not ask about the meaning of “son of man”, he asks rather that Jesus point him out. 

37    Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.”  In words reminiscent of the story last week (the Samaritan woman at the well), Jesus points to Himself. 

38    He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Having progressed from man, to prophet, he now recognizes Jesus’ true identity and addresses Him with the title of Christian faith. 

39    Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

The effect of the judgment brought about by Jesus’ call to faith is that many, like the Pharisees, falsely believing that they already possess the light, reject the revelation of God. 

40    Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

The Pharisees correctly recognize that Jesus’ words apply to them. If only they realized the extent of their own blindness, there would be hope that they would seek for light. What makes their case hopeless is their smug complacency. 



Meditation: Jesus frees us from spiritual blindness and sin
Do you recognize the light of God's truth and power in your life? God wants to remove every obstacle that might hinder us from recognizing the light of his truth and wisdom for our lives. Saul, the first king of Israel, failed to recognize God's light and power to save him from his enemies. God replaced Saul with David, the youngest of Jesse's eight sons (1 Samuel 16). God saw something in David which Jesse and his other sons did not recognize - a man after God's own heart who delighted in doing what was pleasing to the Lord (1 Samuel 13:14). David was a man of courage and vision who defeated his enemies and united his people. His strength and success came not from himself but from God who anointed him with the power and wisdom of his own Spirit.
What can keep us from the light of God's truth, wisdom, and strength for our lives? Sin blinds us and causes us to stumble and fall - unable to rise on our own or to walk in the freedom of God's love and truth. Sin clouds the mind in moral confusion, and it grows in darkness and resists the light of God's truth. Only God's light can uncover the darkness of sin and free us to walk in the path of holiness and peace with God.
The light of the world
When the disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth, they asked Jesus what kind of sin had caused this blindness. The Jews had understood that many infirmities were the result of human folly and sin. While sin can lead to physical, mental, and spiritual infirmities, not all sickness is the direct result of sin. Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons. Jesus answered that God had allowed this infirmity for a greater purpose which God wanted to demonstrate as a sign of his presence and power. Jesus then made a claim which only God could rightfully make. Jesus stated unequivocally, I am the light of the world (John 9:5). In so many words Jesus was saying that he is the one true source of power and light which sustains life and overcomes the darkness of sin, confusion, and spiritual blindness. Jesus' mighty works - his miraculous signs - confirmed the truth of his message and claim to divine authority and equality with his Father in heaven. One of his greatest signs was the healing of a man who had been blind from birth.
Healing of man born blind
When Jesus approached the blind man he first awakened hope in him - the hope which God offers those who seek his help. Jesus then did something quite remarkable for the blind man, both to identify with this man's misery and to draw expectant faith in him as well. Jesus touched the man's eyes with his own spittle mixed with dirt and bid him to wash in the Pool of Siloam which was close to the Temple. This pool of fresh flowing water was one of the landmarks of the city of Jerusalem. It's source came from the Gihon spring located in the valley outside the walls of Jerusalem. This pool was likely used as a ceremonial bath of purification for people who were going up to the Temple to worship. On the yearly feast of Tabernacles, one of the priests brought a golden pitcher of water from this pool and poured it out over the altar in the temple while reciting from the verse, "You will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3). What is the significance of the healing of the blind man at the Pool of Siloam? It is certainly more than just a miraculous event. It is a "sign" that points to the source of the miraculous life-giving water which Jesus offers through the gift and work of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38).  Do you want the Holy Spirit to pour out on you his renewing power of faith, vision, and healing love?
The Pharisees were upset with Jesus' miracle on two counts. First, he healed the blind man on the Sabbath, which they considered a serious violation of the command to rest on the Sabbath. Second, how could a "sinner" and a "sabbath-breaker" do such a marvelous work of God! The man who claimed to have been healed by Jesus must not have really been blind to begin with! Contrary to this false charge, the fact of this man's blindness was well known to many people, including the parents who testified under oath that he had indeed been blind since birth. The prejudice of the religious leaders made them blind to God's intention for the Sabbath (to do good rather than evil) and to Jesus' claim to be the One sent from the Father in heaven to bring freedom and light to his people. The Jewish leaders tried to intimidate both this cured man and his parents by threatening to exclude them from membership in the synagogue - the local congregation of the worshiping community of Jews. This man was shunned by the religious authorities because he believed that Jesus healed him and was the Messiah.
Freedom from spiritual blindness
John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, remarked: "The Jews (the Pharisees) cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him." If our witness of Jesus and his redeeming work in our lives causes friends or foes to reject us, it nonetheless draws us nearer to the Lord Jesus himself. Paul the Apostles warns us to avoid the darkness of sin that we might walk more clearly in the light of Christ (Ephesians 5:8-12). Do you allow any blind-spots to blur your vision of what God is offering you and asking of you?
The Lord Jesus is ever ready to heal us and to free us from the darkness of sin and deception. There is no sickness, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual that the Lord Jesus does not identify with. Isaiah prophesied that the "Suffering Servant" would be bruised for our iniquities and by his stripes we would be healed (Isaiah 53:5). The Lord offers us freedom from spiritual blindness due to sin and he restores us to wholeness of body, mind, soul, and heart. Augustine of Hippo, in his commentary on this Gospel passage, remarks: "If we reflect on the meaning of this miracle, we will see that the blind man is the human race ...You already know, of course, who the "One Sent" is. Unless he had been sent, none of us would have been freed from sin."
"Jesus, in your name the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead are raised to life. Come into our lives and heal the wounds of our broken hearts. Give us eyes of faith to see your glory and hearts of courage to bring you glory in all we say and do."
A Daily Quote for LentThe unchangeable Light, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"I entered into my inmost self with You, Lord, as my guide - And this I was able to do because You were my helper. I entered in and saw with the eye of my soul, the unchangeable Light, very different from earthly lights. It was above my mind but not the way oil is above water or heaven above the earth. It was superior because it made me, and I inferior because I was made by it. Those who know the truth know this light, and those who know it know eternity - It is charity that knows it." (excerpt from Confessions 7,10)

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
SUNDAY, MARCH 26, JOHN 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

(1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14)

KEY VERSE: "One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see" (v.25).
TO KNOW: Jesus told his disciples that no follower of his would walk in darkness but would have the "light of life" (Jn 8:12). During the seven day feast of Tabernacles, the temple area was illuminated with torches. On the last day of the festival, water from the pool of Siloam was poured on the altar in thanksgiving for the rain that assured a good harvest. Jesus declared that he was the fountain of "living water" that brought forth new life (7:37-38). Moreover, he was the "light of the world" who enlightened those in darkness (9:4). The story of the man born blind illustrated these two sayings of Jesus. When Jesus’ disciples saw the blind man, they asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus answered that it was not due to the sins of the man, nor of his parents. It was so that the works of God might be made visible through him. Then Jesus made a mixture of clay and salvia, put it on the blind man's eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam (meaning "sent"). When he did so, his blindness was cured. The Pharisees, who were spiritually blind, accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law by healing the man. But the man knew that his healing had come from God, and he fell at Jesus' feet and acknowledged him as "Lord." This story was a popular feature of Baptismal ceremonies in the early Church. St. Augustine said, "The blind man is the whole human race."
TO LOVE: Have I been praying for the Elect who are journeying to baptism this Lent?
TO SERVE: Lord Jesus, you are a lamp to my feet, leading me to the waters of your healing grace.

NOTE: On the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the Second Scrutiny and Exorcism for the Elect (RCIA, 165). When the elect, catechumens and candidates are present, the story of the Man Born Blind is read (Jn 9). In the Scrutiny Rites, those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil as well as the entire assembly are called to examine the areas in their lives that block God's love and blind them to God's healing presence.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Sun 26th. Fourth Sunday of Lent. IS 16:1,6-7,10-13; Ep 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41.
‘The night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.’ John 9:4-5
The themes of life and death, light and darkness, and this world and the world above, run through the Gospel of John. There is great darkness over the earth. Terrible things happen in my world. They happen in my family life and they happen on my streets. I see it domestic violence and road rage and mass shootings and terrorist attacks and indiscriminate bombings. Over and over again. Jesus warns us of this evil. He is unable to do anything to stop it. When he was arrested in the Garden Of Gethsemane, he said to those arresting him ‘this is your hour, and the power of darkness’ (Luke 22:53).
So Jesus warns me that darkness will have its hour. There are moments when darkness will seem impenetrable and ‘the night will soon be here’. But he also promises me that he is the light of the world, and that those who follow him will never walk in darkness (John 8:12). In my sadness, will I let the darkness overwhelm me, or can I hold onto Jesus’ promise that my darkness can be overcome by his light?
I wish I had the joyous hope of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the last year of his life, on the last page of the harrowing story of The Brothers Karamazov, I read the following dialogue: ‘Karamazov,’ exclaimed Kolya, ‘is it true, as religion says, that we will all rise from the dead, that we shall see each other again, all of us, Ilyusha too?’ … ‘To be sure, we shall rise again, we shall see one another again, and we shall joyfully recount all that has happened to us.’ Replied Alyosha, half-laughing, half-eager. ‘Oh how lovely that will be!’ said Kolya.
Dear Jesus, in my darkness, remind me of your light. Deepen my faith in you, let me walk in the light of your transfiguration and resurrection.

ST. MARGARET OF CLITHEROW

St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England around the year 1555 to a protestant family. Margaret was known throughout the town for her wit and good looks, and in 1571 she married John Clitherow, and together they bore two children.
Several years after her marriage to John, Margaret was introduced to the Catholic faith, and converted. She was a zealous defender of Catholicism and hid fugitive priests in her home. Eventually, Margaret was turned in to the sheriff and tried for the crime of harboring Catholic priests.
While Margaret was on trial, many efforts were made to encourage her to deny the Catholic faith, but she held firmly. Finally, Margaret was condemned to be pressed to death upon sharp rocks. She was executed on March 25, 1586.
Pope Paul VI canonized Margaret in 1970.

LECTIO DIVINA: 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, March 26, 2017

A blind man sees the light
Our eyes open when we live with Jesus
John 9:1-41
1. OPENING PRAYER
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING
a) A key to the reading:
The text of the Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Lent invites us to meditate on the healing of a man born blind. It is a short but lively text. It is a concrete example of the way the Fourth Gospel reveals the deep hidden meaning of the events in Jesus’ life. The story of the healing of the blind man helps us open our eyes to the picture of Jesus that we each carry within ourselves. We often think of a Jesus who looks like a glorious king, removed from the life of ordinary people! In the Gospels, Jesus is presented as a Servant of the poor, friend of sinners. The picture of the Messiah-King that the Pharisees had in mind, kept us from recognising Jesus the Messiah-Servant. As we read the Gospel, let us try to pay attention to two things: (i) the expert and free way the blind man reacts to the provocations of the authorities, and (ii) the way the blind man himself opens his eyes concerning Jesus.
b) A division of the text as a help to the reading:
John 9:1-5: Blindness before the evil that exists in the world
John 9:6-7: The sign of the “One sent by God” who will provoke various reactions
John 9:8-13: The reaction of the neighbours
John 9:14-17: The reaction of the Pharisees
John 9:18-23: The reaction of the parents
John 9:24-34: The final judgement of the Pharisees
John 9:35-38: The final attitude of the man born blind
John 9:39-41: A closing reflection
c) Text:
1 As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?' 3 'Neither he nor his parents sinned,' Jesus answered, 'he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him. 4 'As long as day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.'
6 Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, 7 and said to him, 'Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam' (the name means 'one who has been sent'). So he went off and washed and came back able to see.
8 His neighbours and the people who used to see him before (for he was a beggar) said, 'Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?' 9 Some said, 'Yes, it is the same one.' Others said, 'No, but he looks just like him.' The man himself said, 'Yes, I am the one.' 10 So they said to him, 'Then how is it that your eyes were opened?' 11 He answered, 'The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, "Go off and wash at Siloam"; so I went, and when I washed I gained my sight.' 12 They asked, 'Where is he?' He answered, 'I don't know.' 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.
14 It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man's eyes, 15 so when the Pharisees asked him how he had gained his sight, he said, 'He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.' 16 Then some of the Pharisees said, 'That man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.' Others said, 'How can a sinner produce signs like this?' And there was division among them. 17 So they spoke to the blind man again, 'What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?' The man answered, 'He is a prophet.'
18 However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind without first sending for the parents of the man who had gained his sight and 19 asking them, 'Is this man really the son of yours who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?' 20 His parents answered, 'We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, 21 but how he can see, we don't know, nor who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.' 22 His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to ban from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. 23 This was why his parents said, 'He is old enough; ask him.'
24 So the Jews sent for the man again and said to him, 'Give glory to God! We are satisfied that this man is a sinner.' 25 The man answered, 'Whether he is a sinner I don't know; all I know is that I was blind and now I can see.' 26 They said to him, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?' 27 He replied, 'I have told you once and you wouldn't listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?' 28 At this they hurled abuse at him, 'It is you who are his disciple, we are disciples of Moses: 29 we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don't know where he comes from.' 30 The man replied, 'That is just what is so amazing! You don't know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but God does listen to people who are devout and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of someone born blind; 33 if this man were not from God, he wouldn't have been able to do anything.' 34 They retorted, 'Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through ever since you were born!' And they ejected him.
35 Jesus heard they had ejected him, and when he found him he said to him, 'Do you believe in the Son of man?' 36 'Sir,' the man replied, 'tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.' 37 Jesus said, 'You have seen him; he is speaking to you.' 38 The man said, 'Lord, I believe,' and worshipped him.
39 Jesus said: It is for judgement that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind. 40 Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, 'So we are blind, are we?' 41 Jesus replied: If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We can see,' your guilt remains.

3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of this text touched me most? Why?
b) A popular saying goes: “None so blind as those who will not see!” How does this apply to the conversation between the blind man and the Pharisees?
c) By what titles is Jesus hailed in the text? Who pronounces these? What do they mean?
d) What title do I like best? Why? Or, what picture of Jesus do I carry in my mind and my heart? Where does this picture come from?
e) How can I purify my eyes to see the true Jesus of the Gospels?
5. FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO DELVE DEEPER INTO THE TEXT
a) The context within which the Gospel of John was written:
As we meditate on the story of the healing of the blind man, it is good to keep in mind the context of the Christian communities in Asia Minor towards the end of the first century for whom the Gospel of John was written and who identified with the blind man and his healing. Because of a legalistic view of the Law of God, they were blind from birth. But, as happened with the blind man, they too were able to see the presence of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and were converted. It was a painful process! In describing the steps and conflicts of the healing of the blind man, the author of the Fourth Gospel recalls the spiritual journey of the community, from the darkness of blindness to the full light of faith enlightened by Jesus.
b) A commentary on the text:
John 9:1-5: Blindness before the evil that exists in the world
When the disciples see the blind man, they ask: “Rabbì, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?” In those days, a physical defect or sickness was thought to be a punishment from God. Associating physical defects with sin was the way the priests of the Old Testament kept their power over people’s consciences. Jesus helps his disciples to correct their ideas: “Neither he nor his parents sinned…he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him!” The works of God is the same as Sign of God. Thus, that which in those days was a sign of God’s absence, is now a sign of his brilliant presence in our midst. Jesus says: “As long as the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” The Day of signs begins to manifest itself when Jesus, “on the third day” (Jn 2:1), makes present the “first sign” in Cana (Jn 2:11). But the day is about to end. The night is about to fall, because it is already “the seventh day”, the Sabbath, and the healing of the blind man is now the sixth sign (Jn 9:14). The Night is the death of Jesus. The seventh sign will be the victory over death at the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11). In John’s Gospel there are only seven signs, miracles, that announce the great sign, namely the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
John 9:6-7. The sign of the “One sent by God” who will provoke various reactions
Jesus spits on the ground, forms mud with his saliva, puts the mud on the eyes of the blind man and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man goes and comes back healed. This is the sign! John comments saying that Siloam means sent. Jesus is the One sent by the Father who works the works of God, the signs of the Father. The sign of this ‘sending’ is that the blind man begins to see.
John 9:8-13: The first reaction: that of the neighbours
The blind man is well known. The neighbours have doubts: “Is this he?” And they ask: “How do your eyes come to be open?” The man who was blind testifies: “The Man called Jesus opened my eyes”. The basis of our faith in Jesus is to accept that he is a human being like us. The neighbours ask: “Where is he?” - “I don’t know!” They are not satisfied with the answer of the blind man and, to clarify matters, they bring the man before the Pharisees, the religious authorities.
John 9:14-17: The second reaction: that of the Pharisees
That day was a Sabbath and on the Sabbath it was forbidden to heal. When asked by the Pharisees, the man tells everything once more. Some Pharisees, blind in their observance of the law, say: “This man cannot be from God, he does not keep the Sabbath!” They could not admit that Jesus could be a sign of God because he healed the blind man on a Sabbath. But other Pharisees, faced by the sign, answer: “How could a sinner produce signs like this?” They were divided among themselves! So they asked the blind man: “What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?” And he gives witness: “He is a Prophet!”
John 9:18-23: The third reaction: that of the parents
The Pharisees, now called the Jews, did not believe that he was blind. They thought that it was a matter of deception. So they called his parents and asked: “Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?” Very carefully the parents reply: “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself!” The blindness of the Pharisees before the evidence of the healing produces fear among the people. And anyone who professed faith in Jesus Messiah was excluded from the synagogue. The conversation with the parents of the blind man reveals the truth, but the religious authorities will not accept it. Their blindness is greater because of the witness given, now they will not accept the law that says that the witness of two persons is valid (Jn 8:17).
John 9:24-34: The final judgement of the Pharisees concerning Jesus
They call the blind man again and say: “Give glory to God! For our part we know that this man is a sinner.” Here: “give glory to God” meant: “Ask pardon for the lie you just pronounced!” The blind man had said: “He is a prophet!” According to the Pharisees he should have said: “He is a sinner!” But the blind man is intelligent. He replies: “I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see!” There are no arguments against this fact! Again the Pharisees ask: “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” The blind man answers with a touch of irony: “I have told you once…. Do you want to become his disciples too?” Then they insulted him and said: “You can be his disciple, we know that God spoke to Moses, but for this man, we don’t know where he comes from”. Again with a touch of irony the blind man replies: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! …. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing”. Faced with the blindness of the Pharisees, the light of faith grows in the blind man. He does not accept the logic of the Pharisees and confesses that Jesus comes from the Father. This profession of faith costs him his expulsion from the synagogue. The same was happening in the communities of the end of the first century. Those who professed faith in Jesus had to break all family and community ties. This happens today: those who decide to be faithful to Jesus run the risk of being excluded.
John 9:35-38: The attitude of faith of the blind man towards Jesus
Jesus does not abandon those who are persecuted for his sake. When Jesus hears of the expulsion and meets the man again, he helps him to take a further step by inviting him to take on his faith and asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He replies: “Sir…tell me who he is that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him: “You are looking at him; he is speaking to you”. The blind man exclaims: “Lord, I believe!” And he worships Jesus. The faith attitude of the blind man before Jesus is one of absolute trust and total acceptance. He accepts everything from Jesus. It is this faith that sustained the Christian communities of Asia towards the end of the first century, and that sustains us today.
John 9:39-41: A final reflection
The blind man who could not see, ends up seeing better than the Pharisees. The communities of Asia Minor who were once blind, discover the light. The Pharisees who thought that they saw well are more blind than the man born blind. Bound by an ancient observance, they lie when they say they can see. None more blind that those who will not see!
c) A broader view:
- The Names and Titles given to Jesus
Throughout the story of the healing of the blind man, the Evangelist registers various titles, adjectives and names given to Jesus by a host of people, the disciples, the Evangelist himself, the blind man, the Pharisees and Jesus himself. This way of describing the events in the life of Jesus was part of the catechesis of the time. It was a way of helping people to clarify their own ideas concerning Jesus and to identify themselves in his regard. Here are some of the names, adjectives and titles. The list shows the growth of the blind man in faith and how his vision becomes clear.
* Rabbì (master) (Jn. 9:1): the disciples
* Light of the world (Jn 9:5): Jesus
* The One sent (Jn 9:7): the Evangelist
* Man (Jn 9:11): the healed man
* Jesus: (Jn 9:11): the healed man
* Does not come from God (Jn 9:16): some Pharisees
* Prophet (Jn 9:17): the healed man
* Christ (Jn 9:22): the people
* Sinner (Jn 9:24): some Pharisees
* We do know where he comes from (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Religious (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Does the will of God (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Son of man (Jn 9:35): Jesus
* Lord (Jn 9:36): the healed man
* Lord, I believe! (Jn 9:30): the healed man
- The Name: “I AM”
To reveal the deep meaning of the healing of the blind man, the Fourth Gospel records the words of Jesus: “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). In several places, in answer to questions people put to Jesus, the Gospel repeats this same statement “I AM”:
* I am the bread of life (Jn 6:34-48)
* I am the living bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51)
* I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5)
* I am the gate (Jn 10: 7.9)
* I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11,25)
* I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25)
* I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6)
* I am the vine (Jn 15:1)
* I am king (Jn 18:37)
* I am (Jn 8:24.27.58)
This self revelation of Jesus reaches its peak in his conversation with the Jews, when Jesus says: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He” (Jn 8:27). The name I am is the same as Yahweh, the name God took in Exodus, an expression of his liberating presence between Jesus and the Father (Ex 3:15). The repeated affirmation I AM reveals the deep identity between Jesus and the Father. The face of God shines in Jesus of Nazareth: “To have seen me is to have seen the Father!” (Jn 14:9)
6. PRAYER: PSALM 117 (116)
A resume of the Bible in one prayer
Alleluia! Praise Yahweh,
all nations, extol him, all peoples,
for his faithful love is strong
and his constancy never-ending.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.