– 19 – 3- 2023 –
Fourth Sun Lent -Year A
This Sunday is traditionally known as ‘Laetare Sunday’ from the opening word of the introit: Laetare lerusalem … (Be joyful 0 Jerusalem …Is 66:10-11), which has been retained as the entrance antiphon in the current Missal.
(also Mother’s Day!)
In a way, a far more important aspect of today is that it is Mothers’ Day — or as it was formerly known ‘Mothering Sunday’ — perhaps with much help from the greeting card industry! — If you ask the average congregation whether they spend more time and effort thinking about Mothers’ Day or Good Friday, I suspect that the former will easily outstrip the latter in significance in their ritual year. This situation presents us with an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to re-possess this theme of Mothers’ Day by showing that it originates because this is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and to make it part of today’s celebration — this is one day when people are expecting the liturgy to be special, and that ‘specialness’ is that the liturgy is linked to a feast they are actually celebrating outside of the context of the liturgy. The challenge is that today must be celebrated as a Sunday of Lent, and not simply made the religious aspect of Mothers’ Day. We should note that there is no agreement as to how this day originated as Mothers’ Day. The most commonly given reason was that there was a custom in some parts of England for people to visit their mothers on this day, or that servants were given a day off to visit home on this day, but that still does not answer the question of why this day was chosen for this practice. The other theory as to its origins is that on this day there was a visit to the cathedral or mother church, or that it refers to the old epistle for this day (found in the pre-1970 missal and in the Book of Common Prayer) which was Gal 4:22-31 (a reading not used in any year in today’s lectionary) which has a reference to Jerusalem as ‘our mother’ at v. 26. In all likelihood it was this reference, when picked out in preaching, that gave rise to the practice of people visiting their mothers, and this, in turn, became the origin of our ‘Mothers’ Day’.)
Gospel text : John 9:1-41
vs.1As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.
vs.2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?”
vs.3 “Neither he nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered “he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
vs.4 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.
vs.5 As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.”
vs.6Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the bind man
vs.7and said to him, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam” (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
vs.8 His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said,
“Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
vs.9 Some said, “Yes, it is the same one.” Others said, “No, he only looks like him. The man himself said, “I am the man.”
vs.10So they said to him, “Then how do your eyes come to be open?”
vs.11 “The man called Jesus” he answered “made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, ‘Go and wash at Siloam’; so I went, and when I washed I could see.”
vs.12They asked, “Where is he?” “I don’t know” he answered.
vs.13They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees.
vs.14It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes,
vs.15so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, “He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.”
vs.16Then some of the Pharisees said, “This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.” Others said, “How could a sinner produce signs like this?” And there was disagreement among them.
vs.17So they spoke to the blind man again, “What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?”
“He is a prophet” replied the man.
vs.18However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and
vs.19 asking them, “Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?”
vs.20 His parents answered, “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind,
vs.21 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.”
vs.22 His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.
vs.23This was why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him.”
vs.24So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, “Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.”
vs.25The man answered, “I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.”
vs.26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
vs.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 too?”
vs.28At this they hurled abuse at him: “You can be his disciple,” they said “we are disciples of Moses:
vs.29 we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.”
vs.30The man replied, “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from!
vs.31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will.
vs.32 Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind;
vs.33 if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.”
vs.34 “Are you trying to teach us,” they replied “and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!” And they drove him away.
vs.35 Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
vs.36“Sir,” the man replied “tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.”
vs.37 Jesus said, “You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.”
vs.38 The man said, “Lord, I believe”, and worshipped him.
vs.39Jesus said: “It is for judgement that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight turn blind.”
vs.40 Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, “We are not blind, surely?”
vs.41Jesus replied: “Blind? If you were, you would not be guilty; but since you say, ‘We see’, your guilt remains.”
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page for the desired one.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, Uni of Notingham Lampeter.
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute, Tallaght . D.24
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels – Year A
Once again, like last Sunday, we have a long passage. However, you must read it in its entirety because, with great artistry, St John has woven three stories into one, each interacting with the others and shedding light on them like the different colours in a painting. In your meditation follow up one story at a time, the one that happens to touch you right now.
1.Verses 8 to 38 : This is the story of the man born blind who gradually comes to the point where he worships Jesus (verse 38). It is the long, often painful, journey of a person who is called to see life in a new way and as a result makes a new commitment.
The story is told in four stages:
vs. 8 – 12; 13 – 17, 24 – 34; and 35 – 38. You will notice (and recognize from your own experience) how he sees more and more clearly at every stage that this is a call from God which he can trust. He also experiences more and more opposition and rejection, until the moment when he is lost, the same moment when he is found by Jesus.
2. Verses 13 to 40 : The Pharisees (called “the Jews” in the last part of the passage) make an opposite journey, becoming more and more blind. Trace the stages of their journey:
vs. 13 – 17; 18 – 23; 24 – 34, coming to the pathetic climax in verse 40. Recognize from your experience, and with great humility, how religious people can become complacent that they know God’s will, and in the process become more and more intolerant and violent towards those who oppose them. Notice at every stage the contrast between them and the man born blind.
3. Verses 1 to 5; 39 to 41 : Jesus is the leader who has “come into this world” to accompany the humble on their journey to sight and, on the other hand, to expose the blindness of the arrogant. Discover in him the ideal for all in authority, and also for the church in its relationship with the wider community. His own humble trust in the Father and his compassion are beautifully expressed in verses 1 to 5, his clarity of purpose in verses 39 to 41. Who does he remind you of ?
Scripture reflection prayer
Lord, we remember with great gratitude
the times when you opened our eyes to see that we needed to change:
– to relate at a deeper level with you, with members of our family, with friends;
– to give ourselves more fully to the service of the poor;
– to turn away from a relationship that had us in bondage;
– to live more simply.
We remember the long journey you led us on,
– those first days when all we knew was that something important was happening to us;
– how it became clearer that it was you who were calling us;
– the painful time when, as we became more confident,
we faced opposition, ridicule and rejection.
We remember that beautiful moment
– when we were lost but knew that you had found us;
– when we felt certain that you were speaking to us;
– when very easily and spontaneously we worshipped you.
“This is the test of human knowledge of God, that he does not know God.” … St Thomas Aquinas
Lord, we thank you that you came into our lives so that we who were without sight would see.
“When we love the other, we obtain from God the key to our understanding of who he is and who we are.” ….Thomas Merton
Lord, forgive us Church people that we let ourselves become Pharisees:
– confident that we know what is your will, who is from you and who is not;
– unwilling to accept that people should come to the light outside of our ministry;
– hiding from the evidence before us and taking refuge in pious words;
– violent to those who challenge our wisdom.
We ask you Lord to work a miracle for us this Lent:
– that we may go and wash in some Pool of Siloam,
– and come away with our sight restored.
Forgive us, Lord,
for taking for granted that when people are poor it is because they or their parents have sinned.
Send us Jesus to remind us that every single person was born so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
“If we take care of the means we are bound to reach the ends sooner or later.” … Gandhi
We pray for those who are worried about the future.
Help them to accept that the night will soon be here when no one can work.
Teach them that as long as the day lasts they must carry on the work of the one who sent them,
and that as long as they are in the world they are called to be the light of the world.
“The saving of the world from impending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a non-conforming minority.” … Martin Luther King
Be with your Church,. Lord, so that she may bring your judgement into the world
and lead the humble to the light, showing those who think they see that they have become blind.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
Today we reflect on our belief that Jesus is the chosen one of God, he is the anointed one, he is the Christ. He is the one who gives sight to our blindness, the one who restores our health, the one who reconciles us to the Father. Today, because it is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also Mothers’ Day when we give thanks to God for our mothers, we make a special fuss of them,and think of how much we owe to them for their care and love. So let us begin by thinking of all of God’s blessings to us: for giving us loving mothers, for giving us his love and forgiveness, and for sending us Jesus the Christ.
1. Light and darkness together form one of the great images by which human beings seek to describe both the universe and the mystery beyond the universe. The contrast of light/ dark is basic to our existence as day and night, and with light is the association of like goodness, understanding, and hope; while with darkness there is fear, evil and confusion. We are beings who live and learn in the light and through sight. Here too lies the sorrow of blindness and the horror that it instils in many: a horror so great that in Jesus’s time the fact that God could let someone be born blind was thought of in terms of God deliberately punishing the blind person (see the longer form of the gospel). Likewise, it is only when we think of how we crave light and sight and vision, that we can see the force of healing Christ the ‘Light of the World’.
2. Because the dark and the light alternate with one another in the physical world, many people think of moral light and darkness similarly changing places, as if light and darkness are in a continual struggle. We glibly hear lines such as ‘the eternal struggle of good over evil’ or speak about ‘the ups and downs in human affairs’. But Christians see Christ as having won a victory over the powers of darkness once for all – we are called to be children of the light. But this victory can now only be seen in our hope: in glimpses, in a glass darkly, in shadows, in images. We will only see the fullness of the light in the life to come.
3. As we approach Good Friday we should recall that this is our victory celebration for Christ’s expensive victory over all that is dark, wicked, evil, and life-destroying in the universe. Today we read John’s sign that Christ is the Light; next week we shall read in John that Christ is Lord of life, and on Good Friday we shall read John’s passion when he declares that his work is accomplished – and in John’s image of Good Friday there is no darkness: Christ conquers the powers of darkness and scatter~ them in clear daylight. This celebration of Christ as light we reach its climax in the liturgy in the opening moments of the Easter Vigil when we shall gather around the light in the midst of darkness, and then sing the praises of the risen Christ our light.
4. But the victory of light demands that all who belong to the light be themselves lights, enlighten other areas of a darkened world and oppose all that takes place in the dark or which darkens the lives of people. One cannot belong to the light and be different to human suffering. One cannot simply shrug shoulders when one hears of policies that oppress people in the developing world. One cannot ignore falsehoods or dishonest dealings in any organisation, be it one’s workplace or community or in the church. One cannot rejoice that the light of the creation is but a shadow of the true Light of the universe, and then happily ignore the destruction of the created environment.
5. The desire for Light is great and universal, and the call of Christ the Light of the world is the call to come into the Light. But in a world where there is still much darkness, to be a child of the light is to take on the burdens and crosses of discipleship.
Journeying through the Year of Matthew
One of my friends was born blind. Consequently, he is unable to marvel at the colours of the rainbow. He is incapable of appreciating the subtle differences between the various shades of green in the garden shrubs and trees. He cannot enjoy the beauty of the stained glass windows in his local church as the sunlight shines through them. In short, he cannot see the beauty of God’s creation.
However, my blind friend’s other senses — hearing, speech, touch and smell — are exceptionally alert and they help him to compensate for his blindness by enabling him to experience and appreciate his surroundings in different ways. Yet he seems to be disadvantaged when compared to most other people because, unlike them, he cannot see with his eyes. He lives in a world of darkness and during this life he will never truly understand what it is to see and to be guided by light.
Thankfully, although physically blind, my friend has learned to ‘see’ in other ways. He believes in God and, for him as it must be for all of us, believing is seeing. It is often said that ‘seeing is believing’. Nevertheless, it is faith that brings true sight and, from the perspective of faith, ‘believing is seeing’. My friend has seen God in many areas of his life without depending on his eyes and, having experienced God’s love, he believes in God’s goodness and providential care. True sight, then, is really insight.
Sadly, there has always been physical blindness in our world. But physical blindness is not the only type of blindness that affects people, nor is it the most damaging. A far more harmful blindness is the spiritual blindness that results from sin. This spiritual blindness is evident in the lives of people who are confused or lost, often having no moral guidance.
Unlike physical blindness, spiritual blindness occurs when people either refuse or are unable to accept Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The well known proverb is appropriate: ‘There is none so blind as those who will not see!’ Here, the phrase ‘those who will not’ means ‘those who do not wish to’ or ‘those who refuse to’.Unfortunately, many of us are spiritually blind without realising it. We need to learn that in recognising our personal sinfulness our spiritual blindness begins to be healed. Jesus brings healing from sin into our lives through his Church and the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation. When we celebrate this sacrament with the proper disposition we meet the risen Lord who heals us and gives us life. Believing is seeing.
Although my friend lives in constant darkness, he has many opportunities to see as a result of his faith. Ironically, many of us who can see clearly with our eyes are increasingly blind to God’s presence around us because of our lack of faith and our sin. We are being challenged to invite Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness so that we may share his insight. Then our witness to the Good News will lead us to dispel the spiritual darkness in our world. God has chosen each one of us to reveal his love to the world. First of all, however, we need to believe in God so that, like my friend who is blind, believing we may see.
The blind man went off and washed himself,
and came away with his sight restored. (Jn 9:7)
Donal Neary SJ:
Gospel Reflections for Sundays of Year A: Matthew
The Eye of Faith
Some saw a blind man being cured and walked on amazed. Others saw the same cures and found faith. We can see things – everyday things – with different eyes. A sick woman may be seen with the eye of compassion for illness, hope for a cure/ profit from a profession. The Christian tries to see the world with the eye of faith.
Faith grows in many ways – by opening ourselves to our human desire for God, by mulling over the good things of life/ by experiencing the good within ourselves/ by looking over times of faith in the past and by allowing the goodness of others to bring us to new and stronger faith. This is the call of the gospel today – to open our eyes to the Lord who is at work in many ways.
We learn to see and love with the eye of faith by looking at the look of Jesus towards us. It is often a big jump to believe in what we cannot see. Even the blind man today was reminded by Jesus ‘ You are looking at the Son of Man/ he is speaking to you.’ Jesus looks at each of us with faith in our goodness and with love.
Maybe we can walk around in this atmosphere of faith, “seeing” God
in a flower,
in a parent holding a child” s hand,
in a person pushing a wheelchair with courage/ and notice
that in many ways God is near and the presence of Jesus is at hand.
Let this verse echo in your mind from the hymn: Amazing Grace
I once was lost and now am found,
was blind and now I see.
Lord, let me see you in the simple things of my life.