4th Sunday of Lent
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7,10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Relationship with God is always a journey or a movement. It could be likened to the process of osmosis in my biology class whereby a solvent passes through a semi-permeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated solution. Thus, we are constantly being moved from sight to insight; from darkness to light and from blindness to vision. Our prayers should be like one of the morning hymns in the French breviary translated as follows:
Open my eyes, O Lord!
To the wonders of your love
I am the blind one on the road
Heal me Lord, I want to see (you)
God does not look at appearances; He looks at the heart. Our first reading reminds us of a pattern of God to use what is of little significance in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). Moses gave excuses for his impediment of speech. Samuel was inexperienced and young when God called him, same with Jeremiah who gave excuses about his youth. Timothy, a disciple of Paul, was fragile and the list can go on. In the words of Jonathan L. Walton, God sides with those on the underside of power.
There are three points to underline in this passage of the first reading;
i.) kings are chosen by God for a particular mission just as the people of Israel are chosen by God for a mission to humanity. If the chosen does not measure up, he shall be replaced. (1 Sam. 16:1)
ii.) the chosen receives his authority from anointing (1 Sam 16:12).
iii.) the king is a sacred, consecrated person receiving inspiration from God (1 Sam 16:13).
The king is charged to govern not by the standard of the world, but by the vision of God. In the words of Isaiah, your ways are not my ways; your thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9). There is a challenge in being chosen by God. There is always an attempt to claim some super human qualities. But, it must be kept in mind that it is God who makes us worthy in our unworthiness. It is not about any merit on our parts, all we need do is to be available for God to use us. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. None of us possesses the requisite qualities to please God but if we dispose of ourselves, He will use us. As the psalmist of today tells us, it is God who does the shepherding, we can afford to abandon ourselves to God to guide our steps.
St. Paul admonishes us in the second reading to wake up from our frolicking in the dark and embrace the light. He challenges us to our true identity as children of the light and to exhibit positive attitudes of kindness, justice and truth. These are liberating qualities that make the world a more enjoyable place. Unfortunately, the world is led by inordinate greed and many are subjected to abject destitution. With the dwindling economy that we are experiencing in the country, our budgets have had to be reviewed to meet up with our current realities and I am still trying to see if we can still purchase those 400 new Toyota Camry for the year 2020. Suddenly, our medical personnels who were on strike to protest the deplorable conditions in which they labour to provide healing to us are being called back to respond to their calling. Emergency funds to combat COVID-19 is suddenly being released. I pray this will be a moment of justice for our leaders to fix the health sector and our academia. The pandemic coupled with our dwindling resources should be an opportunity to tell our leaders to stop expending their energies on frivolities. We must open our eyes and banish the blindness that curse us to be indifferent and deny the deplorable living conditions many of our people are faced with daily.
The movement from lost sight to restored vision is well pronounced in the Gospel of today. It is a
story of growth; a journey of faith. In our journey of faith, there are three possible attitudes towards the good news that are observable from the Gospel today. There is the attitude of the parents of the blind man, the attitude of the Pharisees and the proclamation of the blind man. These attitudes can be termed: i.) indifference ii.) denial iii.) proclamation. The first two are various blind spots we exhibit in relation to God. Imagine the healing experienced by their son and all the parents could muster was a limp acknowledgement of his blindness from birth and pushing the question back to their child. The experience of God’s healing touch should have elicited nothing but praise. As for the Pharisees, it was a case of giving a dog a bad name in order to kill it. It was an outright denial of Jesus’ miraculous deeds.
The proclamation process was a gradual development for the man born blind. The first moment was his discovery of the humanity of Jesus in John 9:11; this man was his helper and healer (John 9:13-15). He said “the man called Jesus” instructed me to go wash in the pool of Siloam meaning sent which is indicative of Jesus’ mission (John 6:44). When he was challenged by the Pharisees, he realised that what happened to him must have been extraordinary and the second stage dawned on him that Jesus must be a prophet (John 9:17). Sometimes, it takes certain life challenges to appreciate many things we take for granted. The pandemic of COVID-19 aka Corona Virus has forced us to re-evaluate what we held as priorities all over the world. There is no aspect of our global life that has not been touched. The period of social distancing could be a Kairos moment to do some introspection and meditation on the noisiness and nosiness of our lives. This could be an opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and deepen our relationship with Him. In the midst of the turbulence the blind man experienced with the powers that be, he made his declaration of faith, which is the third stage. In John 9:38, he declared in worship, “Lord, I believe!” All along, Jesus was the one seeking him out. God never abandons us till he is finished winning us to himself.
We are called to come to terms with our blindness. We struggle to walk with Jesus. We all need to have an encounter with Jesus. We should all be moved by the words of St. Paul in Ephesians 5:8-9 that “you were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light…” For the times we have been indifferent or in denial to His admonition and presence in our midst, we ask for pardon in the words of Panam Percy Paul
Lord we are sorry
We’ve turned around and gone astray
Your trust for us we have betrayed
Your power we don’t recognise
Your Lordship we have all despised
We cannot pretend
We all now repent
Forgive us Lord we pray
Bring down your glory
Bring down your glory
We pray that for the times we have lost sight of His presence, He may shepherd us to a restored vision of His glory. And so we pray in the words of Marty Haugen
Shepherd me O God
Beyond my wants
Beyond my fears
From death into life
God is my Shepherd
So nothing shall I want
I rest in the meadows
Of faithfulness and love
I walk by the quiet waters of peace
Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth
My spirit shall sing the music of your name
By Fr. Tony Olaniyan.