March 26, 2017
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (Year A)
Conversion to a New Guidance System
How do I make most of my decisions? Is it by common sense? By applying rules and doctrines to situations? By reflecting on things in the light of Scripture? By trying to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart?
The Entrance Antiphon calls us to rejoice in the Church (the new Jerusalem): “Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts.” We may see many faults in the Church to mourn over. But if we love her, we will seek nourishment from her and we will find it. We just have to know where to look. And we have to look with the eyes of faith. This is to use God’s guidance system.
In the Opening Prayer we declare to the “Father of peace” that we are indeed joyful in our relationship with “your Son Jesus Christ.” We follow the Church through the season of Lent and into Easter “with the eagerness of faith and love,” knowing that we are being led into the fullness of life.
Through God’s eyes:
The Responsorial (Psalm 23) calls us to believe and affirm with faith that, in spite of all appearances, “the Lord is our shepherd; there is nothing we shall want.”
1Samuel 16: 1-13 teaches us not to judge by appearances: “for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” If we want to be disciples of Jesus, it is not enough to accept what he sees and tells us; we have to learn how to look at things as he does.
There is a learning process here — we have to form the human habit of looking at things as God does — but first and foremost this is a gift of God. It is only by the divine gift of faith that we can share in God’s act of knowing. And this is what Christian insight is: seeing by sharing in what Christ within us sees. To be authentic disciples of Jesus, we have to convert to following a new guidance system: the divine light of God within us instead of the natural light of human reason alone. The Lord is our shepherd. If we let him show us truth and guide us, there is nothing we shall want.
The Light of Life:
Ephesians 5: 8-14 insists that we must recognize the difference between the guidance of Jesus and the light of this world, which shines through our cultural conditioning and the current trends and values in society. This includes the brilliance of shortsighted intellectuals who, in spite of their impressive knowledge are blind to what even the natural light of reason could tell them about God. In contrast to them St. Paul tells believers, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.”
This is not a rejection of human reason. As disciples of God-made-human in Jesus we accept everything human as good. But it is a transcendence of the human, a “going beyond” what is merely human to live and see and act on the level of God. To be disciples of the divine-human Jesus we have to convert to living lives that are not just human but divine. The Lord is our shepherd; he leads us, not only along “right paths,” but to pastures our earthly minds cannot even dream of. He came that we might “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). But our life, our joy, can only be filled by what addresses our capacity for total truth, total goodness, total love. It is only through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that our “cup overflows.”
Light in the world
An underlying theme of John 9: 1-41 is that the light of God is available on earth, and we come into it through down-to-earth human actions. When Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind he “spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes.” This is so earthy it shocks us; we would expect something more hygienic from God! Then he told the man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” There wasn’t going to be any miracle until the man took a bath.
All this was to emphasize that we open ourselves to the divine by doing human things. We interact with a very human Church. We listen with our ears, read with our eyes, think with our brains, make decisions with our wills, carry them out into action with our hands and feet. God doesn’t just turn us on like light bulbs. To come into the light we have to be disciples, which means active learners.
John said, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Jesus comes from above, but we meet him on ground level. We find him in “word and sacrament,” by gathering with other physical bodies for worship, through serious engagement with Jesus enlightening us through preachers, teachers and discussion groups.
The once-blind man asked the Pharisees, “Do you also want to become his disciples?” That is the question this Gospel asks us. How will I answer?
Insight: What human things do I need to do in order to open myself more to the divine light of Christ? How can I use my eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet?
Initiative: Get specific about how you will seek encounter with Christ through “word and sacrament.” How will you use Scripture, Eucharist, Confession? How will you look for Christ in the Christian community? Through what kind of interaction?