4TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A ON MARCH 22, 2020 (R. 1: 1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6- 7, 10- 13a; Psalm 23: 1- 6; R. 2: Ephesians 5: 8- 14; Gospel: John 9: 1- 41)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
THE LIGHT THAT DISPELS ALL DARKNESS
A man told his four-year-old son to go to bed (upstairs) because it was way past his bedtime. The boy started to go up the stairs but realized that the stairwell was dark, and he could not reach the light switch. He went back and told his dad that he was scared, but his dad told him to go on up because God was there. The boy knew that was the final answer, so he started to go upstairs. On the first step, he stopped, looked up, and said, “God, if you are there, please don’t move; if you move, you will scare me to death!” Sometimes, the things that God permits to move in us and around us may scare us, but they are usually ultimately for our good.
Last Sunday, we focused on the symbolism of water when we read about the Samaritan woman and Jesus at Jacob’s well. Today we shift our focus to the symbolism of light. After this Mass, read all the readings for today’s Mass, and note how many times the word “light” appears in the texts. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says, “…I am the light of the world.” He does not make it sound like the light is a quality that he possesses; instead, the light is his essence. He does not say, “I have the light…” but “I am the light…” In the same Gospel passage, Jesus, the light, ecounters the man who was born blind, the man who was born into darkness, and he dispels the darkness in the man and makes the blind man see.
On the first day of creation, there was darkness all over; God spoke his word of light and dispelled the power of darkness (cf. Genesis 1: 1- 15). So it has been since the first day of creation, that whenever the light comes in contact with darkness, the light immediately overcomes darkness and brings out the beauty that is concealed in darkness. In the first reading, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king of Israel. Jesse gathered seven of his sons. One after the other, Jesse brought them, but they were all rejected by the Lord. Samuel must have said to himself, “Did I dial the wrong number? Did I punch the wrong zip code?” He must have been wondering if Jesse’s house was where God sent him to. He asked Jesse if he had other sons. Jesse responded, “There is still the youngest who is tending the sheep.” Samuel asked Jesse to send for David, the youngest son, and sure enough, he was the one chosen by God to be King.
Come to think of it, David, who was disqualified from the primary election, David, who was not qualified to be with the rest of his brothers, became the King of them all. He was sent into the dark to be with the sheep, but God, who is the light, went in search of him among the sheep and brought him home to be anointed. When David’s father and his older siblings sent him to be with the sheep, they did not know that they were sending him to the seminary for his formation to the priesthood. They did not realize that they were sending him to boot camp to be trained as a soldier to become a General in the Army of Israel and to lead them to conquer their enemies. They sent him to the sheep, unknown to them that God was training him there to be a shepherd to shepherd the children of Israel. They did not know that he was with the sheep to gain inspiration for the composition of today’s responsorial Psalm (Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd).
My dearly beloved in Christ, this is not just the story of David; this is not only the story of the man born blind. It is, more importantly, your story; this is, more importantly, my story. I may not know the reason behind the tears you shed every night, I may not know why smile has become a stranger to your face these days, and I may not know the reason behind your depression. But there is something I know and that I know too well. I know that the God who is light knows all the beauty that is hidden in you; I know that what He did on the first day of creation, He keeps doing every day, dispelling darkness and bringing out the hidden beauty in his creation.
As we reflect on the theme of light and on how Jesus healed the man born blind, we cannot, but think of the blindness and the darkness that our world is now experiencing, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Who would have believed two weeks ago that we would be where we are today? Think of the many travel plans, vacations, weddings, parties, religious gatherings, etc. that have been disrupted. Today is Laetare Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). Who would have believed on Ash Wednesday that our Churches would be empty for Laetare Sunday? Just like we could not tell two weeks ago that today would be this way, no one can confidently tell what tomorrow holds. The whole world is blind. Many experts have been humbled by the devastating effects of this virus and the disease. Where do we go from here?
Yes, the whole world is blind, the world is in darkness, but as people of faith, we still celebrate Laetare Sunday today. This Sunday gets its name from the first few words of the traditional Latin entrance for the Mass of the day. “Laetare Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”) from Isaiah 66:10. It is the last chapter of Isaiah. He called on Israel to rejoice while they were still experiencing the devastating effect of being on exile. He was not denying their pains; he was focusing on the God who owns Israel, whose plans for his children are always for good. Similarly, amidst the present pandemic, the Church calls us to rejoice, not because we want to deny the current reality but because we know that God is still on the throne.
Yes, the world is in darkness; the world is experiencing blindness. If Jesus could give sight to a man that was born blind, why would he not restore the health of the world that God created and found to be good? Hiding David with the sheep did not prevent him from becoming King at the right time. We must hold on to our faith now more than ever. No power can stop the blessings of God; any attempt to obstruct God’s blessings will end up enhancing the blessings.
I recently read something very consoling on Facebook regarding the current pandemic. It was like an exchange of words between Satan and Jesus. Satan bragged: “I will cause anxiety, fear, and panic. I will shut down businesses, schools, places of worship, and sporting events. I will cause economic turmoil.” Then Jesus replied, “I will bring neighbors together, and restore the family unit. I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources. I will show them that I work through the sacraments but that the sacraments do not bound me. I will teach them that all human beings are equal.
My dearly beloved in Christ, I say to you, “Fear not!” After we have diligently done all that is humanly possible, Let us entrust ourselves to God, and may our trust in God never put us to shame until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.