3/22/20 • 4th Sunday in Lent
First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6–7, 10–13a
Psalm: Psalm 23:1–3a, 3b–4, 5, 6 (1)
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8–14
Gospel Acclamation: John 8:12
Gospel: John 9:1–41
This Sunday’s readings are about learning to evaluate people, situations and actions from God’s perspective. Seeing things in His light and with His eyes, including ourselves. This is what we are engaging in during Lent. It is a re-evaluation period, especially this year, with most Masses and Catholic in-person events cancelled for the foreseeable future. When we are busy doing religious things, it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking things are good between us and God. One of the deacons at my former parish used to say that it is easy for us to slip into “Catholic Cruise Control.”
I have noticed a lot of CHN Community members evaluating themselves, asking for help and posting resources and ideas for staying close to the Holy Trinity and the Saints, and that is very good.
The first reading is about learning about the difference between how we evaluate people and how God does.
1b 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.”… 6 As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the anointed is here before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16 NABRE)
Jesse came to the sacrifice with the seven oldest and biggest of his eight sons. The youngest one was out keeping the sheep. It sounds like Eliab must have looked like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Samuel was impressed, probably thinking, “I would like to see him leading the men of Israel against our enemies.” God nipped Samuel’s thoughts in the bud right away, saying that He doesn’t judge by appearance, but rather by the heart, which He can see. So, from then on in the evaluation process, Samuel listened to the voice of God rather than relying on his own eyes. All seven of the sons were rejected, and Jesse had to call his youngest son, who was probably the least impressive in stature, David, in from the pastures so Samuel could anoint him as the next king, because God saw his heart. God then anointed David with the Holy Spirit as Samuel anointed him with the oil.
God is more concerned about where our hearts are with Him than He is about our qualifications, with which we impress ourselves and others. We tend to be impressed by lineage, intelligence, eloquence and physique, but God isn’t. David was out in the fields, writing songs and singing them to the Lord when he wasn’t defending the sheep from bears and lions. And I imagine that he trusted the Lord and asked for His help when facing those predators, just like he did when he faced Goliath. Was David perfect? No, he blew it big time on a number of occasions. But overall, he trusted God, followed Him and stayed connected with Him.
God tends to pick people who know they’re not adequate but are willing to trust and follow Him.
As the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians (and us):
“26 Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, 28 and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, 29 so that no human being might boast before God. 30 It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31 NABRE)
The Psalm is one of our favorites that we turn to in uncertain times, like today, with the coronavirus spreading, the economy faltering and our future health and employment up in the air.
The Lord is our shepherd and not we ourselves. We are the sheep. He’s the one who looks after us and provides for us. If we stay close to the Lord, we are going to be okay, whether we live or die. Jesus is preparing a place for us in the Father’s house. And He will keep us on this earth until we accomplish the purpose for which He made us.
He can depose rulers and can take the unjust rich on a plunging elevator ride from riches to rags or call them to judgement before His throne in an instant.
Second Reading & Gospel Acclamation
The Apostle Paul teaches that becoming children of light is both a choice and a process following our being rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light with Jesus as our Lord. Jesus is the light of the world, as Sunday’s Gospel acclamation declares. As we learn to follow Him, He gives us the light of life. And He wants that light to flow through us to bring light to the darkness and to produce every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth. But we must choose to live as children of the light, learning what is pleasing to the Lord and not taking part in the fruitless works of darkness, as we did in the past.
What are we to do with our fruitless works of darkness? We are to root them out and expose them as we do in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the examination of our consciences. We are to confess them to our priests who, acting in persona Christi, absolve us of our sins. As the Apostle Paul says (Ephesians 5:13–14): “but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Our harmful sins become like a killed virus or bacterium, killed by bringing them into the light of Christ.
We learn a number of things in Sunday’s Gospel:
1) Physical problems are not necessarily the result of sin. They can be present for the works and glory of God. God can work in our lives through them so He can reveal Himself in the world to those around us. He can become visible to them. I saw this happen many times during my son’s fifteen-year medical battle. His caregivers could see God at work in my son and his supporting family and friends. And some of his medical team gave glory to God. They saw the light.
2) The man born blind from birth received his sight and believed three things: first, that Jesus was from God; second, that Jesus was at least a prophet; and third, he believed in Jesus as his Lord, the Son of God. In this way, he not only received the light of physical sight but light of spiritual sight as well. And he was willing to stick to the truth about what had happened to him and stick to Jesus, even when it resulted in him being kicked out of the synagogue.
3) The Pharisees, the conservative, Bible-believing and law-observing sect of the Jews, the ones who searched the Scriptures, thinking that in them they would find eternal life, were spiritually blind. They didn’t discern the Scriptures correctly and wouldn’t come to the One who is Life and Light Himself so that they might have life and the light of life. They thought they were disciples of Moses, the man of God. They thought they were serving God and were righteous. But Jesus tells them that they are of their father, the Devil, in John 8:44.
It is always good to prayerfully consider where we are at with the Lord, to see whether we are on “Catholic Cruise Control.” One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is that she provides so many resources for doing this and so many ways to be reconciled and draw near to Jesus. The Saints, too, are excellent examples to follow. May the Lord help us to use this time of penance profitably, and may He deliver us from the pandemic and restore the Mass to us.