Bishop's Homily for Fourth Sunday of Lent

This homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent was given at St. Thomas More Cathedral, Arlington, on April 2. Last week, as I began the homily at this Mass, I mentioned the intriguing title of a book published some years ago: That Man Is You. The book’s purpose was to show how various people in the Bible are like mirrors in which we see ourselves reflected. Last Sunday, this Sunday and next Sunday, a different person is projected before us. As you recall, last Sunday, it was the Woman at the Well. Today, it is the Man Born Blind and next Sunday, it will be Lazarus Raised from the Dead. As we see each of these, we do find ourselves reflected. As we ponder these reflections, we can grow in our life of faith: yes, those of us already baptized and those among us who are journeying towards full Christian initiation or the completion of this initiation: our catechumens and our candidates. The catechumens, present among us during the Liturgy of the Word, are the focus of increased prayer on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, this prayer being called the scrutines. Once again today, we shall pray in a particular way for these sisters and brothers seeking to be baptized even as we also commend to the Lord the candidates seeing to complete the Easter Sacraments by receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and/or Confirmation. As I mentioned, today the person in whom we see ourselves reflected is the Man Born Blind. In a commentary on today’s gospel passage, one sentence seemed to me so instructive. "The man born blind received more than his sight; he received a new way of looking at life." "A new way of looking at life:" isn’t that what we are seeking, those of us already baptized and fully initiated and those among us seeking either full initiation or the completion of this initiation? "A new way of looking at life:" isn’t that what we mean by "coping with life?" "A new way of looking at life:" isn’t that what "faith in Jesus" really implies? Yes, faith – religious faith – enables us to look at life differently. For people of faith, believing is seeing. Today’s scripture readings use the dominant themes of darkness and light, of blindness and sight. It is precisely our faith in Jesus the Light that frees us from the darkness of sin and moral evil. It is precisely this light of faith that removes our blindness, enabling us to see differently, in a new way. As Saint Paul tells us in today’s second reading, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light …." Today’s repeated references to "light" and "sight" indicate how the season of Lent came to be called the period of "purification and enlightenment." After all, Lent is intrinsically linked with Baptism, and at Baptism we are inserted into Christ Jesus, who is the Light of the World. At Baptism, we are given freely the gift of faith which becomes a light for our journey. Recall what was said: "Receive the light of Christ…. You have been enlightened by Christ…. Walk always as a child of light…. Keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts." Baptism thus enables us to be a people of faith, a people who walk by the light of faith. This Lent – and every Lent – either we are undergoing final preparations for Baptism and the other Easter Sacraments or we are seeking to renew and deepen our Baptismal commitment. Either way, we claim that we do see and are being challenged in today’s liturgy to open our eyes to the wider dimensions of what we celebrate and to see life in a new way precisely through the light of faith. For example, by the light of faith, we understand our dignity as human beings and disciples of Christ. As human beings, our dignity and worth are rooted in the fact that each of us is created in God’s image and likeness from the first moment of life at conception to its end at natural death. This is why violence to any human person is such an abomination, be it abortion, rape, incest, assisted suicide or murder, to name but several. As disciples of Christ Jesus, each of us at Baptism was chosen and called, like David in the First Reading, and consecrated too by being anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is why we treat with respect our bodies, because they are temples of God, and why we share in the Church’s mission, because we have been chosen, called and consecrated for service in the name of Christ and the Church. Again, by the light of faith, we understand how worship and witness, liturgy and life, must be integrated. As we grow more closely in union with Christ the Light through prayer, both liturgical and private, we become missioned to be the Light of Christ in the real world, in concrete circumstances, reaching out in charity and service to the most needy, sacrificing our comfort and ease to bring the redeeming love of Christ to others, beginning with our family members. Today’s CRS collection gives us a concrete way to show our charity for those in need at home and around the world. And for those of you among us preparing for full Christian initiation and for reception into the Catholic Church, you are being led, by the light of faith, to closer union with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water, the light of the world and the resurrection and the life. Seek Him in faith; receive Him by faith. Yes, there is much meaning in the sentence I quoted earlier in this homily: "the man born blind received more that his sight: he received a new way of looking at life." We have been given this new way if looking at life; we have been gifted with faith. This Lent, shall we grow in our appreciation of this gift? Shall we increase our practice of the faith, thereby learning better how to cope with life, how to look at life differently? I pray that we can do this. After all, for the disciples of Jesus, for us members of Christ’s Church and for those among us soon to become members with us, there is only one way to look at life with meaning and purpose, with hope and fidelity. It is the way of faith. Yes, with the man born blind, we exclaim: "I do believe, Lord!" Yes, for us, believing is seeing!

Copyright ?2000 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000