Fourth Sunday of Lent 

Preparing for the Word

Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.      
            O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will. 


Reading the Word

Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina.  You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or with others. 

Gospel                                                                                   John 9:1-41     

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, 
that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered,Linocut print by Robert Hodgell
"Neither he nor his parents sinned; 
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
"Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?"
Some said, "It is, "
but others said, "No, he just looks like him."
He said, "I am."
So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?"
He replied,
"The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.'
So I went there and washed and was able to see."
And they said to him, "Where is he?"
He said, "I don't know."

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
"He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see."
So some of the Pharisees said,
"This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said,
"How can a sinful man do such signs?"
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
"What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?"
He said, "He is a prophet."

Now the Jews did not believe 
that he had been blind and gained his sight 
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
"Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?"
His parents answered and said, 
"We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself."
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, 
for the Jews had already agreed 
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
"He is of age; question him."

So a second time they called the man who had been blind 
and said to him, "Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner."
He replied,
"If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see."
So they said to him,
"What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?"
He answered them,
"I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
They ridiculed him and said, 
"You are that man's disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, 
but we do not know where this one is from."
The man answered and said to them,
"This is what is so amazing, 
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, 
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything."
They answered and said to him,
"You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?"
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
He answered and said, 
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus said to him,
"You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he."
He said,
"I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
"I came into this world for judgment, 
so that those who do not see might see, 
and those who do see might become blind."

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this 
and said to him, "Surely we are not also blind, are we?"
Jesus said to them,
"If you were blind, you would have no sin; 
but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains.

For all of the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent go to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032617.cfm


Reflecting on the Word

Helen Keller who was deaf and blind said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

The Blind man’s parents, neighbors, and the Pharisees had sight, but no vision. Even the disciples didn’t seem to have a vision for the man born blind. He was just a consequence of sin. All they could see was, “Who sinned this man or his parents?”

Jesus has vision! He sees clearly. He says, “Neither he nor his parents sinned it is so the works of God might be made visible through him.”  In John Chapter 6:29 Jesus said. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."  We find that this man who starts blind, ends being able to see with his physical eyes, but even more with the eyes of faith. Thus, he truly makes visible the work of God!

Light plays a powerful role in the Gospel of John.  In Genesis 1, the first thing God speaks into creation is Light. John, in seeking to highlight the reality of Jesus Divinity, begins his Gospel as a new creation story. Genesis 1 starts, “In the beginning God created”. John 1 starts,  “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of Grace and truth.

John introduces Jesus not as a baby in Bethlehem, but as the Lord of all creation. In the beginning Jesus was always with God. As we say in the creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God from God, light from light, true God from true God.”

After Jesus affirms, what John has declared from the beginning, that he is the “light of the World”, we are told he spat on the ground and made clay with his saliva and smeared the clay on the man’s eyes.

This is a creation story, A new creation! In Genesis 2 was are told that God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. Here Jesus mixes his saliva with the dust of the earth making clay and rubs that clay over the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool called Siloam which means “sent”. The old creation left the man blind, the new creation in Jesus heals the man. But his physical sight is only a fore shadow of the true work of God which is the man’s spiritual sight – The work of God is that he might believe in Him whom he has sent!

Bishop Robert Barren suggests that the Blind man represents all of us. We are all meant to identity with this man. The fact that he is not given a name is another invitation for us to see ourselves as the man born blind. Adams sin has affected us all. Barren goes on to quote St. Augustine who wrote that Jesus spittle is his divinity and the ground his humanity. Thus, the clay represents Jesus incarnation and the source of healing for the man’s sin sick eyes.

The pool is also an image of baptism. It is in our baptism that we become a New Creation.

John is considered the most sacramental of the Gospel writers and there is a deep connection between baptism and light.  When we are baptized. We are given a light to be kept burning! In baptism we become a new creation and are called to live as Children of Light as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:8.

The incarnation, God becoming man, is essential for our salvation. In our own blindness we cannot save or heal ourselves. Yet, Jesus, God in the flesh, our creator and redeemer has the power and humility to save us. He can restore our vision.

Barren makes another interesting point. He says that the pool is called Siloam which means “Sent”. In John’s gospel Jesus is referred to as the one who is “sent”. Thus, Jesus asking the man to go wash in the pool is to ask him to immerse himself in Jesus. This is what we do in baptism!

                Romans 6:3-4 says, “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

As baptized Children of light we are called to immerse ourselves - to saturate ourselves into the light of Christ. We are all called to live as Children of light so that the works of God might be made visible in and through us!

We are only baptized once, but every Easter Vigil we are given an opportunity to rededicate our baptismal vows. We are asked once again if we reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises. Then we profess our faith in our triune God. Every time we enter the church we dip our fingers in the water and make the sign of the cross. Thus, reaffirming our baptismal identity and claiming our identity as God’s beloved children.

Lent is an amazing time to immerse ourselves in Jesus! He is our light. We were blind, but now we see!

Yet, the sad reality of so many – witnessed by the reaction of the man’s neighbors, his parents and the Pharisees is that we all too often prefer the darkness over the light. Or we let the struggles of the world and our lives dim the light of Christ within us.

The neighbors didn’t believe that this was the same man. How could anyone born blind receive sight. Sometimes we do not really believe God can heal us.

The man’s parents were afraid. They didn’t want to get kicked out of the synagogue – they didn’t want to get involved.  Afraid of what might happen. Afraid of what changes Jesus might make in their lives.

The Pharisees had already made up their minds. They were very content with their spirituality. They were convinced they saw just fine. They were religious, but not open to God’s work! They thought they could see, but they were, in fact, blind.

The Man while being kicked out of the synagogue, was open to God!  He was blind and now he could see.  But notice, his sight didn’t necessarily help the man. His friends didn’t believe it was him, his parents were not willing to get involved and the religious leaders wouldn’t listen to him. Nevertheless, his heart was open to Jesus!

May we seek this Lent to embrace our baptismal identity and by God’s grace saturate our lives in the light of Christ that the works of God might be made visible in and through our lives – all for the glory and praise of our Lord, the Light of the world!


Pondering the Word

In meditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart.

You may find the following questions helpful in doing this. 

1. How is Jesus inviting me to grow closer to him in this reading.         

2. Is there anything currently in my life, in my past, in my disposition that is keeping me from growing closer to Jesus?

3. What does it mean for you to live your baptismal identity as a “child of the light”?                                                                                               4. What hinders you from embracing the light of Christ?                                                                                                                                         5. In what ways has the work of God been made visible in your life?                                                                                                                  6. In what ways is Jesus calling me to follow him at this moment in my life? 


Praying the Word

In the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to prayer.  Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus heart-to-heart.


Closing Prayer

You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer:

O God, author of every mercy and all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

     one God, for ever and ever. Amen.