The Lenten theme of conversion is prominent in today’s Readings – a turning away from all that is darkness and a turning toward that which is light. On this Fourth Sunday of Lent the Elect and Candidates in the Initiation process celebrate the second Scrutiny. The early church referred to baptism as “enlightenment” and spoke of the Elect as seeking to be enlightened. The entire church, along with them, seeks enlightenment during this season of Lent which is meant to be a period of purification and enlightenment. “The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good.” (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #141).
In the First Reading we hear about God sending Samuel to anoint a new King. Samuel initially judges on appearances but discovers that God’s criteria is different from his own. The anointing of David is akin to Baptism. Through the anointing he is consecrated, that is, set apart for a specific purpose or mission. In Baptism we too, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, are anointed priest, prophet, and king, and set apart for mission.
The pericope from 1 Samuel reveals to us that God does not see as we see. Our vision can be blurred by our prejudices, our own darkness and selective blindness. God, however, sees into the heart, the center of who we truly are. Our actions may indicate one thing, our words may say another, but our heart is testimony to how we truly “see.”
In the Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that as “children of the light” (because through Baptism we have been “enlightened”) we are gifted to “see” things that others do not see. Our world view is “sacramental.”
In the Gospel from John, Jesus encounters a blind man. The disciples wonder if his blindness is a result of punishment from sin, a common notion in those days (and erroneously, sometimes today by some). At the end of the story we discover that the ones who are truly blind are the Pharisees because they refuse to believe in Jesus. He is in their midst, yet they do not “see” him. They are blinded by their own sin of self-righteousness.
Jesus offers liberation from those things that may blind us or blur our vision and invites us to live as children of the light. Living out of our heart, guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, demands honesty and courage. Like the man born blind we may experience betrayal, abandonment, or ridicule from those who claim to “see” but whose vision is weak, at best.
Blurred vision can enable us to be irresponsible. For some people blindness may simply be the way they live, seeing only themselves and their needs and wishes. There is also blindness in not wanting to become involved in other people’s problems or concerns or not recognizing those who are hurt, alienated or marginalized. It may be the blindness that fails to see the goodness in other human beings, in our friends, co-workers or family members. Much of our blindness is self-induced, a shell of protection that allows us to hide in our own self-centered world, defensive from those around us.
Next week we will hear Jesus calling us out of our cocoon – our tomb – asking us to let go of those things that blind or bind us and follow him – in faith – with trust – and conviction.
The best is yet to come!