Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
Who could have ever guessed the talent and beauty hidden within the less than comely exterior of Susan Boyle of 2009 Britain’s Got Talent?
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Seeing as God Sees
Samuel is seeking a successor for Saul. He thinks that God’s choice is surely one of Jesse’s seven sons who are present when he arrives, but he is mistaken. Who but God would choose the young and inexperienced David to be the symbol of God’s power and strength? This is a concrete example of how God’s choices are not like ours. God sees in people what we fail to see. David may have been young and inexperienced, but he has the inner disposition that God is looking for, namely, love of and loyalty to God. The anointing is a solemn ritual act sealing God’s selection of David.
During this Lenten season, as we examine our conscience, and as the Elect prepare for Baptism, we are reminded that we must always seek to see as God sees. At our Baptism, we too were anointed with oil to remind us that God has a special mission for us.
The first reading is a great lesson on seeing as God sees. Samuel thinks that God’s choice of a new king to succeed Saul is surely not the young and inexperienced David. But God says to Samuel: “Do not judge from appearances…. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” In our society today, we so often judge by appearances. Often, appearance and presentation are everything. We are told to “dress for success.” That may be the way of the world, but it is not God’s way. God is totally disinterested in appearances. His interest is in what resides in the heart. God sees that David has a good heart and chooses him as king. As we all know, David is far from perfect. He commits adultery and then plans to have Uriah and others killed to cover up his sin. But God continues to believe in David because David repents of his sin (Psalm 50 is his Act of Contrition).
Commenting on the first reading, Patricia Sanchez writes:
Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four and could not read until age seven. His teacher called him “mentally slow and adrift in foolish dreams.” Rodin’s father described his son as an “idiot.” His uncle called the sculptor uneducable and Rodin failed three times to gain admittance to art school. Beethoven’s teacher called him “hopeless” as a composer. Winston Churchill, who became Prime Minister of England at 62, failed sixth grade. After a lifetime of defeats and setbacks, he began to achieve some success only as a senior citizen. Rudyard Kipling’s work was rejected by the San Francisco Examiner newspaper with the comment, “You just don’t know how to use the English language.” When George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was first performed, a reviewer called it “sure-fire rubbish.” Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book was rejected by 27 publishers. This list of so-called “losers” who surprised their detractors with their stunning successes could go on and on. Those judging them didn’t see as God’s sees.
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 16:7 (NAB)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want
The sentiments in this most loved of the psalms can be applied to both David and the man healed in today’s Gospel.
God’s loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Ps 23:1–4) and a host’s generosity toward a guest (Ps 23:5–6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Is 40:11; 49:10; Jer 31:10). God as good shepherd is common in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Ez 34:11–16; Jn 10:11–18). (Source: NAB notes).
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. — Ps 23:1-2 (NAB)
Living as Children of the Light
In the second reading—often seen as a homily to the newly baptized—Paul exhorts his hearers to put aside “fruitless works of darkness” and to live as children of the light. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us Catholics the opportunity to name and face our deeds of darkness and be forgiven for them, and to begin to walk again as children of the light.
Fr. Lawrence Mick once wrote:
Those who sin prefer the darkness. They do not want their deeds to be seen or their thoughts to be known. Thieves and murderers prefer the dark. So do those who commit lesser sins. Thus coming into the light is an image of conversion.In this passage, though, Paul goes further and suggests that we not only live in the light of Christ but also become light for others. If we produce “goodness and righteousness and truth,” then we light the way for others and make their lives brighter. That’s a good goal for each of us this Lent.
Lenten Penance Services
The Sacrament of Reconciliation can also be called the sacrament of God’s mercy. Pope Francis says: “God never gets tired of forgiving us but we get tired of asking for his mercy.”
Sadly, all too many Catholics have given up coming to this Sacrament. If you are one of them, I urge you to return. Jesus is waiting to receive you. Allow him to wipe away all your sins: the ones you are aware of, the ones you have forgotten, and the ones you are not even aware of. Often we are blind to sin in our life, partially because we have forgotten that sin is not only the wrong we may have done, but also the good we could have done.
Questions for reflection as we examine our conscience
♦ What do I do to nurture my relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
♦ To what extent am I a positive presence in my home, work-place and in my social relationships, including church relationships?
♦ As I seek God’s mercy, to what extent am I a merciful person? If I am holding onto resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness, am I doing what I can to release it?
♦ To what extent do I show mercy to those in need and to hurting people I know?
♦ Where is there a need for conversion in my life?
♦ Do I misuse the gift of speech by use of foul language or to gossip? A good practice is to ask the Holy Spirit to show us where there is sin in our life and to ask for the grace of true repentance.
The Man Born Blind
In last weekend’s Gospel, Jesus revealed himself to a nameless Samaritan woman. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself to a nameless blind man as the One who gives the light of faith. The atmosphere of hostility and controversy which pervades the story, symbolizes the struggle which goes on between light and darkness, belief and unbelief. As in last week’s Gospel, the story operates on different levels. On one level, we notice a man receiving physical sight. On another level, we see the same man receiving spiritual sight. On a third level, there is a contrast between the openness of the blind man to Jesus and the closed-mindedness of the Pharisees to him.
The story begins with the disciples asking if the man’s blindness was caused by his sin or the sin of his parents. Jesus answers:‘Neither,’ thus defying the traditional belief that sickness and suffering in a person’s life are caused by one’s sinfulness. As a result of the ritual washing, the man is healed of his blindness, symbolizing the enlightenment we receive in the sacramental waters of Baptism. Then the healed one undergoes a series of interrogations. During the interrogations, we note how the blind man graduallycomes to recognize the true nature of Jesus. First, he calls Jesus ‘that man,’ then “prophet” and finally, he worships Jesus as the ‘Son of Man.’ In the story, the blind man represents people who overcome many obstacles as they come into faith. He also represents those who suffer ostracization because of faith.
As we gladly watch the blind man gradually move into the ‘light of faith,’ we sadly notice the Pharisees move into the ‘darkness of unbelief,’ an act which reaches its climax when the Pharisees call Jesus ‘a sinner.’ The Pharisees also call the blind man a sinner. But as the story unfolds, we clearly see that the real sinners are the Pharisees, not because they do not see, but because they insist that they do see and, therefore, have no need for enlightenment. In the story, the blind man’s parentsrepresent all those who claim that they ‘see’ just because they have head knowledge of their religion. The blind man’s parents represent those who fear expulsion from the Jewish community for believing in Jesus. They also represent our weak side that is not willing to risk much for our faith.
The Christian journey is moving out of the ‘darkness of unbelief’ into the ‘light of faith.’ During the coming week, we might wish to reflect on our own Christian journey. We may want to name and give thanks for the events and the people who opened our eyes to Jesus and his values. We might also think about the things in our lives that presently hinder us from moving more and more into the light.
As for this Gospel’s sacramental significance, Jesus’ cure of the blind man has several baptismal references. Healed and anointed and enlightened by Jesus, the blind man who comes to see and believe in Jesus typifies every baptized believer. Washed and anointed at Baptism, we are to live in the light of faith, walk by the light of truth, and follow Jesus who is the Light of the world in all we are, in all we do, in all we say.
Movement from Darkness to Light
This powerful Gospel opens with the disciples asking Jesus: “Who sinned, the blind man or his parents?” Jesus answers: “Neither” — thus rejecting the strong traditional belief that if bad fortune came one’s way, it must be because he/she had sinned. But that belief lingers on today. People often ask: “What have I done wrong to deserve this tragedy?” The answer is “Nothing” (though a qualifier may be added that we can do stupid things that may have terrible consequences.) In this world of darkness and light, bad things happen to good people. In God’s plan, he wants to use unfortunate situations like blindness to show forth the glory of God. We see this happening in today’s Gospel.
Jesus anoints the blind man and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloan. He is healed. The anointing and washing are two powerful baptismal symbols. Baptism washes away the darkness of sin and fills us with the light of faith. At Baptism, we are anointed for service just as David was anointed in today’s first reading.
After the healing, we notice two movements, one into the light and the other into the darkness. Gradually, the formerly blind man moves into the light of faith. Initially, he simply calls Jesus “that man.” Then he calls him a “prophet.” Finally, like the woman at Jacob’s Well, he sees that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. If the man had not been born blind, he may never have met Jesus or received the gift of faith, which has given him spiritual vision for the rest of his life. In this story, the blind man symbolizes all who gradually come to faith, overcoming obstacles along the way. He also symbolizes all who experience ostracization because of their belief in Christ.
The second movement in the story is the movement into the darkness of unbelief. We see this sad story happen-ing with the Pharisees who, given their background, should have recognized Jesus. Instead, they harden their hearts against him and call him a “sinner.” The Pharisees represent all who think they have faith just because they have a “head knowledge” of their religion.
Application to our lives
Who are we in this story? We may be a mixture of all the characters in the story. Like the man born blind, we too were born spiritually blind and ignorant of God. Gradually, with the help of God and others, we received the light of faith.
Like the disciples, we too may believe that bad things happen to us because we are sinners. Like the blind man’s parents, we too may distance ourselves from a family member or friend who has a conversion experience. They now may make us feel uncomfortable.
Like the Pharisees, we may be “know-it-alls”—coming to church on Sundays but with closed hearts. We may have closed our hearts to a particular priest or deacon because there’s something in him that rubs us the wrong way. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “It is because you say you see, that it is why I call you blind.” Wow! That’s a line worth pondering. If we think we see, we can be sure we are blind and hard-hearted. If we gladly admit our spiritual blindness, we will most likely be blessed with spiritual sight. Finally, it is said that some of us “prefer the evil(darkness) we know to the good we do not know.” For example, we may be in denial about some problem in our personal lives or in our home. It could be a drug or alcohol addiction of a family member, a grief issue or a marital problem. We prefer to stay in the darkness than face the pain involved in moving into the light. Christ’s desire is to massage our eyes open, take us by the hand, and lead us into the truth and freedom of his light.
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?
2. Samuel judged by outer appearances. This is a temptation for many of us. We are told to ‘dress for success.’ What might help us to quit judging by appearances so that we can see the inner good qualities of someone poorly dressed or someone not blessed with social skills?
3. In the second reading, Paul reminds us that vocation is to live as a ‘child of the light.’ Name one or two ways that you try to live as a child of the light.
4. What are some examples of spiritual blindness? What causes it? What can free us from it?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on
Call to Action
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to see the ways in which you are spiritually blind and then ask Jesus to heal you of your blindness.
Jesus, help me to see others and myself as you see us.
Jesus, who heals all ills, open my eyes to see as you see. Fill me with your light so that I choose to see your goodnessin others, the world, and myself. Heal the self-righteousnessthat keeps me blind. Amen.
Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.
Walking in the Light
If we can bring light to others, shouldn’t we do that without delay? If we can bring life and help each other flourish and live in fullness, shouldn’t we do that without hesitation? We can be light for one another now. God is light for us now. Live now. Walk in the light.
CATHOLIC WOMEN PREACH – March 15, 2020
EXCERPT — As we continue our journey through this season of Lent, we are met with the question of who is worthy in God’s eyes. Based on false expectations the Israelites and the Pharisees never thought David would be chosen king or that Jesus would heal the man born blind. Worthiness may be found not in reputation or pedigree or appearance, but in one’s heart.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
EXCERPT – The story of the man born blind is a powerful story, for it reminds us that God has a plan for our life. But if we are ever to see that plan, we must be willing to take the next step. Like the man who was born blind, we must have the courage to step out of self-pity and hopelessness. We must have the courage to step out of comfort and the status quo. We are always free to sit down where we are right now and say, “This is it. I will go no further.” But the gospel warns against that stagnation. It tells us that Jesus is leading us forward, inviting us to move into the future. Jesus is calling us so that step by step we may come to see him face to face.
BUILDING ON THE WORD – Fr. George Sigma
EXCERPT — Throughout the story of the healing of the blind man, the Evangelist registers various titles, adjectives and names given to Jesus by a host of people, the disciples, the Evangelist himself, the blind man, the Pharisees and Jesus Himself. This way of describing the events in the life of Jesus was part of the catechesis of the time. It was a way of helping people to clarify their own ideas concerning Jesus and to identify themselves in His regard. Here are some of the names, adjectives and titles. The list shows the growth of the blind man in faith and how his vision becomes clear.
THE ORDER OF CARMELITES – Lectio Divina: Sundays of Lent
EXCERPT — How would you explain color to a person born blind? Think about it. The person you are talking to has absolutely no frame of reference for what you want to describe. You might explain that different colors distinguish objects like different tastes distinguish foods. But all the non-seeing person would get from that is the concept of difference. You have told him nothing about sight, or red, green, purple, bright or hazy. A person born blind has nothing in her repertoire of experience to help her imagine seeing. Imagination is built on images — and someone who is not sighted has no visual images. That person can learn to read Braille and to navigate in the world of objects. She will probably develop other senses to a degree that seeing people do not. But no matter how well she navigates the world, she will never have real insight into the visual world.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – Mary M. McGlone, CSJ
EXCERPT — Spiritual blindness is often assumed to be a negative attribute, but here John’s Gospel suggests that we must fully appreciate our own spiritual blindness in order to see the light of Christ. As we journey through Lent, we should acknowledge our limitations and seek healing from Christ. Today’s Gospel begins with a physical healing and ends by asserting the importance of spiritual healing.
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (Jn 9:5)
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT — The story of the blind man does, however, ring a bell for anyone who has ever read “The Myth of the Cave” in Plato’s Republic. There we find a story of all humanity chained in a darkened cave throughout life. These captives can see nothing but flickering images on a wall—shadows, appearances, illusions—which they take for reality. One prisoner, liberated from the chains, makes the arduous crawl upward to the world of the shining sun. When he returns to the cave with his tales of the new-found source of light and the life and warmth it gives, the prisoners think him crazy. They simply deny his experience. It just can’t be. The chains and the amusing images on the wall are reality. Thus his conversion is ridiculed; his invitation is resisted.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – Father John Kavanaugh, SJ
EXCERPT — The Lectionary readings for this Lent are especially geared for those adults preparing for baptism at Easter. A moving part of the ritual of the Easter Vigil is the lighting of candles — first the great paschal candle and then candles held by the entire congregation. All of this signals the advent of new life with the resurrection of Christ. During the ordinary baptismal ritual, those accompanying the child or adult to be baptized also witness the lighting of a candle with the same meaning. — 2020 Reflections
CHICAGO CATHOLIC – Father Donald Senior, CP