YEAR A: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT
TOPIC: SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Jn 9:1-41 (The Healing of a Blind Man)
Message # 391: “I Am Opening for You the Sealed Book”
- The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother talks about the sealed book mentioned in the Book of Revelation. She says that the secrets contained in it talk about the great apostasy, the great tribulation and the great chastisement. Instead of considering these negatively, we should look at them with the eyes of faith. Let us never be blind to the signs of the times around us. These present to us serious challenges as Christians:
b) Great Apostasy – the challenge is to remain in the true faith and give witness to it (letter d).
c) Great Tribulation – the challenge is to let the people know of the peace and protection of God and the Blessed Mother (letter e).
d) Great Chastisement – the world is undergoing this chastisement already. The challenge is for us to be of assistance to others so that they will continue to pray, hope and to totally trust in God as His children (letter f).
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading is a reminder of the truth that “not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” This was what God said to the prophet Samuel who was looking for the king chosen by God, who will replace King Saul.
b) The Responsorial Psalm is a song of praise to God who is the Good Shepherd. Aside from his genuine compassion and care for the flock, the good shepherd must have also clear vision – to lead his flock to where the green pastures and fresh waters are, and to have a keen eye on the lurking enemies and dangers ahead.
c) St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians in the second reading to “live as children of light”. Being saved by the Lord from darkness, they are to “take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” This enlightenment comes from Jesus: “Christ will give you light.”
d) The Gospel is the account of the healing of a man born blind. The healing became controversial because it was done on a Sabbath. The man was not only healed and his sight restored; he was also given new life, insofar as the Jewish society is concerned because it is believed that physical blindness and any other kind of illness or deformity are caused by sin. But most importantly, the man’s eyes of faith were opened, and he recognized Jesus and expressed faith in him: “I do believe, Lord!”
e) Relation to the Marian Message: The message of the Blessed Mother is an eye-opener. She reveals the secrets in the Book of Revelation. If we open our eyes of faith, we will see all these signs of the times. There is so much suffering because of man’s depravity. Yet God continues to work out His saving plan. Not everything that is happening is negative. We will also see God’s hand in every event around us, “writing straight with crooked lines.” The message is clear: conversion, reparation and offering. We turn away from sin and return to the Lord, while there is still time. We repair the damage by doing more sacrifices to appease the Lord’s wrath and to rectify man’s wrongdoing. And we offer ourselves totally to God. Like the blind man in the Gospel, God will make us see His glory and salvation being offered to us. May we all come to fully recognize Jesus as our Lord and our God. This is the goal we should try to achieve during this season of Lent.
- Points for Reflection
a) The Sabbath and the Day of the Lord. Since Jesus healed the blind man on a Sabbath, the Jews accused Him of violating the Sabbath rest: “This man is not from God because he does not keep the Sabbath” (v. 16). Kneading clay is already a kind of work prohibited on a Sabbath. The Jews strictly followed the Sabbath law. This law originated from the account of creation in Genesis. God created the world in six days. And on the seventh day He rested. That is why the seventh day (Saturday) is a day of rest. There are many kinds of work that are forbidden on this day. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, have a distorted notion of Sabbath. God wanted the people to rest on this day so that they will have enough time and proper disposition to commune with Him in silence and prayer. But the Pharisees took advantage of this law to condemn people. As a result, Sabbath had a negative effect: it became a burden to people and an occasion to sin. That is why Jesus had to point it out to them: “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
It must be clear to us as Christians that we do not observe the Sabbath law. What we have is Sunday, the first day of the week. We call it the Day of the Lord. There are two major reasons: first, it was on the first day of the week that Jesus resurrected from the dead, and second, it was also on this day that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles on Pentecost. Work is allowed on Sunday if it is truly necessary. But we are just reminded that it is the Day of the Lord. The six days are our days. But Sunday is the Lord’s. Let us not take it away from Him. The best way to spend this day is to go to church and celebrate the Eucharist, and to make this day conducive to prayer and reflection. That is why it is best not to work on this day in order to have full focus on the Lord. But if we really need to work in order for the family to survive, then we can do so, provided we remember it is the Day of the Lord, and we attend Mass.
Failing to go to Mass on Sunday without serious reason is mortal sin. Many people do not remember or do not mind this anymore. Coming to Mass on Saturday for anticipated Sunday Mass should not be on a regular basis. The anticipated Sunday Mass on Saturday is only for those people who cannot come to Mass for that Sunday because of a very important reason, but not every Sunday. There are many Catholics who go to Mass on Saturday, and then on Sunday they wash clothes, go to the grocery or make Sunday a day of recreation and outing. This is totally wrong.
It is very obvious how the devil wants to take us farther away from the Day of the Lord. All sorts of distractions are on Sunday: flea market, movies, parades, cockfights, drinking and mahjong sessions, games, outing, etc. We have to teach our family to bring back Sunday for what it truly is: the Day of the Lord.
b) The Concept of Sickness: The Jews believed that those who are infertile, sick and those born with deformities and handicaps are sinful. These are considered by the Jews as punishments of God for their sins or the sins of their parents. In the Gospel, they could not accept the healing of the man born blind and his testimony. They harshly expressed their indignation towards him: “You are born totally in sin, and you are trying to teach us?” (v. 34). Jesus tried to correct this misconception. (See John 9:2-3). That is why on several occasions that Jesus did some healings, He would always first say: “My son, your sins are forgiven.” This is to let His listeners understand that the sick man cannot be accused of being sinful simply because of his sickness. God does not want us to be sick or handicapped. Sickness is not connected with sin. We get sick simply because our bodies are not perfect; they have defects and limitations. But Jesus always gives the warning after each healing: “Go and do not sin anymore lest something worse may overtake you.” Though sickness is not connected with sin, Jesus warns us to avoid sin. Sickness is a reminder and warning to us that our lives are limited and fragile. We must be ready and vigilant at all times.
c) Sacraments are necessary: Jesus used saliva, mixed it with mud and made a paste out of it, and then He applied it to the eyes of the blind man. Then He ordered him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus did not need all these things and processes in order to effect the healing. He can just say the word and the man will be healed. But He used these sensible signs for the sake of the persons involved. That is very much similar with the sacraments we have in the Church. God can directly act by doing instant miracles. But for our sake, so that we can somehow understand, He uses instruments and signs, which are perceptible to our senses (persons, things, gestures and words). That is why Jesus instituted the sacraments. The Gospel today intends to help us appreciate the value of the sacraments in our lives.
d) The Process of Conversion: The long and detailed narration of John is to make us aware of the gradual process of the blind man’s recovery of sight, especially spiritual sight. The healing of the physical eyes can be instantaneous. But the healing of the spiritual sight is ordinarily a long process. The blind man initially considered Jesus merely as a man, then a prophet, and finally as Lord. Before he came to full recognition of Jesus as Lord, he had first to undergo severe testing and ostracism from the Jewish leaders and from his own family. Conversion and growth/maturity in the faith take a long time, even a lifetime process that can oftentimes be painful. The case of the conversion of St. Paul is an exceptional one. Yet after the encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, he still had to undergo a process of spiritual growth and maturity – he was blind for three days and was able to recover his sight with the help of God’s instrument, Ananias (Acts 9). The Gospel today reminds us to be patient and full of hope as we undergo the long process of growth in the faith. What is important is that the process of conversion and growth has to begin in our lives.
e) Spiritual Blindness: The man was born blind, but he was calling Jesus as Son of David. The other Jews could see Jesus, but they were blind because they could not see beyond His physical appearance. They refused to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah despite all the proofs of His divine powers. To be physically blind is really unfortunate. But to be spiritually blind is the worst. Ang bulag ay maaaring makakita. Pero ang nagbubulag-bulagan ay hindi talaga makakakita dahil sadyang ayaw makakita.
The Season of Lent is a time of grace. It challenges us to look into ourselves. This is the time for self-examination. It is easier to look at others and criticize them; but it is never easy to look at ourselves and admit our sinfulness and weaknesses. As we come closer to the apex of the Christian celebration, which is the Paschal Triduum, we are encouraged to use the eyes of our soul and look into ourselves. We will realize how sinful we are, so we will ask God for forgiveness and mercy. “A humbled, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.” May we never refuse to see: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE BEC
1. Ano ang malimit na dahilan ng pagkabulag sa espiritu (spiritual blindness)?
2. Paano natin maipagdiriwang ang araw ng Linggo bilang Araw ng Panginoon?
3. Sa mga nangyayari ngayon sa iba’t ibang dako ng mundo – kalamidad, digmaan, imoralidad, at sari-saring kasamaan – may nakikita ka bang leksyon o pahiwatig ng Diyos para sa atin?