4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

For the Fourth Sunday of Lent we recall Our Lord’s healing of a blind man that brought many more things to light than just one man’s eyesight. It teaches us how blind we can be to what’s really going on. The Lord wants to cure us of the worst blindness: a spiritual one. Through faith in the Son of man we receive a deeper interior vision beyond our physical sight thanks to Christ, the light of the world.

In today’s First Reading the prophet Samuel has been sent to the house of Jesse in order to identify and anoint the new king of Israel. He’s been sent by the Lord to anoint a replacement for King Saul, who was a tall, golden-haired, powerful man who chose to ignore the Lord’s command because he feared public opinion. Samuel thought Jesse’s son Eliab would be a good replacement, because he was tall and handsome, much like Saul. The Lord shuts him down right away: “man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” David was not considered important enough to even invite to the feast. His father sent him to go do something “useful” while the big boys attended to serious things.

We all know how the story of King David goes from there. He not only becomes the greatest king of Israel (before Christ), but establishes the dynasty in which Christ will be born as the Messiah, the definitive king of Israel. Our Lord always looks into heart and helps bring the truth of people to light.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the Lord has brought us from darkness into light, and that light has exposed the good and the bad. Humanity was in darkness until the light of Christ came to lead us out of it. Sin not only disfigures us, it blinds us. With impaired vision and everyone disfigured it was impossible for us to see the right way to live without Our Lord’s help. It seems paradoxical that light is needed to recognize darkness, but before the coming of Christ the darkness of sin did an admirable job of presenting itself as very enlightened. Paul puts Christians who’ve now received the light of Christ on guard against a worldly outlook that seems enlightened, but actually is darkness and fruitless.

In today’s Gospel the Lord heals a blind man and helps to see with an entirely new level of light, the light of truth. This light shines on everyone involved in the story, and that light is Christ. The man born blind not only received the gift of sight, he received an opportunity to see that Jesus had been sent by the Father and had the power of God to heal. He saw a miracle happen.

The disciples thought his blindness was due to either his sin or the sin of his parents. Our Lord corrected them. His healing was to show God at work. The man born blind wanted to get on with his life, but his neighbors insisted on taking him to the Pharisees, because Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath. Our Lord had performed a miracle on the Sabbath. If God had not wanted to work miracles on the Sabbath, he would not have healed the blind man. Yet he did.

The Pharisees showed how blind they were to the will of God. They wanted to condemn Jesus as a sinner breaking the Sabbath because that was the way they saw the world. Their interpretation of the Law of Moses. The man born blind could not deny what was right in front of his face. At this point the Pharisees had decided to cast out anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah. He didn’t claim Jesus was the Messiah, but when he presented irrefutable logic to the Pharisees: “  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him … If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” His healing was to show God working, but the Pharisees couldn’t accept that, and cast him out.

Jesus went looking for him and gave him the opportunity to believe in him as the Messiah, and he accepted whole-heartedly. Our Lord had not just restored his sight; he’d given him the light to see salvation at his doorstep and the need to give witness to it.Christ showed the Pharisees that they weren’t blind, a motive for innocence for their attitude. They chose not to accept what they saw.

Lent may be a somber time of penance, but it is also a great time of spiritual light. Ask Our Lord to open your eyes to whatever thing in your life separates you from him.

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6–7, 10–13a; Psalm 23:1–6; Ephesians 5:8–14; John 9:1–41.

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year I

The Letter to the Hebrews is one of the most priestly writings in the New Testament, and in today’s First Reading the letter concludes by describing Our Lord as the “great shepherd of the sheep.” There is a vital connection between priest and pastor. Bishops and priests are shepherds of souls, but the sheep are Our Lord’s, and even the pastors are his sheep.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord listens to his pastors-in-training tell of their work with souls, and then he invites them to a place apart to rest and receive the pastoral care they need too. The needs of souls don’t let them dally for long, but the Great Shepherd takes time to lead every sheep to greener pastures.

Let’s pray for our pastors today.

Readings: Hebrews 13:15–17, 20–21; Psalm 23:1–6; Mark 6:30–34. See also 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to practice fraternal charity in a variety of situations. First, by practicing hospitality: making someone welcome. Whether they’re sent by the Lord or not, you are loving Our Lord through loving them. Second, by visiting those who at a low point in life: there’s no distinction between the guilty and those who got a bum rap when it comes to showing concern and kindness. Third, by honoring someone’s family as much as you honor them: not doing anything to break up a family, especially not for self-interest. Fourth, by not worrying about what you have and what you don’t: there’s no need to “keep up with the Jones,” just to trust Our Lord to help you with what you need.

Lastly, we need to consider everything our leaders have done for us. Authority can be a thankless job at times, and our leaders in the faith do so often making great sacrifices. Even leadership in the Church is a way of practicing fraternal charity. In following his advice we’re imitating Christ, who shows us that fraternal charity never goes out of fashion.

Herod in today’s Gospel failed in fraternal charity on so many levels, even though the Lord tried to reach him through John’s preaching. John may have been behind bars, but Herod’s prison was worse: he was trapped in doubt, immorality, distorted self-interest, and enslaved by his friends’ opinion of him. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help be more like John and less like Herod.

Readings: Hebrews 13:1–8; Psalm 27:1, 3, 5, 8b–9c; Mark 6:14–29. See also 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year IIPassion of St. John the Baptist, and 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.


4th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year I

In yesterday‘s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews describes Christian life as a race to be run, and today the Letter continues by describing the Lord as a loving and demanding parent who tries to bring the best out of us, even when we don’t appreciate it until later on. A coach demands the best from you, even when you don’t feel up to it or able to achieve. A coach who is also a parent knows you inside and out, knows the moment to insist, the moment to praise, the moment to correct.

Sometimes we think the Lord engineers events to make us miserable; it’s as if he’s out to ruin us. The Lord, like a parent, knows that sometimes we have to face trials and difficulties or we’ll never mature: he may not cause a trial or a difficulty, but sometimes he permits it for a greater good.

The little trials we face in life prepare us for greater ones. Let’s ask Our Lord to be the coach today we need.

Readings: Hebrews 12:4–7, 11–15; Psalm 103:1–2, 13–14, 17–18a; Mark 6:1–6. See also Thursday after Epiphany, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday17th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.


4th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading the Letter to the Hebrews evokes a beautiful image to describe how we are encouraged and supported by the communion of saints: a cloud of witnesses who cheer us on as we run the race of life. The communion of saints does not just consist of those who’ve finished their race and won; every believer who is pleasing to God is a witness to his wonders. If the saints in Heaven and on earth are cheering us on, we don’t want to disappoint them or the one who made the race winnable: Our Lord.

The cloud of witnesses remind us that there is a race and there is a finish line we have to cross. They help us focus on running the race, not on the drink table or the sore knee. Our Lord is waiting at the finish line to congratulate us and reward us. This race is a marathon, not a sprint; it requires focus and endurance to cross the finish line.

It’s not too late to catch a second wind in the race to eternity. May the cloud of witnesses help you keep running.

Readings: Hebrews 12:1–4; Psalm 22:26b–28, 30–32; Mark 5:21–43.  See also 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday and 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.