FIRST READING (David is anointed as king of Israel.)
A reading from the first Book of Samuel (16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a)
The Lord said to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any one of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The Lord said, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Ps 23:1)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
SECOND READING (Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (5:8-14)
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 8:12)
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life. (R)
GOSPEL (The man who was blind went off and washed himself and came back able to see.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to 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, “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, and 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.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
GOSPEL (The man who was blind went off and washed himself and came back able to see.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (9:1,6-9, 13-17, 34-38)
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. 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.”
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.”
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, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Do I see only what I want to see?”
Introduction: In the 3rd 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, we hear three stories that carry great overtones for the Elect who are scheduled to be baptized. The themes of each of these Sundays– the Samaritan Woman, the Man Born Blind, and the Raising of Lazarus – are rich with symbolism. Last week we heard of WATER and SPIRIT; for this Sunday the themes are LIGHT and FAITH, and for next week, the themes are DEATH and LIFE. I encourage everyone who can to read these three Gospel passages from St. John as a meditation.
How do we face difficulties? Our Gospel today helps us to reflect on this very challenge. Like the disciples, some of us might believe that misfortune is indeed a punishment for sin. Like the blind man’s parents, we too might be wary of standing in support of another if we fear that our own status may be in jeopardy. Like the blind man himself, we might be amazed at how God can work wonders in our lives.
Is misfortunate really a punishment for sin? That’s a very difficult question to answer, especially in these recent months where we have faced so much from social upheaval and violence, to the present where we – the world around us – face the mysterious contagion of a virus we can neither see nor sense is near, and yet people all around are suddenly infected and hospitalized, and some die.
More than ever now, we can see how there are times when we do suffer the consequences of our own foolish or malicious behavior, ignoring the warnings we hear nearly every day, ignoring personal hygiene, ridiculing social distancing, and placing others – even those we love – in danger because of our foolishness.
Yet our Gospel today also assures us that misfortune is not always punishment for sin. The story of the man born blind doesn’t demonstrate his sinfulness at all, but addresses religious openness and insight even before he gained physical sight. This man obeys Jesus’ directions and washes in the Pool of Siloam. He responds with honest directness to the questions of the Pharisees about his miracle – even when he faces ridicule and rejection. Finally, his openness to believing in Jesus is without guile or condition. The man’s blindness is certainly not the consequence of any sin.
And the parents of the man are faced with a serious dilemma. Should they support their son in the claims that he now makes about his restored sight? Or should they protect their own status before the religious authorities? They chose this latter part, and they abandon their son to the skepticism and scorn of the Pharisees.
So, we can ask, who in this story really suffers from blindness? The religious leaders refuse to SEE what is right before their eyes, that is, that a man who was born blind now SEES. The man’s parents admit the wonder of his healing, but they lack both the religious insight to accept that this gift comes from God, and the courage to support their son in his moment of trial. Only the man born blind possesses both SIGHT and FAITH.
Hearing this Gospel story, we should wonder: Why is it that we often remain in our own darkness and blindness? Is it because of a rigid insistence on some protocol (such as the excuse of the Pharisees)? In one sense the Pharisees were correct. Jesus did break the Law as they understood it by healing on the Sabbath. Despite this breaching of the law, these religious leaders are themselves blind; they refuse to acknowledge the divine power of God working outside of the structures of their religious system. They refuse to accept God’s freedom and so they are blind to the miracles that divine freedom can accomplish. They see only what they want to see.
At other times we are blinded by fear. All around us these days we are experiencing blinding fear. We fear the unseen virus; we are afraid of how others might see or judge us by our actions. In the Gospel, the blind man’s parents feared standing up to support and defend their son. Sometimes we fear standing up for what is right, and we close our eyes and choose not to acknowledge the truth. When we act in this way, we blind ourselves to the wonders that are still unfolding before our very eyes. We see only what we want to see.
In our first reading from the Book of Samuel, we are given a lesson about another type of blindness, that which comes from judging a person’s looks or stereotyping them. We judge someone as being too young, or too old, or they are not of the right gender or not from the correct ethnic background. They may lack power or wealth or importance in our eyes. Samuel was seeking a king from among the sons of Jesse, but he was considering only those of “lofty stature.” He did not consider the possibility of the youngest son, David. Yet, this was the one on whom God’s favor rested. When we close our eyes to what a person might become, or what they might accomplish, we see only what we want to see.
St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Ephesians that in the past we all suffered some form of spiritual blindness; in past times we all lived in some form of darkness. But now, thanks to faith in Jesus we are called to be “children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We are no longer blinded by rigidity, or fear, or prejudice. We are now called to OPEN OUR EYES TO THE LIGHT, and with such faith and hope, take courageous steps into the future.
Brothers and sisters, as we struggle to OPEN OUR EYES and to LIVE IN THE LIGHT of Christ, we take inspiration from our Responsorial psalm, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.” Yes, the Lord IS our shepherd, protecting us from all harm, leading us on the right path and giving us repose.
We can walk fearlessly and courageously through darkness with God as our shepherd and guide. We no longer are caught up seeing only what we want to see; with Jesus the Good Shepherd, we choose to see what HE wants us to see.
In these days and weeks of doubt and fear, will we – can we – choose light and all the responsibilities that choice entails?
Let us keep faith and hope that God is eager to restore us to sight. Are we ready, as the blind man in the Gospel, to get up and wash in the waters of salvation so that we too might see?
Celebrant: Healed of his blindness, the man born blind proclaims, “Lord, I believe!” With that same faith in Christ the Light of the World, we come to the Father in prayer.
READER: That Christ the light of the world may ever shine through the unity and charity of his Church, especially in these difficult times, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That Christ the light of the world may cast out rivalry and the worship of power from the minds of leaders of nations, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That Christ the light of the world may kindle hope in the hearts of those who are sick and suffering or who know that death is near, and especially for those suffering at this time of the virus, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That Christ the light of the world may renew our faith as we practice prayer, fasting, and generosity, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That Christ the light of the world may raise the dead to eternal glory, and also heed the intentions we carry in our hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father, your Son continues to reveal his saving truth. As we offer these prayers for others, deepen our response to his revelation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. (all) AMEN.