Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is also known as Laetare Sunday. We are half way through the season of Lent. Laetare means “Rejoice” in Latin, and the Introit (entrance antiphon) is Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins “Laetare, Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). It is a day that reminds us that the Feast of the Resurrection is drawing near and that the bright light of Jesus’ resurrection will dispel all darkness. The theme of moving from darkness to light permeates the Liturgy of the Word.
For this reason, on this Sunday we have the healing of the blind man as our gospel reading. Though there are other accounts in the gospels about Jesus healing the blind, what is unique to this account as recorded by John is that he is the only blind person in the Gospels whose story does not include Jesus’ being asked to let him see. It is entirely the initiative of Jesus to perform this miracle and it is because Jesus wanted to convey a message to those who were there. When the people realised that the man who now sees is the same man whom they had seen begging daily, they needed to be sure and sought verification from the Pharisees.
What happens next is that, rather than rejoicing with the blind man whose sight has been restored, they were only interested in going to great lengths to discredit Jesus as not being a prophet. Even though the man insisted, they failed to see the good that had taken place. Rather than giving praise to God, they found fault with Jesus and with the blind man too.
Though the healing that is recorded by John is a physical healing in character, it has greater undertones of the need for spiritual healing. In fact, there are two healings that take place: the man born blind not only receives his vision back but now he believes Jesus to be the Son of Man and says, “Lord, I believe”. One can say that his physical healing was intended so that he may not only see the things around him but begin to believe in God and thus the spiritual healing.
The gospel passage today has much to offer us for reflection. Most of us may not be physically blind but there is a greater possibility that we can be spiritually blind. Spiritual blindness can express itself in many ways but I would like to focus just on one area and perhaps something that we can work on for the remaining days of Lent – it is the blindness of apathy or indifference. Two years ago, Pope Francis in his Lenten message spoke about the ‘globalisation of indifference’ that is fast spreading. It is a selfish attitude of indifference that expresses itself when we either do not care for one another or have no interest in issues that do not concern us… as long as it does not impact me or my family, it is not my problem. We can quite easily become numb to the world and humanity.
Jesus gave to the blind beggar not only his bodily eyesight but also the light of faith. It was certainly not a faith that promotes apathy and indifference. The faith that we all profess which is expressed by our presence here calls for empathy rather than apathy and compassion rather than indifference. Both these qualities Jesus expressed throughout His ministry. However, these same qualities the Pharisees could not show to the blind man who was brought to them and even missed the opportunity of allowing Jesus to heal their spiritual blindness because of pride, prejudice and even arrogance.
If we are to be ‘children of the light’ as expressed by St Paul in the Letter of the Ephesians that we had as our Second Reading today, then we too need healing of our blindness – the blindness of apathy, indifference, arrogance and even prejudice. As we move towards Holy Week and become more and more aware of the Passion and Death of Jesus, may we respond to one another with empathy and compassion in the same way Jesus responds to our own failures and brokenness.