On Laetere Sunday, we are called to joyfully anticipate the victory that will be won and the joy that will be ours at Easter. We are half way through Lent and have progressed by way of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And particularly through the Liturgy of the Word, we have meditated on the human condition and our response to God’s loving invitation down the ages.

Looking back, on the first Sunday of Lent, the First Reading dwelt on the creation of the world and the sin of our first parents; on the second, the call of Abraham, the father of the people of God; on the third, we read the story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt; and today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, we witness the rise of David (Hebrew for ‘Commander’) as ruler of the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah (1 Sam 16: 1.6-7.10-13). God bid Samuel to anoint the youngest son of Jesse (‘God exists’) with oil, in his hometown Bethlehem.

Thus, David, a shepherd, replaced the first king, Saul, who had disobeyed God, and “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” Interestingly, a millennium later, Jesus (‘God saves’) was born in Bethlehem (‘House of Bread’) and would eventually declare Himself the Good Shepherd. That city in the hill country of Judah was located about six miles north-west of Nazareth, where Jesus lived until he was thirty, and about five miles south of Jerusalem, where He would die, three years later. Thus ended the public ministry of God’s slain Lamb, so unprecedentedly full of miracles and blessings.

The Gospel of today (Jn 9: 1-41) speaks of one such miracle or “sign”: the cure of a blind beggar. Inasmuch as the disciples were bent on knowing if that condition meant a chastisement, they seemed ‘blind’ too. The Master clarified that “it was not that this man had sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” Proclaiming Himself the “Light of the World”, Jesus sent the blind man to Siloam, which meant ‘The One Sent, the Siloah’. This was incipient baptism, carrying as it did a promise of sweet light and refreshing health to the weak and suffering[1]. Once cured, the man labelled Jesus “a prophet” and later acknowledged Him as the Son of Man. Clearly, he had received not only natural sight but also supernatural light!

Overawed by this occurrence, the local cabal began to work overtime and to close in on Jesus. The Pharisees spread a canard: “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” No doubt, Jesus had cured the blind man on a sabbath but, as elsewhere He had said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2: 23–28) But far from recognising Him as the Messiah, some Pharisees argued that he who has not kept the sabbath cannot be of God. They kept questioning the cured man, in the hope that he would retract his earlier statement, but he retorted: “You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. (…) Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

In the face of such irrefutable logic, the only thing left to do was to hype the case against Jesus. The parents were called upon to confirm their son’s congenital blindness; they did, but pleaded ignorance as to the author of the marvel, for “the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” This was pure conspiracy! Alas, how many do the same today! They swim with the current, compromising their principles, that they may gain social acceptance and/or political mileage! Likewise, arm-twisting and intimidation are rampant; it is always the same old story of giving someone a bad name and hanging them!

At that time, Jesus was at the height of his ministry but also at the threshold of his Passion and Death. He was the Light of the World, the light shining in the darkness, but the world did not know Him (cf. Jn 1) The cure of the blind man shows Jesus to be the Messiah, who came into the world “that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” That is, His light was “as mighty as to enlighten the lowly as it was to dazzle and blind the proud.”[2] To the Pharisees, who felt targeted by this powerful proclamation, He said that only physical, not spiritual, blindness could be excused.

In today’s topsy-turvy world, one sees right-minded persons banished whereas the doctrinally flawed promoted. But we are not to be frightened or discouraged. By our baptism, we have been invited to cross from darkness to light, from sin to supernatural life. St Paul in the Second Reading (Eph. 5: 8-14) exhorts us to “walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.” Persevering in this mission through life is indeed the challenge of the Light.

[1] Abbé C. Fouard, Jesus Christ the Son of God. Goa: Don Bosco, 1960, p. 290

[2] Op. cit., p. 293