YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO BE CHOSEN AND SPEAK FOR CHRIST!
1 Sam.16: 1, 6-7, 10 -13; Ps 23: 1-6; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41
Just past the halfway point in Lent, the Church bid us rejoice. The introit today from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 66:10) set the tone of this Sunday’s celebration, “Rejoice Jerusalem”. Hence today is traditionally known as the “Laetare Sunday.” It is a day of celebration with a lessening of the austerity or penitential character of Lent. Today is also known as Rose or Refreshment Sunday, we put aside purple and put on rose — and rejoice. Flowers, though forbidden during Lent may be used today and the organ rarely played during Lent may be played too. The emphasis today is to encourage us, as we progress toward the end of this penitential season. Our journey toward Easter is nearing its end and the Church encourages us to persevere till the end. This period of intensive prayers, the Lenten fast and compulsory alms giving is coming to an end. The end is embroidered with light, in every sense. However, to get to this light, there is need for us to endure, aware that the desert of Lent will eventually burst into bloom. Only those who have come of age spiritually can make this resolution. Can you endure these sufferings for some few more weeks? Only those who do, can see the light at the end of the tunnel as well as enjoy this light at the completion of this arduous journey.
In so many ways, the journey of our life shows that we are struggling to find our way in a world of confusion and chaos, of distractions and disturbances, a world of fear, and temptation, and sin, a world that so often offers us only darkness. Think about the current economic recession with its abundant unappealing consequences (hunger, retrenchment of workers, increase in crime), moral decadence, unemployment in the society, the resurgency of Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen terrorism, to mention but a few. But this Sunday, the darkness lifts. No less than five times in the readings of today did we hear the word light. They are speaking of the light of Christ, the light of life, the light of our Easter hope. With faith, we say there is hope of a better living condition for the society, of peace and tranquility, of moral probity, justice etc. God has chosen us to reflect the light of His son, Jesus Christ, who declares today, “I am the light of the world.” What do you say? Can the works of God be displayed in and through you? You are old enough to speak for yourself.
In the first reading, we see God’s unlikely choice of David through Samuel, the last of the eight sons of Jesse to spear-head a new way of life for the Israelites. The second readings advices us to rise up to our calling as children of light today, to wake up from slumber and allow God’s light to shine in and through us. In the Gospel, we see the blind man cured by Christ standing up for Him in front of the elders, which merited him expulsion from the Church.
In the first reading, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to search for and anoint a replacement for King Saul. This mission of Samuel came after Saul had disobeyed God’s direct command to destroy the whole people and land of Amalek (1 Sam. 15). Consequently, God rejected him. Very important is the fact that it was God who chose Saul to be the first king of Israel (1 Sam. 9:1-5). This same God rejected him for his disobedience. Samuel expected the first son of Jesse, Eliab to be the chosen one. God rejected him and his other brothers, opting for the last and the inconsequential son, David. It is God who calls and always for a purpose. His call is gratuitous and His criteria for making His choices are not the same as ours; not dependent on sights and appearances. Today many whom we think should stand up for Christ deny him and God having rejected them like he rejected Saul. Some civic and Church officials today left the work of transforming the world for the better and fight the God that chose them to work for Him. God today has anointed you with the oil of Baptism to manifest His light. David manifested God and was called the man after God’s own heart, you are equally called by God for a special purpose. Through Baptism, you are old enough to reject God like Saul or to receive him like David. Make your choice: obedience or disobedience to God!
The second reading also made this choice of God of you more distinct, that through the original sin you were darkness. Of note is the idea that before baptism, you were not in darkness but you were darkness (Eph.5:8). Now, as God’s child through Christ, you are light in the Lord. Paul reminds the Christians of Ephesians of God’s magnanimity in choosing them and he urges them to have nothing again to do with darkness but to behave in such a way that the light they have received will illuminate others and in that way, turn them into light. If you encounter Christ, then you should strive to live good and truthful lives as a child of light. God’s decision to make you a child of light has a purpose, “Try to discover what the Lord wants of you” (Eph.5:10). This Lenten season, we are called to encounter Christ especially through the Sacraments of the Church, her teachings and the scriptures. Are you willing to encounter Christ? Answer for yourself.
The long gospel of today collaborates this idea of Christ as the light in the healing of the man born blind. Here Jesus proves that he cares for the wellbeing of his flock (albeit of our world today), especially the sick, the weak and the marginalized. In John 9, he broke another cultural and religious barrier in order to save the blind man, by healing him on a Sabbath day. Without minding about the consequences, he attended to the very important need of the blind man. Jesus’ disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” From this question, it obvious that the notion was that all suffering was caused by sin. However, Jesus’ response proved otherwise. God permits some things to happen for the manifestation of his glory, that is, this miracle remarkably revealed the power and glory of God. The lessons which we must learn from the man healed by Jesus, include that the man was obedient to the instruction given to him: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam,” (Siloam means sent). Second, we must be consistent with our words, faith, convictions, and the truth. In spite of all the intimidations from the Pharisees, the man remained truthful and firm without denying Christ. Instead, he insisted that it was Jesus that healed him. According to St. John Chrysostom: “The Pharisees cast him out of the Temple; but the Lord of the Temple found him.” Out of fear of the Pharisees, his parents even could not recognize the wonderful work of God. Today, the world is afraid of recognizing the power of God, rather it posits its own powers as what determines the world. We Christians, need to stand for God, shunning secularism and its consequences. God chose us and is sending us to the world, with its blindness (spiritual), to heal the world, to bring the light of God to the darkened world. How willing are you to perform this messianic work with Christ? You are old enough to answer for yourself!
Another important lesson for us in today’s readings is that this Lenten season is an opportunity to encounter Jesus, admit and accept our blindness, allow Him to restore our sight and send us to bring other blind persons to Him. When we encounter Christ like the blind man, we grow in our knowledge of the person of Christ. The man born blind saw an opportunity and aided by Christ he was able to grasp it. In this Lenten season, we too are being invited to seize the many opportunities the Church offers us to come closer to Jesus and be healed of the greater blindness that is sin.
When Jesus comes to us how does he come? The Sacraments we celebrate are the opportunities to encounter Jesus. Every time we receive the sacraments Jesus comes to us and there is a visible sign of Jesus coming to us invisibly through his sacrament. Just as the Holy Spirit came mightily upon David when he was anointed with oil by Samuel, and just as Jesus used the matter of clay and water for the healing of the blind man, Jesus comes to us in each sacrament. Every time we receive the sacraments Jesus comes to us by touching our senses and there is a visible sign of Jesus coming to us invisibly through his sacrament. Who would think that anointing with oil would be the signal for the Spirit of the Lord to fall mightily on David? Who would think that anointing with a paste of clay and washing would restore sight? But God uses the ordinary elements of nature to convey his power and healing to us in the sacraments. In every sacrament Jesus comes to us invisibly but powerfully. As you receive the sacraments you hear Jesus, and Jesus touches you. Jesus touched the blind man and Jesus touches you when you receive his sacraments. Stop abusing the seven sacraments of the Church today, and treasure them.
To a blind beggar, God gives sight; to musicians, he gives insight; to a world cowering in the dark, he gives light; to us in our current condition, Christ our shepherd illuminates us, and heals our blindness. In these last weeks of Lent, as we look expectantly to Easter, let us tear open our hearts. And let there be light. Through prayer, acknowledge Christ as the light, through fasting, nourish this light in you, and through alm-giving, let the light beam on your neighbors especially the sick, the lonely, the unloved, the pagans, the apostates, etc. You may be rejected while manifesting this light, just like the man born blind was driven away from the synagogue, but since you were sent by God Himself to reflect His light, persevere in complete goodness and right living and truth. Christ will shine on you, and only then you are capable to be a child of light. Speak up for Christ.
Today is still not too late for you, if you are yet to get into the spirit of this Lenten season, a period of reconversion, repentance, sorrow for sin and embracing Christ, whom we encounter daily in the world. Other lessons of today are: We should always be patient in carrying out God’s commands like Samuel; We should always make the right choice of our leaders not from physical qualities alone. Let us imitate Christ Himself, who was obedient to God unto death. Whoever believes and accepts this illumination into his life is like one whose eyes were opened. This is because, men were born blind, in darkness. However, the good news is that Christ liberates and heals our spiritual blindness. With this in mind we sing with the psalmist The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. May God help us to truly children of God especially living in Christ and witnessing to Him, the light of the world.