Sunday Scripture Readings

fourth sunday of lent,

march 10

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23;

Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 OUR GOOD NEWS: We prepare now for Easter baptismal renewal and recommitment - like the anonymous blind man, we seek the Light of Truth. "Master, who has sinned, this man or his parent?" Today's Gospel passage, a closely knit and highly artistic story, begins with the disciples' insensitive question reflecting common belief that every illness was due to someone's sin. "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." In disagreeing, Jesus simply meant that this case offered an opportunity to show God's power at work in himself, for such was the purpose of his earthly mission. Jesus' use of popular or "home" remedies doesn't diminish the miraculous nature but relates the cure directly to himself. These elements moreover have baptismal connotations: anointing, washing, even spittle (in older ritual practice). Through such everyday symbols God's light confronts and vanquishes darkness. The main body of this story traces gradual development, under pressure of interrogation, of faith by the formerly blind man who now had seen the light. With careful precision the young person initially identified his benefactor as "the man called Jesus" - overheard but not verified because still blind. When asked for an explanation by religious leaders he rightly concluded that "he is a prophet," a person used by God to mediate divine power. Then, further growth: Jesus must be more, uniquely a "man from God" because of unparalleled miraculous powers. Finally, expelled from the religious community, forsaken by parents as well as all townspeople but sought out by Jesus, he professed full Christian faith in his Lordship. This story also details progressive unfaith in those refusing to see. At first some accepted that a miracle had been performed, a few coming close to believing. But at the second interrogation they doubted a cure and put the parents under oath in hope of discrediting their son's testimony. Frustrated, the Pharisees could only disqualify him as a thoroughgoing sinner incapable of trustworthy witness. In the end, they hardened into self-righteousness, convinced of their position. No longer capable of examining the evidence honestly, theirs was a state of "guilt" by reason of prior opportunity deliberately rejected. Today's Gospel teaches us that faith must be accepted when offered, but that rejection can permanently disqualify. Faith moreover can come at a terrible price, even of family rejection and social alienation. Tragically, Jesus' loving concern to bring light into a darkened world translated into a blessing and curse. "He came into this world to divide it." Jesus' offer of the gift of light summons each of us to personal decision, thus dividing humankind into those who accept and those who reject. His mission of bringing universal salvation includes uncovering - making explicit and visible - the self-condemning sin of final unbelief.

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