THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – LAETARE SUNDAY

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – LAETARE SUNDAY

1Samuel 16:6-7, 10-13; Psalm 22; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

The basic theme in today’s readings is light. The first reading tells us that whoever has not received the light judges things through human eyes; but God does not look at appearance but at the heart of man. The gospel reading was a narrative of how a blind man gained his sight. An invitation for us all to defeat darkness as recorded in the second reading. Light in biblical parlance refers to the information that brings transformation in us.  Let us therefore see the transformation that this narrative holds for us:

Sin is not the necessary cause of Sickness: Seeing a young man with no sight caused Jesus’ disciples to wonder aloud the cause. They assumed that his blindness was a result of sin, but since he was young, they wondered if it might have been his parents’ sin that caused it. So they asked Jesus. Jesus answered, this is not due to the sin of the parents or the boy but that God may be glorified.

The Disciples asked this question because it is clear in Scripture that sometimes afflictions do come as a result of sin. For example: 1Cor.11:27-30 says  because we eat unworthily we are sick; James 5:14-16 calls the sick to confess his sin and be healed;  Ps.38:3 says my whole body is diseased because of my sins; again, in Jn5:14 this may have been the case in the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda. But in Job 1:11-12 Job’s afflictions weren’t the result of sin even though his “friend” were insistent that Job’s sin was the cause. Today, many people believe that sickness is as a result of sin. Some also believe that coronavirus at present is as a result of the rate of sin in the world and so God wants to purge the world. God does not delight in the death of his people, Ezk.18:23 makes it clear that God is not interested in the death of any man; rather let him turn from his evil ways and live. Therefore, while sickness and affliction are not necessarily the result of  sin. We must make every effort to turn away from sin so that we may gain eternal life.

Natural and supernatural healing: Now John describes the healing in a few short words.” Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Could it be that Jesus had to use natural and divine power for this healing? Some point to the fact that saliva was thought to possess medicinal qualities in Hellenism and Judaism. Jesus himself uses saliva in two other healing as recorded in Mark7:33 the healing of a dumb man and in Mark8:23 the healing of a blind man. In both cases Jesus is not depicted as a physician resorting to natural medicines, but as a miracle-worker. So, whatever natural medicinal properties that might be in saliva were not believed by the people of Jesus’ day to cure a man born blind.

The Catholic Church recognizes two inclusive kinds of healing, one justified by science and one justified by faith:

1. Healing by human “natural means” through the practice of medicine which emphasizes that the theological virtue of charity demands that we not neglect natural means of healing people who are ill and the  cardinal virtue of prudence  forewarns not to employ a technique that has no scientific support. In this light, in the 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued  an “Instruction on prayers for healing”. It accepts that there may be means of natural healing that have not yet been understood or recognized by science; but it rejects superstitious practices which are neither compatible with Christian teaching nor compatible with scientific evidence. This is so necessary especially now that many people including pastors are suggesting diabolic means for the cure of coronavirus. People just take advantage of certain events for cheap popularity.

2. Healing by divine grace: This is intercession on behalf of the sick in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, whether in the form of the sacramental laying on of hands  and anointing with oil or of simple prayers for healing, which often include an appeal to the saints for their aid.

Both forms of healing are inclusive such that while we use our medications we can also pray for healing. Today, many Christians believe that while we pray for healing we should not apply medication. Faith is necessary for healing but we must never neglect good works James2:17 says faith without good work is dead verse 22 says and by works faith was made perfect. When you pray for security you also need to lock your doors. Therefore, while the saliva may not have healing properties Jesus simply set us an example that medications are not sinful while we pray or that medication does not mean we lack faith.

Obedience and healing: The gospel recorded that he went to the Pool of Siloam and washed off the mud and came home seeing. Jesus sought to have the blind man exercise his own faith in obedience. John indicates the derivation of the name Siloam as meaning “sent.” Perhaps he is making the point that the man was healed because he was “sent” to wash in the pool. He obeyed.  In Luke 17:14 the healing of the ten lepers Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. And the Bible says “and as they went, they were cleansed”. Again, in 2Kings 5 Naaman was told by the prophet Elisa to and deep himself in the River Jordan seven times and so was his healing. Beloved in Christ, obedience is an expression of faith, you cant claim to have faith and you are not obedient. Sometimes, some of us neglect the instruction we are given by our priests and expect something miracuolous to happen. A priest once said to his parishioner that approached him for deliverance to go say the “Our Father” before the Blessed Sacrament and the Parishioner left the Priest sad. Most times what we need for the miraculous to happen is not a prolonged prayer but a simple obedience in faith. A lot of Christians today, struggle with so much fasting and prayers what a simple obedience and faith can manifest. 

Spiritual Blindness: This gospel contains much argument between the Pharisees and the man who was healed; between the Pharisees and the parents of the man and then again, between the Pharisee and the man who was healed and lastly the Judgment passed by Jesus. John 9:39 Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. The argument persisted in as much as the Pharisee remained spiritually blind. The man could relate and beat their argument because of encounter. Encounter with the Lord opens our spiritual eyes. Encounter reduces arguments. Where understanding is limited encounter takes us further. It perfects our understanding. This man could explain all the more and even more logically because he had an encounter that has turned his life for better. Thus, he progressed in understanding to the point of worship. The gospel says in John9:38 he prostrates himself before him in an act of worship.

Today, spiritual blindness means that we are in the church but we lack encounter with the Lord. Therefore, all that is said and explained make no meaning to us. Spiritual blindness can be caused by the devil 1. 2Cor.4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” and by our hard hearts John 9:41 “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” It is my prayer that during this Lenten season God will open our eyes to see Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu

Appearance is not reality

One of the 20th Century philosophers, Bertrand Russell apart from being known for his scientific and mathematical works, is also known for his problem of appearance and reality. He says that most of us believe things based on false assumptions; we think we know what we know, but if we take a closer look at it, we might find we are in error. I had an experience with an identical twin who I hitherto never knew was a twin. I went to one of the shopping malls that faithful day and while moving around for my shopping I stumbled on someone whom I thought was my friend. I greeted her warmly, asked about her family, her parents and work. But then I noticed that the young lady was just looking at me scornfully after which she just walked away. I was quite embarrassed. But after about five minutes I saw another person who happens to be the twin of the first, this time around my real friend. This time, she was the first to greet me and then she said, “I came with my twin sister but we missed ourselves a while ago but I will wait for her in the car”. The words of Russell then rang bell in my head that appearance is not reality. Those involved in internet shopping may have realized that appearance is not reality when you must have ordered a very nice shoe and then feel like returning it when it is delivered because it is not as beautiful as what you saw on your screen. Again, those who patronize boutiques may have realized that the real colour of the material one wants to purchase is found when the material is taken outside to be seen with sun light else the blue light in the boutique deceives you. And this solidifies the saying that “you don’t judge a book by the cover”.    

Our first reading presents us with an event that took place over 3000 years ago but till very much relevant, important and apt in our world today. The people of Israel ever since they left Egypt, the land of their captivity lived as separate tribes; they had no central government. They were more or less ruled by succession of judges. In fact they were ruled by fifteen judges beginning from Othniel down to Samuel who was their last judge. While Israel was being led by Judges, other pagan nations around them were ruled by kings who led them to wars. Hence in 1Samuel 8:1ff while Samuel was old he made his sons judges over Israel but because his children did not walk in his ways and because other nations around Israel were ruled by kings, the people of Israel requested Samuel to give them a king. This request was granted to the people of Israel in 1Samuel 10:1. Now what happened in our first reading is the consequence of the disobedience of Saul in 1Samuel 15ff.  After Saul was rejected, Samuel became depressed and sober but the Lord said to him in 1Samuel 16:1 “how long will you be grieving over Saul whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite for I have chosen for myself a king from among his sons”. It is therefore quite unfortunate for Samuel that he went to the house of Jesse with the eyes of man that looks only at the appearance.  Thus while Samuel looked at the outward appearance the Lord however corrected and warned him in 1Samuel 16:7 never to judge by appearance and looks, for the Lord does not judge as humans do. Humans look at the outer appearance but the Lord goes for the heart. No one in the house of Jesse would have thought that an ordinary shepherd boy would become the king of Israel. Indeed God looks at the heart and that is why the anointing of Saul and David are both different. Saul in 1Samule 10:1 was anointed with a flask of oil while David in 1Samuel 16:1 was anointed with horn filled with oil therefore making the difference clear. Horn filled with oil denotes abundance of gifts bestowed on David and the firmness and duration of his kingship. Horns in Deuteronomy 33:17 are symbols of strength, and in Job16:15 it is a symbol of honour. It is an emblem of power, dominion and glory. It is the chief weapons and ornament of the animals that that possess them.                                  

Jesus says in our gospel reading “I have come into the world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may turn blind”. This off course is to present the proof that Jesus is the light of the world. In fact Jesus made it clearer in John 8:12 that he is the light of the world. We must therefore allow Jesus the light, to brighten our paths that we may see things clearly. The Pharisees in the gospel reading could not appreciate the miracle of Jesus because they shut their doors against the light who is Jesus. We see only appearance of things because we do not look at them with the light and so we judge people’s actions rashly without considering what Jesus would have done in such situation; and at the same time make wrong decisions. Our politics have become a mess because we only focus on the appearance while making our decisions. Samuel would have made a great mistake if he had not allowed the light of God to illumine his mind and control his action. Let us therefore ask Jesus who is the light to enlighten our minds in order to see things the way they truly are so as to make the right judgment and decision. HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU. 

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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