22Mar 22 March, 2020. 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13

Samuel selects and anoints young David as future king of Israel

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve that I have rejected Saul from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and set out. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel asked, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. You shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”

Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”

Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Responsorial: Psalm 22

Response: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

Once you were in darkness, but now live as children of light

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Gospel: John 9:1-41

Jesus, the Light of the World, cures the man who was born blind

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?

“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, who had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask himself.”

Yet again they called the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” They then asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he listens to whoever worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.


May your words, O Lord be on my lips, and in my heart. May they guide me on life’s journey and keep me near to you.

Facing the Covid-19 crisis

Is there a Christian way of facing the Covid-19 crisis? Yes, of course, there is. I can think of at least four characteristics:
  • The first is the move from “I” to “we”. This is a frightening situation that we face together. The common good — the good of us all — must be given first place; within the common good, we will find our own good. That is a very Christian, even a very Catholic virtue.
  • The second is an attitude of concern and compassion. Even if we must be isolated in our own homes or workplaces, modern communications allow us to stay in touch in a way impossible before. This is a great benefit. But, we need to choose to stay in contact, perhaps with a greater frequency so that people don’t feel abandoned.
  • The third is a respect for truth. In recent years, the truth has suffered in public discourse, giving rise to a horrible expression, the post-truth era. In these days, we need to pay attention to science and medicine and less attention to opinion-makers and rumours. A society without truth cannot last. Today, right now, we need truth more than ever before.
  • Lastly, as Christians, we can pray. We can pray in particular for scientists, medical personnel and politicians. These are wonderful people with a huge job of work before them. As we pray for ourselves and our families and friends, we pray too for all who look after the common good.  (Kieran O’Mahony)

For Kieran O’Mahony’s commentary on today’s readings, click here.

Open the eyes of my soul, o Lord

We may wonder why Jesus used ritual signs (spittle, mud and water,) in order to heal the man who had been blind from birth. Other people were healed by his touch, or simply by his word. We read how he sent the ten lepers on their way with a promise, and they were healed on their journey to see the priest who would attest their cure. Equally, he sent the Roman centurion away with the promise of a cure, before he reached home the man got word that his servant was healed. I imagine this is how Jesus heals many of us. We ask for a blessing, and nothing seems to happen immediately. Maybe, after asking to be blessed we should simply let the healing come gradually, in the Lord’s own time.

“Lord, that I may see” was his sincere and simple prayer. It may be short but it came from the heart as a powerful plea. There was another blind man named Bartimeus who, when he heart that Jesus was passing by, was determined to get his attention. People tried to silence him, but he shouted even louder, until he too got cure he needed. But first Jesus asked the pointed question: “Do you want to be healed?’

As the story unfolds, the man’s eyes were fully opened, including the eyes of his mind. Jesus was intent on healing the whole person, body and soul. When the man in today’s gospel knew how fully he was healed, he fell on his knees, full of worship and joy.

Could we too share in his gift of healing? The greatest good we can do for other people is not given with money, though that has its proper place, but by helping them count their blessings and revealing their own value to them. It is good to help others feel affirmed, loved and appreciated. Many people are burdened with a poor self-image, and they may not see the good in themselves. That is a form of blindness in others that any of us can help to heal. The most certain proof that Christ lives in us is our willingness and ability to affirm and bring a blessing to other people.

Heavenly Light in Hellish Darkness

“Carry on as usual” — lethal advice. The virus is a wake-up call, perhaps changing our whole way of life.

Meditating on John 9:1: ‘And passing by, he saw a man blind from birth.’ An archetype of miserable humanity, trapped in darkness — the darkness, let us say, of a planetary plague such as that of 1918, or of the war, the filth of the trenches, that compounded it and was was compounded by it.

Where is God in such darkness? Well, in the human response, indiividual trust and courage, and above all collective solidarity and compassion. Perhaps we may apply the dictum of Albert Camus, author of the newly-relevant novel, “The Plague”: “je me révolte donc nous sommes“, I revolt against the absurd, against blind fate, and we are reborn as a community of care.

But there is a second dimension to blindness, the incurvatio in se, the turning in on oneself, that is part of Augustine’s vision of Original Sin. The individual cares only about his or her own survival, shuts the door and lets the others die outside. Or one generation, feeling itself immune, blithely consigns the old and weak to Nature’s cruel culling, even rejoicing to be rid of them. The blind egoism shown up in the crisis was present all along, as an inborn darkening of the intellect. A demonic solidarity among blind egoists produces the blind mob, in panic, or in the insane enactment of war.

What does the Word of God say when he visits His ravaged creation? “I told you so, miserable sinners. Had you the shield of Wisdom you would not be sunk in such a lamentable state!” But when we turn to him in prayer that is not what we hear. Rather, “neither he nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God would appear in him” (Jn 9:3). He remains, even in darkest physical and moral circumstance, a fount of compassion, an agent of healing, and “the light of the world” (9:5).

Thousands turned to God in the fetid trenches of the Great War (the heroism of the French chaplains brought a church revival in France), or they found the Lord on hospital beds, or in the silent suffering of quarantined isolation when the churches closed. They remembered that they were not rats but humans, made in the divine image, and recovered their dignity in repentant remembrance of their brothers and sisters, — “I am the enemy you killed, my friend” — and in humble subjection to the divine other.

John’s story: “He spat on the ground, made some mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes. Then He told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing” (9:6-7). is modeled on Mark 8:23-5: “Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. “Can you see anything?” He asked. The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.”Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly.” The divine Word heals by humblest fleshly means, spittle and mud. Amid the squalor of war and disease humanity is stripped of complacent illusions and gets back to the basics of mortality. Thus stripped, it sets to work on healing and restoration, cooperating with the Creator and his grace.

9:35-9: When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, He found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is He, Sir?” he replied. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.” “You have already seen Him,” Jesus answered. “He is the One speaking with you.” “Lord, I believe,” he said. And he worshiped Him. Then Jesus declared, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.”

He is in our midst, he walks among us as the supreme healer, his hand ever ready to touch us, to take away our blindness, and free us from the shackles of sinful paralysis and despair. His church too has a healing mission, and it is ours, since we are all restored to sight in the pool of Siloam, of Baptism, and we are all sent to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” as He is (Matthew 5:13-14). Let’s not think “How can I ensure my own survival?” but “How can I be salt and light? How can I take part in the Church’s mission of healing the wounded, consoling the dying, witnessing to human dignity and divine goodness?”   (Joseph O’Leary)

Solas an tsaoil é Íosa

Tugann an soiscéal ábhar saibhir machnaimh agus agallaimh dúinn. Sa chéad áit ná gurb é solas an tsaoil é Íosa. Is chuige sin a seoladh isteach sa saol é ón Athair. Eisean an Té a seoladh. “an Seolta”, Silóm, a leigheasann an dall. Tháinig sé le go mbeadh radharc ghlóir an Athar ag an domhan. Tá sin soiléir ó shoiscéal an lae inniu, agus óna lán téacsanna eile. Is cuid lárnach de theachtaireacht an Tiomna Nua é. (Máirtín Mac Conmara)

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