Homily for April 3, IV Sunday of Lent, cycle A
As is typical especially of the Gospel of John, there is a lot of theology and symbolism packed into today’s Gospel reading, but we can focus on some specific aspects of it by putting the reading into the wider context of today’s liturgy. As Pope Benedict explained in his message for Lent this year, Lent and Easter are closely connected to Baptism. It is the sacrament through which we are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection, dying to sin and being born to the life of grace. The readings of the Sundays in Lent “retrace the steps of Christian initiation”, helping catechumens to prepare for Baptism and encouraging those of us who are already baptized to renew our commitment to following Christ with greater enthusiasm and self-giving.
Baptism gives us the gift of the theological virtues – faith, hope and love – by which we believe the truths of the faith, trust in God’s help and promises, and love Him for His goodness and others for His sake. These virtues should guide all our actions; they are the light given us by Christ by which we walk as Christians. That is why Baptism is also called the sacrament of enlightenment, by which we become “children of light”, as St Paul describes in the second reading today.
This is also what we see happening in the Gospel reading. Jesus’ actions are both a miracle of healing and a symbol of the sacrament that was to come. The blind beggar is the image of a person who is not yet baptized and lacks God’s grace. In Genesis, God made man out of clay; here, Jesus puts clay on the man’s eyes to “recreate” his vision, just as in Baptism, we are made “new creations” in Christ. Jesus sends the man to be washed in water, just as we are washed by the waters of baptism. The man receives his sight, as we receive God’s grace and the theological virtues.
The miracle has immediate results; not only does the man regain physical sight, but he can also see that Christ is sent from God, and he accepts that Jesus is the Messiah. He sees this truth better than the leaders of the synagogue, who are blinded to the identity of Jesus by their preconceptions and pride. They who were considered wise, became foolish; they thought they could see, but they were blind.
This is where we can find our Lenten message. Sins of pride and selfishness darken our spiritual sight; during this liturgical season, we practice penance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to clear away any obstructions to the spiritual light we received at baptism. May God help us to be renewed in our faith, hope and love, that we may see Christ as our good shepherd, our light in the dark valleys of our world. Guided by the light of Christ, “only goodness and kindness follow [us] all the days of [our lives], and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.