Sunday, 22 March 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, also known as the Laetare Sunday, which came from the Introit of this Sunday which goes like this, ‘Laetare Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam…’ or ‘Rejoice o Jerusalem, and come together all you who love her…’. And here we gather together this Sunday looking forward to the wonderful joy that is to come, the reason why we have the rose coloured vestments this Sunday.

Just like Gaudete Sunday during the season of Advent before Christmas, on this Sunday we have a brief pause of the penitential nature of this Lenten season to focus on the more joyful aspect of our expectation for the coming of the glorious season of Easter, just as Gaudete Sunday expects the coming joy of Christmas. That is why on this day we ought to focus our attention on the Lord, to keep our gaze affixed on Him, knowing that everything we do in this Lent, all of our penitential rites and customs, practices and works are to purify us before we rejoice together with Him, having been reconciled with Him in love.

In today’s readings therefore, there is this emphasis on us all having received healing from God, and for those who are in need of healing and God’s grace, it is reassured and promised to us as a certainty as long as we are open and willing to receive this wonderful grace of God. That is why today we focus our attention on the joy that is to come in Easter to help in keeping us focused in the right direction, knowing that we are in God’s good hands despite whatever challenges we may be facing now.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the story of the anointing of the new king of Israel, in which God had chosen one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. Samuel was presented with six of his sons in the beginning, and while initially he saw that the eldest son was good in stature and appearance, but God told Samuel that He had chosen through what He has seen in the heart and not in the appearances. And that was how David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, a simple and young shepherd, was chosen and anointed as king of Israel.

David was a steadfast and firm believer in God, who loved God with all of his heart. Since his youth, David had been devout and committed to God, and after he had been chosen and anointed as king of Israel as the successor to king Saul, David had shown his faith and his upright attitude and actions in most of the circumstances. Yes, as a mortal man, David did make mistakes and he did commit some serious sins, such as his adultery with Bathsheba and his hubris in the census of Israel, but ultimately, his faith and love for God never changed.

The significance of this reading is to show that God sees in us the light present within all of us, including what He had seen in David. There is inherent good in all of us since after all, every single one of us are God’s good creations although tainted by sin. By God’s grace and help, all of us can follow in the example of king David, whom God had called and chosen, and king David allowed God to work through him, committing many wonderful deeds as king over the Israelites, in faith and obedience to God.

In our second reading, again we are reminded through St. Paul’s letter to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus that we ought to become children of the light in all things. St. Paul mentioned that while once we belonged to the darkness, now through God, we have belonged to the light, and we ought to act in the manner of the follower of God’s light. God is our guide and Shepherd, just as our Psalm today on the famous Good Shepherd Psalm reminds us that God is leading us as our Shepherd to the good and righteous path.

Through sin and darkness, all of us have been corrupted, tainted and afflicted, but God wants us all to be healed and liberated from our sins, and He alone has the power and ability to do so. In our Gospel passage we heard of the story of how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been born blind, and suffered from that blindness for so many decades. Yet, through his faith in the power of the Lord Jesus, he was healed completely, his eyes opened and his sight restored, a great miracle of God, but one which was protested and contested by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

The blind man was healed by Jesus and he could see again, and yet, the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the Law could not believe that the blind man had been healed, and not by the Lord Jesus Whom the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law then treated as a pariah and One that is not welcome in the Temple, because of the friction and difficulties that arose as the Lord ministered to the people and healed many of them, even on the Sabbath day which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law vigorously defended as a day on which nothing including good deeds could be done.

Thus, these people gathered the people and conducted a trial over the blind man, as they doubted that he had been healed by Jesus, and then they even doubted that he had been born blind or blind at all. And they kept on asking the blind man for the details of his healing, repeatedly, showing that they still stubbornly refused to believe that Jesus could have healed the blind man. To them, Jesus was a sinner for His disobedience against their way of observing the Law, and a sinner could not have healed another person.

They even then became nasty against the blind man and angered against him, condemning and judging him as a sinner, as they were offended and their pride was hurt by the formerly blind man’s suggestion that they kept on asking him because they were interested to become the disciples of Jesus. This is exactly the problem that we need to take heed of, the matter of pride and ego that prevented so many of us from finding forgiveness for our many sins and our salvation in God.

In this season of Lent, as we focus our attention today on the Lord and on this joyful hope of His salvation and also on our own inner light and goodness, all of us are called to purge from ourselves all sorts of pride and ego, all hubris and hard-heartedness that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had, which made them to be ‘spiritually blind’, as they were ignorant of the truth of God even when they had seen and witnessed for themselves for more than a few occasions, what the Lord had done for His people through Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord with humility like that of the blind man? Pride kept us away from being able to seek God’s forgiveness, and we ought to be humble, realising that we need God’s healing and forgiveness for our sins. And then, are we able and willing to seek God for healing, that He may bless us and forgive us from our many sins, purifying ourselves from our corrupted state due to our sins? Let us seek to be God’s children, worthy and as bright children of the light, rejecting the darkness of sin, for the righteousness and faith in God. Our true joy and happiness is in the Lord, Our God and Saviour, and it is Him that we ought to look towards and focus our attentions on.

As we look forward towards the glorious joy of Easter, let us all renew our efforts to be ever closer to God, to be more devoted in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Let us deepen our relationship with God and be righteous and good in all of our actions and deeds. Let us be more loving and charitable towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and let us all be generous in caring for the needs of those who are needy, poor, unloved and rejected by others. Let us share the joy of Christ with one another, and hope that one day we may glorify God together and be worthy of God and His eternal kingdom as we enter into the new and heavenly Jerusalem.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us with faith and the resolve to live our lives daily, that we may walk ever faithfully in His path, and draw ever closer to His grace. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 22 March 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose or Purple/Violet

John 9 : 1-41

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One Who sent Me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

Then they asked him, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” And he answered, “The Man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” They asked, “Where is He?” And the man answered, “I do not know.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, but how is it that he now sees?” The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know Who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

The parents said this because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from the synagogue. Because of that his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.” So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this Man is a sinner.”

He replied, “I do not know whether He is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He replied, “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 started to insult him. “Become His disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from.” The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the Man comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honours God and does His will, Hod listens to him. Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment : Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” Some Pharisees stood by and asked Him, “So we are blind?” And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But you say, ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

John 9 : 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Sunday, 22 March 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose or Purple/Violet

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Behave as children of light; the fruits of light are kindness, justice and truth in every form. You yourselves search out what pleases the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness that are of no benefit; expose them instead.

Indeed it is a shame even to speak of what those people do in secret, but as soon as it is exposed to the light, everything becomes clear; and what is unmasked, becomes clear through light.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead that the light of Christ may shine on you.”