Saint Vincent Archabbey
Fourth Sunday of Lent,
John 3: 14:21
In today's gospel selection, Jesus continues his discussion with Nicodemus on the subject of baptism. It is important to note this because there is no explicit mention of baptism in this passage. This does not mean that the author has somehow lost his train of thought.
What it does mean is that, though the water ritual of baptism is important, what really matters is the quality of faith on the part of the one who is being baptized.
Jesus gives us the wonderful good news that "? God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.? We are included in that world, and it should be most comforting to hear that we are loved by the One who is most capable of loving. But we must also notice that the liberating effect of that divine love will be available to us only to the degree that we believe. "Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned.? It is of the greatest importance, therefore, that we understand what this believing means in our daily lives.
It is tempting to think that believing in Christ means simply that we affirm the creed, or that we agree that Jesus existed and worked miracles and died and rose from the dead. To accept these truths is important but this is not what is meant by "believing? in this passage. In fact, one can sincerely affirm all these facts theoretically and still live very selfishly. To believe in the One who was "lifted up? means nothing less than to make his self-offering part of our own lives through daily concern for others; it means to live unselfishly. This is the only kind of faith that will give us eternal life.
Most of us were baptized as infants with no conscious awareness of what was happening. Our sponsors promised, in our names, that we renounced Satan and affirmed Christ. It was hoped that our sponsors and others will explain all that to us when we became old enough to understand the very serious commitment made for us.
Unfortunately, we usually expect our sponsors to do little more than to remember our birthdays ? and often less than that.
The simple fact is that those baptized as infants must "claim? their own baptisms, as it were, as soon as they are old enough to do so, which usually means in early adulthood. The sacrament of baptism is not magic, and its graces become fully operative in our lives only to the extent that we accept and live the promises made years ago in our names.
When we promise to renounce Satan, we are declaring our firm resolution to eliminate from our lives the "big lie? of Satan, namely, that we can achieve happiness by thinking only of ourselves. And when we commit ourselves to Christ, we firmly resolve to follow his example of unselfish, thoughtful concern for others. When we are thus "lifted up? like Jesus on the cross of love, we can be sure that we will also be "raised up? with him in the victory of resurrection. Some may think that this takes all the fun out of life, but in reality the people who love in this way are the only truly happy people in the world. But we won't know that until we try it!
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Fourth Sunday of Lent, Modern
John 9: 1- 41
There's a temptation to explain why bad things happen to people as being a result of some sin in their lives. To view the bad thing as a punishment from God. This Gospel dispels this belief and teaches us to look at the sufferings of others as something other than punishments. The disciples asks a question that reveals his assumption that the man's blindness was a result of sin; "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?? This echoes the belief that Job's friends had who were convinced that he must have done something wrong. I've met numerous people who in the midst of tragedy or sickness wonder what they did that God is punishing them. Jesus response was unexpected, "neither he nor his parents sinned.?
It should be reassuring to us that God is not sitting on his Heavenly Throne waiting to pounce on sinners with sickness or tragedy. If this were the case all of us would be living miserable lives of sickness, for after all, we are all sinners.
After Jesus makes it clear that is not a punishment from God for our sins, he heals the man who was born blind to the amazement of both his followers and detractors. To the followers this is another sign that they are following the Messiah. There are always those who doubt or refuse to acknowledge God's power even when it is right before them. They try to twist this around and question whether r the man truly was blind. When this is quickly rebutted by the testimony of his parents and neighbors, the Pharisees acknowledge that the man was healed, but claim it is not the work of God, but of the devil. This too is without success. The formerly blind man gives his brief testimony, "One thing that I do know is that I was blind and now I see.?
Why was it so difficult for the Pharisees to accept the miraculous nature of this healing? For one thing it took place on the Sabbath, and their interpretation of the Sabbath was so restrictive that it bound even the work of God. By healing the blind man on the Sabbath Jesus shows the power of God over human affliction, and the authority of God over misinterpretations of the commandments. All of this was too much for the Pharisees to see and accept. Even today, there are those who don't believe, and fail to see the miracles that take place.
One wonders, who was truly blind, the man who couldn't see or the Pharisees? The man born blind could not see the world around him, but he was able to "see? who Jesus is. He had an interior vision of God's presence and power. The Pharisees were blind to God's presence in Jesus.
Unlike the man born blind who desired sight, they did not realize their blindness and so did not seek healing. Throughout the remainder of the Gospel they stumble in their blindness as they continually fail to see that Jesus is indeed Messiah and Lord.
This Gospel calls on us to rejoice with the blind man who recognized Jesus and who was healed, and it challenges us to look within ourselves to see if there is a blindness in our lives that prevents us from seeing the power and presence of God. During Lent let us be mindful of the call we received on Ash Wednesday to fast, pray and repent. In doing this may our eyes be truly open to the beauty of God's work both in Scripture and in the Church.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.