Sunday Sermon for March 30, 2014, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Readings: 1Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41
In the second reading St. Paul tells us that we are light in the Lord and that we are, therefore, to live as children of the light. He makes the distinction between light and darkness, but that can be applied in a variety of ways. It can be truth and falsehood, it can be good and evil, it can be clarity and confusion, it can be charity and selfishness, and so on. The fact that we have been enlightened by Christ does not necessarily imply that we have allowed the light of Christ into every part of our being; neither does it mean that we always follow the path of light.

One example of this can be found in the first reading today where Samuel is sent by God to anoint the successor to King Saul. Samuel is told by the Lord that this person will be from among the sons of Jesse from Bethlehem. When Samuel looks upon Eliab, the first born of Jesse, he automatically assumes him to be the one chosen by the Lord. God intervenes to let Samuel know of his mistaken notion. Only after that does Samuel check with the Lord about each of the other sons of Jesse that are present. When the Lord has made clear that none of these is to be anointed, Samuel has to ask if there is still another son. Finding out that there is yet one more, he waits for David to arrive and finds out that this is the one the Lord has chosen.

The point of example that I mentioned in this case is that someone as holy as Samuel took his eyes off of the Lord and made an assumption based merely on the outward appearance of Eliab. Fortunately, because of the gifts Samuel had been given, the Lord could speak to him and make His will known. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the kinds of gifts God had given to Samuel. We make many decisions based on appearances, selfish desires, improper motives and the like. Without Samuel’s gifts, we are not attuned to the Lord enough to hear Him tell us that this or that is not His will.

We see another example of the darkness of ignorance or confusion in the Gospel. Here the Apostles are asking about the man born blind and wondering if his blindness is due to a sin the man committed or if the fault lies with the parents of the man. The Lord brings clarity to the situation by stating that neither the man nor his parents are responsible for his blindness; rather, He says, it is so that the works of God could be made visible through him. Isn’t it astounding how God works? God uses a man who cannot see as the means of making others see clearly.

How many times in our lives have we thought as the Apostles did? Bad things happen and we automatically assume that it is a punishment for something. As human beings we like to be able to see the cause and effect relationship in things. Indeed, there are things that happen that are consequences of our choices. But just because this is sometimes the case, it does not follow that it is always the case.

As we see in the Gospel, there are some things that God does for our good and for His glory. This is where we need to pray for true light to enlighten our minds and hearts. So often we are stuck on the natural level and we do not even give consideration to what God might be doing. If we fail to pray, if we fail to look to the Lord, even though we have been enlightened, we are choosing to remain in the darkness. Even in those things that are the result of our own doing or the malice of another, God will still use the circumstances to bring about good for us. We know that God brings good out of evil, so we need to learn to seek spiritual understanding and insight in order to cooperate with the Lord.

The blind man of the Gospel was given light to know Jesus and the man made an act of faith and worshiped the Lord. The Pharisees, on the other hand, declared that they knew that Jesus was a sinner. If we think we know the ways of God, we will become blind because we assume we already know what He wants. The minute you think you have God figured out, He will do something that surprises you. The Lord is God not only at Mass or during formal times of prayer. We need to allow His light in to every part of our lives by seeking His will at all times and in all things.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit