Sunday Sermon for March 19, 2023, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Readings: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

In the first reading today, we see one of the most typical of human actions: judging by appearances.  God sends Samuel to anoint the king He has chosen.  Samuel does not know who the man is, but he does know that he is one of the sons of Jesse from Bethlehem.  When Samuel sees Jesse’s first born, a man who was tall, strong, and handsome, he assumed this was the one the Lord had chosen.  God let Samuel know this was not the one, neither were any of the others Jesse presented before Samuel.  The one God had chosen was judged as being too unimportant to even be at the feast!

What God told Samuel is a lesson we all need recall: God looks into the heart while we look at the appearance.  Obviously, it is difficult for us to do anything differently because we cannot see the heart or the intentions of the person.  What we can do differently, however, is to try to stop making judgments about things which are not ours to make. 

We see in the Gospel reading how the Pharisees were guilty of the same problem, but in a manner that is far worse.  After Jesus heals the man who was born blind and the Pharisees question him about the healing, they accuse the man of being born in sin and of being a disciple of Jesus (even though he did not even know who Jesus was at that time) rather than being a disciple of Moses.  Each of these statements would require some insight into the heart and mind of the person before stating such accusations. 

It is bad enough that Pharisees made judgments about the blind man, but they also made two judgments about our Lord: “This man is not from God,” and, “We know this man is a sinner.”  What we know is that Jesus is God and that He never sinned.  So, based solely on externals, these religious leaders assumed some things about Jesus that were completely wrong.  Not only is it a travesty that they would do this, but even worse, because their judgments blinded them to the truth, they may have lost the opportunity to save their souls because they failed to recognize the divinity of Jesus and they rejected Him as the Messiah.

What is more fascinating is that when Jesus caught up with the man who had been blind after the Pharisees ejected him from the Temple, Jesus asked the man if he believed in the Son of Man.  This term is from the Prophet Daniel who had a vision of One, like a Son of Man, being presented before the throne of God and receiving power and dominion.  The man asks who this Son of Man is, and Jesus tells the man he is looking at Him.  The man professes his belief in Jesus and worships Him.

It is further fascinating that Jesus then says He came into the world for judgment, so those who do not see might see and those who could see might become blind.  The blind man, having faith and insight, believed in Jesus.  The people who judged our Lord were blind to the truth.  So, our Lord judges those who judged Him, but gives sight, both physical and spiritual, to those who do not judge Him.

This brings us to what St. Paul says about us in the second reading.  He tells us that we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.  At the end of the reading he says that “Christ will give you light.”  It is light that allows us to see.  A person with 20/20 vision can see nothing when there is no light; neither can a blind person see when there is brilliant light.  The light our Lord gives is the spiritual light that allows us to “see” the various truths and mysteries of God.  This is the light the Pharisees in the Gospel lacked; it is the same light that allowed the blind man to “see” Who Jesus is and worship Him as God.

We, too, recognize our Lord and we worship Him.  However, it is easy for us to fall into a trap of going through the motions externally, but failing to serve the Lord from the heart.  This is why St. Paul tells us that if we are now light in the Lord, we must live as children of the light, that is, live goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Beyond this, he tells us to take no part in the fruitless works of darkness. As children of the light, we must reject making judgments that are not ours to make.  If we truly believe in the Son of Man, we must reject evil and live for Him. 

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