Sunday Sermon for March 22, 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

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

The readings today are all about spiritual blindness.  In the first reading we hear about Samuel, the great Prophet of the Lord, who was easily misled by his own failure to look at the spiritual.  When Jesse presented Eliab, his firstborn son who was tall, strong, and handsome, Samuel assumed, based on his appearance, that this was the one God had chosen to be the king of Israel.  Instead, God chose Jesse’s youngest son who was thought to be so insignificant that he was not even invited to the sacrifice. 

Samuel knew when he went to Bethlehem that he was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons, but it was not revealed beforehand which son it would be.  With the knowledge he had received from God, Samuel made an assumption based on physical characteristics rather than seeking clarity from God.  The Lord intervened and told Samuel that God looks at the heart while man looks at the appearance.  Not only is this statement an important lesson for all of us to learn, but we also need to learn from Samuel’s error.  If someone as holy as Samuel can take his focus off of God and be blinded by natural sight, how much easier will it be for people like us to fall into this same trap? 

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.  It is important to note that he does not say we were in darkness and now we are in the light.  Rather, we were darkness and now we are light in the Lord.  Therefore, he says, we are to live as children of light, light that produces every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Once again, St. Paul reminds us that walking in spiritual darkness leads to a fruitless and shameful existence. 

Moreover, St. Paul tells us that everything will be exposed in the light.  Jesus is the Light and, in Him, we have become light.  If we are living as children of light, we will easily recognize the works of darkness and reject them.  As we remove more and more of the darkness from our lives, we will have greater clarity and insight into the spiritual truths revealed by God.  But if we choose to give into the works of darkness, we blind ourselves to the greater and deeper realities that lie hidden in God.

In the Gospel, our Lord heals a man who was born bind.  When the Jewish authorities questioned him about his healing, the man demonstrated profound insight.  Not only was he able to instruct the Jewish leaders, but he recognized the truth about our Lord.  The Pharisees called Jesus a sinner and stated they did not know where Jesus came from.  The man who had been blind speaks to them about the teaching of Moses and tells them Jesus is from God.  Later, after the Pharisees threw the man out of the synagogue, Jesus finds the man and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man.  When Jesus tells the man that He is the Son of Man, the man who had been blind worshiped Jesus.

This man understood that Jesus was the Son of Man described in the seventh chapter of the Book of the Prophet Daniel.  Jesus uses the opportunity to say He came into the world so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.  Clearly, He is speaking of spiritual blindness.  The fact that He healed a man born blind and gave him the grace to have such profound insights and  the faith to worship the Lord makes a powerful statement.  But for us, the scary thing is the possibility of becoming blind.

We have seen that spiritual blindness can actually be caused by physical sight.  Not that our ability to see will cause us to become spiritually blind, but when we make judgments based on what we see on the natural level, we can   lose sight of what is on the spiritual level.  Since we can see only what is on the surface, it is necessary for us to keep our focus on God if we want to see with deeper insight.  Since God alone knows the heart, it is for Him alone to make judgments about individuals.  We have seen that spiritual blindness can come from our sins.  In choosing darkness over light, we make ourselves blind.  On the natural level, light is necessary to see.  A person with perfect eyesight is blind in total darkness.  You are light in Christ: live as a child of light.  Reject the works of darkness and keep your focus on God Who will give you light and make you light in the Lord!

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