Sunday Sermon for March 26, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

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

In the second reading today St. Paul says something very interesting. He says that we were once darkness, but we have now become light in the Lord. He goes on to say that we are to live as children of the light. Notice, however, in the first sentence, that he does not say that we were in darkness and we are now in the light; no, he says were were darkness and have become light.

I find this fascinating because it hearkens back to the beginning of creation when God separated the light from the darkness. People often wonder about this because the sun was not created until the fourth day, so how could there be light? The light spoken of in Genesis is not a physical light but, rather, a spiritual light. Scripture tells us that God dwells in light inaccessible, but this is not the light to which Genesis refers either because that light would not be created, but would have to be identified with God’s being.

For this reason, the Church teaches that God created the angels prior to any material creation. He created them outside of time (time only exists for material bodies) and then tested them regarding their fidelity. Those angels who remained faithful to God entered into Heaven; those who were unfaithful were cast out of Heaven. In the good angels and their choice we have light; in the fallen angels and their choice we have darkness. In this way we can understand this “light and darkness” as being spiritual, even moral.

With this understanding, for St. Paul to say that we were darkness and now we are light says something about the state of our very being. Like the fallen angels whose nature is still good, our nature did not change when Adam and Eve fell, nor has it been changed by any of our own sins. However, without the grace of God in our souls, we would be nothing but darkness and death. Having been redeemed by Jesus and given the grace of God, we are light and we are filled with divine life.

Our Lord suggests something along these lines when He speaks to the Pharisees at the end of the Gospel reading today. We have a long reading about a man who was born blind and is now healed by our Lord. Obviously, someone who is born blind has lived in a physical darkness his whole life. But Jesus tells us that He came into this world so that those who are blind might see and that those who can see might become blind.

The Pharisees heard this and understood, asking if Jesus meant that they were blind. Our Lord tells them that if they were actually blind they would have no sin, but because they claim to see, their sin remains. So, our Lord is using this example of the man who was physically blind to make a point about a much worse kind of blindness: spiritual or moral blindness.

Sure these Pharisees were able to see with their eyes, but their hearts were closed to the truth. Just like the fallen angels who knew the truth but rejected God’s plan when it was shown to them, so these men also knew the truths of the Jewish faith, but rejected God’s plan for salvation in the Person of Jesus. As always, it is pretty easy for us to point a finger at these religious leaders and wonder how they could be so foolish, but then we realize that we are no different from them and we could easily do the same thing.

Think about it: we have been given the fullness of truth and we know that truth. However, when God is trying to do something in our lives, we often fight against Him because He is not doing things the way we think He should. This is what happened to the demons and to the Pharisees in the Gospel. God is going to test us, just as He has tested every rational creature from the beginning. Like all of our ancestors, we are very weak and, sadly, unfaithful. Without such tests, we would think we were strong and faithful.

Do not feel too badly, because we see how even Samuel, an extraordinarily holy man, thought that he knew God’s will when he looked at the sons of Jesse. The one God had chosen was so unexpected that he was not even invited to the feast. God did not work the way some of the angels thought He should; He did not work the way some of the Jewish people thought He should; He does not work the way we think He should. Do not try to figure Him out; just accept His will and remain in the light.

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