4th Sunday of Lent
March 29, 1981
John 9: 1-41
Eph 5: 8-14
MHC Academy, North Haledon, N.J.
Since I was traveling (for 12 hours—by car, plane, and bus) on March 26, after the province meeting and celebration (previous post), I didn’t have a public Mass or a homily. Here’s one I gave to the Salesian sisters 36 years ago. Still timely?
“Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8).
Do you remember how you used to be afraid of the dark when you were a child?
What were you afraid of?
Darkness is probably a universal symbol of coldness, fear, evil, death, chaos. We think of specific and tangible examples like the Dark Ages, the Black Death, the Black Hole of Calcutta, and Darth Vader.
Christ the Light of the World
(at Washington HQ of the USCCB)
What a powerful symbol, then, is Jesus when he proclaims, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). He gives us a parable in action by opening the darkened eyes of a blind man, by letting in the sunshine of this world—and of the next, for the man then can see that Jesus is the Son of Man (9:37-38).
We also received the gift of sight, or insight, if you like. We see that Jesus is a prophet (9:17); he is the Messiah. We see, too, that we are sinners, men and women beset by darkness and in need of his light, warmth, and healing.
The gospel, and the epistle, too, are about choices as well as about light. Light already implies the alternative of darkness, and that, of course, is the choice: “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). We have chosen the light of the world over against the darkness of lewd conduct, lust, silly or suggestive talk—these vices are the darkness to which Paul is referring (cf. 5:3-5).
Even the poor blind man, still blinking his eyes in the light, had to choose. “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses” (John (9:28). Our choices affect others, inevitably, just as the blind man’s choices affected the Pharisees and his parents. The Pharisees and his parents prefer darkness, tho they may claim to be in the light. Few have the courage to walk with Christ in the light.
Yes, seeing can be frightening; the darkness can also be comforting. How a baby howls when it must emerge into the light of the world from the darkness of the womb! And don’t our eyes resist the light when we come out of a movie theater? We can indeed resist the change that light demands of us. We can resist the demands that Christ our Light makes of us!
Our guilt and our sin can be more comfortable than belonging fully to Christ, no matter how deadly or sterile our darkness. There is real evil in the world and in ourselves. It needs to be confronted, like evil of the political and economic animals to whom [our Salesian assembly speaker] referred at Ramsey last weekend, like the evil of our little jealousies, favoritisms, sharp words, inconsiderations, all more or less deliberately chosen because to change requires effort.
Let us bring our blindness to Christ and confess that he is our healer and our savior! Let us renew our baptismal commitment, as the gospel suggests with its references to anointing and to washing (9:6-7). The OT reading apparently was also chosen for its foreshadowing of Christian initiation and the reception of the gift of the Spirit. The epistle concludes with what is apparently part of a primitive baptismal hymn: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (Eph 5:14). We beg him for the courage to turn from our sin and to “walk as children of the light” (5:8).