Homily for Laetare (4th) Sunday of Lent – Year A

Christ Our Shepherd-King Cares For, And Heals Us!
Readings: (1st: I Sam 16:1.6-13; Ps 22; 2nd: Eph 5:8-14; Gos: Jh 9:1-41)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

As we continue our journey this Lenten season, Jesus continues to manifest his authority as both shepherd and king over his people and the circumstances of our life. As the anointed one from the Davidic lineage Christ assures us his flock by his gratuitous saving help that though we are often assailed by fears and misgivings in this world of darkness, He, our Shepherd-King and the second David lights up our ways and leads us to his Kingdom unblemished. So, on this Laetare (4th) Sunday of Lent the Holy Mother Church exalts us to be joyful because, Christ our Shepherd-King comes to us with power, majesty and dominion in a special way in order to cure us of both the physical and spiritual blindness that prevent us from living our lives to its fullest potential. He is willing to do this because he cares for us and considers our well being more paramount above every other thing else.
In the first reading of today, we find that in making David the Shepherd-King, Samuel did not act out of impulse, emotion or human inclination. Instead, he simply obeyed and went to where he was sent to, Bethlehem and specifically to Jesse’s tribe to which God directed him. He could have gone to the tribe of Zebulun, Naphtali, or elsewhere, or even to any nearby town to anoint someone, but he went according to the mind of God and not according to his personal inclination. What do we learn from this? Quite simple! First, whenever we neglect God and the Holy Spirit in making decisions definitely we get it wrong and incur both the wrath of God and men as a direct or indirect consequence of our wrong action or disobedience. Second, we must be patient in carrying out the command or injunction of God. We must note the patience and humility of Samuel when he said: “Send for him, we will not seat down to eat until he comes.” Samuel stood up and waited for a long time, only God knows how many hours until the young David arrived. He was not weary or rushed into any rash decision of anointing any other person around because the right person was not yet there, but he waited patiently because no one could convince him to anoint any other son of Jesse beyond the conviction he got from God: “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.” Third, we must not allow physical appearance to deceive us. It took listening to God and discernment for Samuel to avert the danger of being deceived by the appearance of Eliab who was tall, handsome, elegant, and of course available. It is quite unfortunate that some of us so much rely on these physical qualities in selecting our leaders, rulers, shepherds, kings, etcetera. The result has always been catastrophic. But when we make the right choice and decision people are liberated, the blind see, the lame work, the hungry are fed, the poor become rich, the aggrieved and afflicted become satisfied and harmony returns to both the individual and the entire nation.
In the second reading of today Paul reminds us of our former and forlorn state before Christ our Shepherd-King came to liberate us from darkness. Sin clouds the mind in darkness and closes the heart to God’s love and truth. Only in the light of God’s truth can we see sin for what it really is, a rejection of God and opposition to his will. The Pharisees equated physical blindness and sickness with sin as we shall see shortly in today’s gospel. While the scriptures indicate that sin can make the body and mind sick as well as the soul, not all sickness, however is the result of sin. Hence, Paul admonishes us on the need to: “…Be (and live as) children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” We do this by trying to discover and do what the Lord our Shepherd-King wants us to do. What Paul is simply saying here is that Christ our anointed Shepherd-King is the light that illumines our life. Living outside Him means abiding in darkness. We must therefore this season of Lent make frantic efforts to draw close to Christ who cares for us and to the one who shows us the way and heals both our physical and spiritual infirmities.
In today’s gospel, we read of Jesus’ demonstration of power by restoring the sight of a man born blind. Here Jesus our Shepherd-King shows that he cares for the well being of his flock especially the sick and the weak. He, like David his ancestor, went out of his way without minding his detractors and distractions to tend his flock. Of utmost importance in today’s gospel is the question that Jesus’ disciple put to him concerning the blind man’s blindness: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” From this, it is quite obvious that the disciples’ question assumes that suffering is caused by sin. It could be the parents’ sin (Ex 34:7; Nu 14:18; and Deu 5:9) or the blind man’s sin, but he was blind from birth. The parents probably assumed that his blindness was their fault. But Jesus was quick to add: “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him!” in other words, this man’s situation provided an opportunity for Jesus to heal him, thereby revealing God’s works. Sickness befalls us for a variety of reasons. Paul reminds us that: “In everything, God works for good with those who love him” (Rom 8:28). So the blind man, once cured, marveled and proclaimed to the glory of God: “Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.” This miracle remarkably reveals the power and glory of God. It is very important to mention here that although Jesus said that the man’s suffering was not caused by sin, however, we should not forget that there often is a connection between sin and suffering. Yes, it is absolutely true as Jesus our Shepherd king has rightly taught that not all suffering is caused by sin, but all sin causes suffering. Jesus shows us that sin and suffering are not always related, but not that they are never related.
The lessons which we must learn from this man include that the man was obedient to the instruction or injunction given to him: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam,” just as Naaman the Syrian was, though, after much argument and persuasion (II Kg 5: 1-15), and as Samuel obeyed God’s command to go to the house of Jesse to anoint the Shepherd-King. The blind man did not mince words there but simply obeyed what Christ asked him to do. Of course, he got his healing immediately. Many of us are so stubborn that we do not obey the commands of Christ our anointed Shepherd-King yet, we want to be liberated. The second lesson is that we must be consistent with our words, faith, convictions, and the truth. In spite of all the quizzing and intimidation of the Pharisees the man remained truthful and firm without caving in or denying that it was Christ that healed him. Instead, he insisted: “The man called Jesus…said to me go and wash at Siloam; so I went, and when I washed I could see…He is a prophet!” According to St. John Chrysostom: “The the Pharisees cast him out of the Temple; but the Lord of the Temple found him.” If our witness of Jesus and his redeeming power in our lives separates us from our fellow neighbors, it nonetheless draws us nearer to Jesus himself. Paul warns us to avoid the darkness of sin that we might walk more clearly in the light of Christ (Eph. 5:8-12). So my dear brethren, as we continue our journey this Lenten season, we must not allow any blind spot to blur our vision of what God is doing for us, offering us, and requiring of us? We must continue to say of our Shepherd-King as the Psalmist: “The lord is my Shepherd (and King); there is nothing I shall want” (Ps. 22:1)!
Peace be with you all!
Maranatha!!

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