By Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“THE LORD GIVES me repose … refreshes my soul … guides me on right paths … spreads a table before me … anoints my head with oil … and lets goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life …” (Ps 23)
In our responsorial psalm we are comforted, and perhaps “oxygenated,” graced with new energy to stay the course, to run the race, to keep our eyes on the goal of God’s plan and ways in our lives. We heard the proclamation of a new disciple – the Samaritan woman – at the conclusion of last week’s Gospel: “Come and see!” Her eyes had been opened, her heart had been changed, her life transformed by Christ’s notice of her and her notice/awareness of Him.
She carries the message: “Come and see the One who sees through me and loves me unconditionally.” And so, today, our Church rejoices and we sing, “Open our eyes … help us to see…Your light.”
In the early church this fourth Sunday was a Festival of Spring and from gardens everywhere first roses were brought to church for a blessing. On that Sunday, catechumens were decked with roses while other roses were shared among the assembly. This custom and rejoicing initiated rose-colored vestments and banners. The catechumens and elect throughout the world enhance the rejoicing and bring a new spirit to the challenge we invite them to, and the promises we make with them. Jesus, His light and His message are the reason for our rejoicing.
In the Gospel (John 9:1-41), Jesus is confronted by those who think they clearly know God’s way; they even know who deserves to walk it (or run it) and earn the “merited crown.” The Pharisees, some neighbors and even a disciple or two, thought they had the eyes to know and the right to decide who were the ones who were God’s favored.
As God Sees
In the first reading, Jesse and Samuel believe they know who deserves to be chosen as king. Paul, in his earlier life, thought he knew and believed that he was one who was right in the “eyes” of God. At different moments and circumstances, we can be any one of the personalities we find in this Sunday’s Scriptures.
Don’t we sometimes trip and stumble along life’s journey into this darkness and unknowing? It happens to me every time I look at another with a distrust or sideways glance, or every time I think, “Why him, why her?” It stares me in the face when I think myself more aware or my opinion better than another person or their opinion. God be praised when we can catch ourselves early in this superior or even arrogant stance. With grace we learn that God’s ways are not ours, and that’s so good.
In today’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul, now a follower and the “apostle to the Gentiles” (the rest of the then-known world) exhorts us: “Live as children of light, for this light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. …take no part in the endeavors of darkness. Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, Christ comes to give you light.”
Do we hear the call to “open our eyes,” wipe the sleep from every fiber of our being and receive the light? We are called to see clearly Who is the Light and the path, the way, the course and the “race.” It is one which followers and true disciples enter with Jesus.
Might this not be a springtime for that “mini sprint” in our hearts, spirits, minds and lives? God is glorified when we hear, see and follow Jesus’ way. Two thousand years later, Paul’s message continues to be so desperately needed in our world.
Lens of the Cross
While today we lift up roses and rejoicing, our clearer foresight vision recalls that in the next weeks we enter more fully into the meaning and message of Jesus’ paschal mystery. This mystery is God’s prodigal and everlasting work of healing, giving and restoring life. Embracing this mystery and promise can prove a further challenge because while our eyes are opened that which we need to see is through a lens of the Cross.
The Cross becomes The Way of true discipleship. Putting on Christ will bring us clearly to the edges, margins and challenges of God’s behavior, through Jesus Christ, in the world. This unconditional, indiscriminate Love impels us not only to stand at the foot of a suffering brother’s or sister’s cross, but also to be willing to mount the Cross ourselves in the doing of justice, mercy, compassion and love.
Only through God’s graceful conversion each day along the way, and our growing response to the source of our energy – our “oxygenation” for the race – will “scales drop” from our eyes and they become “wide opened.” Then we see clearly the light and path we travel and the One Who is always with us.
Let us be glad and rejoice! Let us pray for our world and one another. God bless you in the weeks ahead.
Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
1 Samuel 16: 1B, 6-7, 10-13A
Psalm 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41 or John 9: 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.