Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2020 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday. The liturgy gives us some signs of joy to encourage us on our Lenten path—and we need encouragement!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares: “Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). Christ is truly the light of the world.

The Gospel tells us about Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth, a man living in darkness. His encounter with Christ made it possible for him to see the light. What a revolution! He says: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see” (Jn 9:25).

At this moment, we seem to be immersed in darkness, while fervently desiring the light. In today’s second reading, Saint Paul assures us: “Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14). We pray: Show us your light, O Lord! When dark clouds cover the horizon, show us that you are the sun of our lives!

To see the light means to see people and things as God sees them. To see the light means to go beyond appearances. Today’s first reading says: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

Staying at home under self-quarantine is a trial for all of us. This is a time for conversion. This can be a fruitful time if we grow in our relationship with God. Many unanticipated sacrifices are being asked of us. Two temptations threatening us during these days are fear and gluttony. Both of them paralyze us and prevent us from seeking God, rendering us lonely and empty. Faith can conquer both these temptations. Jesus asked the formerly blind man: “‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered […] ‘I do believe, Lord’” (Jn 9:35.38). Our faith is being tested, perhaps as never before.

Today’s psalm, Psalm 23, is a powerful response to anxiety. We need to meditate upon it often. The refrain is a proclamation of faith: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” The preface of today’s Mass says: “By the mystery of the Incarnation, he has led the human race that walked in darkness into the radiance of the faith.”

When we are afraid, we should repeat the verses of the psalm to ourselves: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage” (Ps 23:4). When we are tempted to fill the emptiness we are feeling these days with the consolation of food, we should pray the words of the psalm: “In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul” (Ps 23:2‒3). Only Christ can fill the void in our hearts.

The Gospel says that the formerly blind man professed his faith in Christ and adored him: “‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped him” (Jn 9:38). Prayer conquers all temptations and allows us to live the words of Saint Paul: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). Fasting strengthens our prayer and helps purify our hearts, so that we can seek Jesus’ face.

A great sacrifice is being asked of us, to be deprived of the sacraments. At each Mass I have celebrated this week, as I consumed the body and blood of Christ, I was thinking about all the people of God who cannot receive them at the present time. As I took communion, I ardently desired to share my sacramental union with the Lord with each one of you.

The privation of the sacraments shows us the importance of our personal relationship with the Lord. Even when we do not have the sacraments, nothing can take God from us.

We need to pray with heightened awareness. As the Pope says, let us pray the Rosary every day, as families or as individuals. Let us find consolation in the company of Mary Help of Christians, who is always ready to help us during our trials. It is from her unblemished hands that we receive the light that is Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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