February 29, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Samuel is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

The two Books of Samuel once were a single volume. During the long history of compiling and translating the Bible, the one volume was divided.

Little is known about the origins of the Books of Samuel. The title does not imply authorship, but rather the central figure in these volumes. It is not known, at least not with certainty, when these books were written.

The history of God’s Chosen People unfolds in the books of Samuel.

In this reading, a major development occurs. It is the selection of David to become the king of Israel. God’s prophet makes this selection. David’s selection by a prophet is important. David became the king of Israel not because of personal cunning or luck, but because God chose him for the chief purpose of bringing the people closer to God and God closer to them.

Symbolizing the choice is the outward gesture of anointing. Millennia before Jesus, anointing was an important and symbolic religious act.

The Church uses this ancient act in its liturgy. Candidates for baptism are anointed as are priests and bishops during the rites of Holy Orders. Anointing is also an integral part of confirmation.

None of the modern Catholic monarchs was crowned. However, in the past, the Church anointed kings and queens when they were crowned.

For its second reading, the Church presents a passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians.

The epistle presents Jesus as the light of the world. Without the Lord, all is in darkness. It is a complete and total darkness. Nothing is visible. People are utterly lost and helpless.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

When the Gospels were written, the Christian community was facing considerable hostility. The prevailing culture certainly was against Christianity. The legal system of the Roman Empire had turned against Christians. It was a very dangerous time to be a follower of Jesus.

Followers must have found the story in this weekend’s reading both instructive and inspiring.

The blind man had to cope with criticisms of Jesus. The blind man had to cope with prejudice.

Several themes emerge in this story.

The first is blindness. Even today, in a society much more generous to people who are physically challenged and in a time when medicine can sometimes heal or treat blindness, loss of vision is not to be lightly dismissed in society.

Another theme is the ancient Jewish notion that blindness somehow resulted from personal sin.

Yet another theme is that Jesus is Lord, merciful and almighty. By faith, the blind man receives from God, through Jesus, his vision.


On this weekend, the Church celebrates Laetare Sunday, the name drawn from the first word in Latin of the Entrance Antiphons—“Laetare!” The word means “rejoice!”

The approaching end of Lent, with its fasting and somberness, is not the reason for rejoicing. Rather, we rejoice because, if we have been sincere in using Lent to our spiritual advantage, we personally are nearer to the Lord.

Certainly, the candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil are nearer to their goal of becoming Christians.

However, while the Church rejoices—and the rose color of the priest’s vestments symbolize that the dawn of Easter is not far away—we still have weeks of Lent ahead of us. We cannot relent in purifying ourselves and in focusing ourselves on our journey to God.

To encourage us as we pass into Lent’s remaining weeks, the Church reminds us that God always has come to rescue the faithful. He came for this purpose in selecting David to be king of Israel. He came for this purpose in Jesus.

We live in darkness. We are limited. We can be quite blind. Sin weakens us and clouds our vision. Jesus is God. He restores our sight if we are sincere and humble. He is the light. †

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