March 17, 2023

Fourth Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionDrawing from the first word, in Latin, in the Entrance Antiphon for this weekend’s liturgy, this Sunday long has been called “Laetare Sunday.” Laetare means “to rejoice.” The Church rejoices that, despite the drabness of Lent, the glory of Christ shines forth. Despite the ugly world, the beauty of the Lord is radiant.

The first reading for this weekend is taken from the First Book of Samuel. An ancient prophet and therefore God’s representative and spokesman, Samuel selected, at God’s direction, the young David to be king of Israel. To signify this appointment, Samuel anointed David with oil.

Anointings always have marked persons for special jobs or to strengthen them in certain circumstances, as if the mark of the oil on the flesh is indelible and the oil infuses the person with grace.

All Catholics are anointed when they are baptized and confirmed. Priests and bishops are anointed in their ordinations. Faithful people in bad health are anointed in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to strengthen them and reinforce their spiritual constitution in their trials.

In May at his coronation, Britain’s King Charles III will be anointed, a hand-me-down from the days when England was Roman Catholic.

David was and remains special for Jews. He was the great king who united and empowered the nation, but his ultimate duty was to tighten the bond between God and the people.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians provides the second reading. This reading admonishes the Christian people of Ephesus, in the first century one of the major seaports, commercial centers and pagan shrines of the Roman Empire.

Drawing upon the imagery of light and darkness, Paul links light with righteousness and darkness with sin, calling upon the Christian Ephesians to live in the light.

St. John’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. Central to the story is the Lord’s meeting with a man blind since birth. The Lord gives the man sight. To understand this story, it is necessary to realize how Jews at the time of Jesus looked upon physical difficulties.

Unaware of the scientific explanations for blindness and other problems that people of this age have come to see as obvious, the ancient Jews believed such terrible physical challenges came about because of sin. After all, original sin ushered death itself into the world. In this thinking, sin also upset the good order of nature, hence disease.

Thus, the question came. Was this man’s blindness the consequence of his own sin or a sin of his parents?

Searching for an answer, the Pharisees questioned the man. The Pharisees are shown as obstinate and smug. By contrast, the blind man is humble and sincere. He has faith in God and in Jesus.

An added element, surely of special interest to the early generations of Christians who suffered persecution, was that the Pharisees expelled the man from their synagogue. The righteous often suffer from the ill will of others.


The Gospel story recalls a miracle. It also is a study in contrasts. On the one side is the man born blind whom Jesus healed. The other side is that of the Pharisees, spiritually blinded by their self-satisfaction, their confidence in their own knowledge and in their own high estimates of themselves.

We must apply these contrasts to ourselves. We may not be very evil, foolishly pompous or boastful as were the Pharisees. Still, we downplay our limitations. Our exaggerated judgments of ourselves trick us again and again and again.

This keeps us in the dark. Lent is the time to face facts. We must recognize our need for God. We must turn to God. He alone is light.

The wonder of this is that God will receive us, love us, forgive us and give us light to see reality.

The light of God awaits us in Christ. Rejoice! †

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