The 4th Sunday of Lent
First Reading: 1st Book of Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-6
Second Reading: Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel: According to St. John 9:1-41
My usual assumption, despite the somewhat depressing statistics, is that if someone is taking the time to contemplate these thoughts on the Sunday readings, then that someone is also taking the time to attend Mass over the weekend.
Well, beginning with this weekend, all bets are off. We are living in strange times, but to those who live in them every time has its own unique strangeness. Imagine living in Jerusalem around the year A.D. 30 and having people tell you of a man born blind who, through the intervention of an itinerant teacher, could now see. Imagine being told that this teacher made a paste out of saliva and dirt, applied it to the eyes of the blind beggar and the man was given – not regained, but given for the first time – sight.
In the Gospel According to St. John the middle section – that section concerned with the public life of Jesus – is called the Book of Signs. For John, miracles are just that – signs from God of His presence in the world. Jesus is the ultimate manifestation, the ultimate sign, of God among us, and the Hebrew word for that is Emmanuel.
From Genesis to Revelation and at innumerable places in between, the Bible tells us both explicitly and implicitly that God is among us, that God is with us. In Genesis, Yahweh says to Jacob, “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.” In Isaiah, the prophet shares the message of God to all who will listen: “The young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.”
This theme of God-with-us reaches its final climax at the very end of what is rightfully called the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John when the author tells us that he has seen a new heaven and a new earth, including a New Jerusalem adorned as a bride. A voice cries out, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will always be with them as their God.”
For three years, during the public ministry of Jesus, a small corner of the world was made aware, in ways that were very strange and therefore very difficult to wrap one’s head around, of what the phrase God-with-us really meant. Water became wine, seas were calmed, and the blind were given sight.
God dwells among us still, and He does so in the very real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Parishes, even in this time of great concern for the health of the faithful, may – if the proper precautions have been followed – be open for private devotion for those who wish to be with Jesus as He resides in the Tabernacle. We are all encouraged to take advantage of access to the Mass through various media, including the website for the Diocese. Our world is so strange that we can (on catholictv.org) watch the Holy Father celebrate Mass every day on the Internet.
The times that we are experiencing are indeed quite strange. And yet, we are still called, as have been all followers of Jesus before us, to seek out the God among us Who, no matter the situation, can open our eyes and heal our souls.