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
Given all that has happened over the past couple of years, as well as all that has occurred over the past couple of weeks - from the environmental disaster in East Palestine to the Silicon Valley Bank failure, we can not deny that we are living in strange times. But history teaches us that every time has its unique strangeness for those who live in them.
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. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is at the heart of our lives as Catholics. During Lent, many attend Mass not just on Sunday, but during the week as well. There are parishes that offer Eucharistic Adoration and some religious houses and monasteries where Eucharistic Adoration is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Not only is prayer before Jesus in His Eucharistic presence a profound way to enrich our Lenten journey but witnessing the lives of those who dedicate themselves full-time to Eucharistic Adoration can be a source of great encouragement for the rest of us.
The times that we are experiencing are indeed quite strange, and it can be very easy, and somewhat understandable, for many of us to feel lost and abandoned, to wonder whether or not God is truly among us. Despite how we might feel, He is always there as our God-with-us in the Eucharist, especially in strange and difficult times. All we need to do is place ourselves near Him, to be in His presence, and He will bring sight to our eyes, healing to our souls, and peace to our troubled hearts.