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APRIL 3, 2011: FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Readings: 

I Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Almost everyone knows that John differs from his three evangelistic predecessors when he describes Jesus' miracles. Mark, Matthew and Luke usually demand a person have faith before Jesus can do miraculous things in his or her life. No faith; no miracle. John, on the other hand, expects faith to surface only after Jesus performs the miracle.

Teachers of John frequently employ today's gospel pericope to demonstrate this theological characteristic. Notice, the blind beggar never asks Jesus to restore his sight. The Galilean carpenter simply makes mud out of spit and dirt, unexpectedly rubs it in the poor man's eyes, then tells him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam!"

Even after his cure, it takes the beggar a while before he acquires faith in Jesus as God. When the authorities begin to question him, he refers to his benefactor as just "the man called Jesus." Then, after being interrogated further, he ups his appraisal to the point where he eventually states, "He is a prophet." Only at the end of the narrative does John have him profess faith in Jesus as "Son of Man," proclaiming, "I do believe, Lord," and worships him.

Always conscious of his readers, the gospel writer then tells us why he included this particular miracle in his work: "Jesus said, 'I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.'"

As we so frequently hear in our Sacred Scriptures, faith is rooted in seeing things other people overlook, an aspect of biblical faith perfectly demonstrated in our I Samuel reading.

Yahweh sends Samuel to Jesse's home in Bethlehem to anoint Israel's next king - a rather touchy, dangerous mission since Saul, the country's first king, is still alive. Looking at Eliab, Samuel sees the same physical characteristics Saul possesses, a man standing head and shoulders above everyone else, a person of "lofty stature." He's ready to pour the royal oil over his head when Yahweh steps in and reminds Samuel, "Not as humans see does God see, because humans see the appearance but Yahweh looks into the heart." Samuel eventually anoints the runt of the litter, the kid who wasn't even invited to the party: David.

This experience of God picking the younger over the older influenced some of the Genesis' best known theology. Since its three main sources were composed after David's reign, rarely is the first-born in patriarchal families Yahweh's chosen one. Our sacred authors reasoned, "If Yahweh could choose against type in the case of David, then Yahweh could have done so before and probably will do it after." It's all a matter of knowing what to look for.

The Pauline disciple responsible for Ephesians hits this faith-nail on the head. "You were once in darkness," he or she reminds the community, "but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light!"

The risen Jesus calls us to be light in a world filled with darkness. Our mission is first to open our own eyes, then help others open theirs. We're here to expose a world existing all around us; a world we rarely notice.

When we do this, we become part of a consistent biblical tradition. Yahweh always demands we focus on reality as Yahweh focuses; the same way Yahweh's Son Jesus teaches us to focus.

Two thousand years ago, motivated by this insight, an early Christian created our beautiful Ephesians hymn: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!"

If any of you have yet to read the first chapters of Chabris and Simons' The Invisible Gorilla, I'd suggest you'd do so soon. They'll go a long way in helping you understand today's three readings.