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Laetare Sunday – 4th Sunday of Lent

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Today is “Laetare” Sunday or “rejoice” Sunday/Sunday of Joy. Celebrants at Mass have the option to use rose colored vestments today just as in Gaudete Sunday during Advent.  This Sunday is a day to rejoice and remind ourselves that our austere penance during Lent is almost coming to a close and the events that define Christianity are about to come, especially Resurrection Sunday.  This Sunday tells us, “we’re almost there, so don’t quit now.”  

 

Today’s readings introduce interesting themes; in particular, faith, the true Shepherd and Redeemer, and “God is in control.”

 

The first reading tells us about the Lord telling Samuel to get ready with his horn of oil because He has already chosen the king for His people. Samuel was the last Hebrew Judge and the first of the major prophets in Israel. God tells Samuel to find the new king from among the sons of Jesse who he is supposed to anoint with the oil in the horn. 

 

Samuel looks at the sons and goes one by one assuming he chose the right one, but God tells him no. Human beings are prejudicial beings. We love to judge people based on appearance, or “lookism.” Samuel was no different. He believed a leader/king should be of lofty stature and assumed a particular son with that characteristic is who God had chosen. However, God says, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  not as man see does God see, because man sees the appearance,but the Lord looks into the heart.” These are powerful words we should meditate on by themselves. God looks at the heart, not at how we look. We should do the same.  Instead of judging people by profiling them, we should look at their heart – their personality. 

 

After Samuel went trough seven sons trying to find out which one God had chosen and learning none of them were the one, Jesse introduces Samuel to the youngest who was a shepherd tending

sheep.  The kid’s name is David. David is described as being handsome and ruddy, obviously young but God chose him. Jesse and David of course are the descendants of Jesus the Messiah. The choosing of this young kid who is a shepherd is a prefigurement of Christ Himself. Jesus is to be the Good Shepherd and is also the Son of God. Even in an early age Jesus was doing God’s work ( Luke 2:41-52) making a link to David who was the youngest and was chosen. This should remind the youth in the Church that they are indeed important and should take an active role in their respective parishes.  The Catholic Church is not for the “old” only.  

In response to the first reading, we read from the most famous and well known Psalm of all found in chapter 23 which begins with “The Lord is my shepherd.” This Psalm connects both David and Christ. It speaks of how God is the shepherd and takes care of His own. He annoints with oil and fills the soul with grace (my “cup overflows“). God is indeed our shepherd and we should always have trust in Him. Last Sunday’s first reading was about the Hebrews doubting God in the desert believing Moses to be some con artist who dragged them out to die. We should not be like them. Trusting God will bring “goodness and kindness” for the rest of our lives.  

 

As shepherd, God guides us on our path which is dark. The second reading from Ephesians tells us about this. We were in darkness and now are in the light of the Lord, the reading begins.  St. Paul tells us that we should continue living as children of the light. He reminds us to do what is pleasing to God and avoid the things that are in darkness. Christ is the light (John 8:12).

Without light, we cannot see physically speaking.  The same applies spiritually. Today we live in a world that is adopting atheistic existential nihilism which originated from Nietzsche et.al and claims that life is meaningless, has no purpose and that we create our own “destinies.” This philosophy, while claiming to liberate man has done nothing more than bring him down and imprison him in despair and psychological and spiritual oblivion. We are rational beings with free will and intellect; however, this does not mean we can guide ourselves. When we leave human beings to be an end in themselves, they guide each other in darkness and without proper vision in this environment, they all fall into the hole (Matthew 15:14).  Only Christ can show us the way even in darkness.  Only He can guide the way so that we won’t fall into the hole.

 

The themes of light and darkness are touched upon in the Gospel. We read in the Gospel how Jesus performs one of His “strangest” miracles recorded. Jesus passes by and sees a man who has been blind since birth.  The disciples ask Him if this man is blind because of his sins or his parent’s sins.  Jesus replies, “neither he nor his parents sinned” and goes on to tell them that his disability exists in order for God to show His works. The disciples are holding to the idea that people who are disabled are in that state due to their sins. This brings to mind the “Moral Model” in disability studies which claims it is the fault of the disabled person that he/she is in that state and that this has to do with divine punishment. Jesus obviously disagrees.  

 

Jesus then does something that is both strange and disgusting, in human terms.  He spits on the ground and makes clay with it.  Then he smears the clay made with spit on the man’s eyes.  He then instructs the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam.  When the man did as he was told, he came back with full vision.  Those in the neighborhood could not believe it and were saying to themselves “isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”  They were in shock that this man is now able to see after they have gotten used to seeing him in a blind state begging for money.  Immediately they questioned him and brought the man to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees upon learning that Christ healed this man on the Sabbath declared that Christ is not of God. They made the Law in the Old Covenant into a god, so to speak.  The Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around (Mark 2:27).  The rest of the story tells us how the Jews did not believe and even questioned the beggar’s parents who testified that he indeed was born blind. Then there is a debate on who Christ really is and His intentions. 

 

This Gospel has so many things I can write on, but will briefly get into them.  First, the Gospel reminds us that we are born blind or spiritually blind.  Atheists often make the claim that we are “atheists by default,” I refute this here: http://sacerdotvs.blogspot.com/2013/04/atheism-as-default-fails.html.  We are not “atheist” at conception but are merely spiritually blind. After Baptism, we start to regain our sight as we grow in faith and grace.  This is why the man only gets sight after he washes himself in the Pool of Siloam.  Once we have life in Christ can we truly begin to see like the beggar did.  Second, Jesus in this story shows us how God does not discriminate. He sees the beggar who is blind, probably dirty and smelly, yet still approaches him.  God does not judge by appearance as 1 Sam 16:76 states.

 

Third, here is an interesting connection as well in regards to the clay.  We read in Genesis 2:7 how God creates man from the clay of the Earth.  Jesus uses clay to heal the man.  Think about this for a moment. If pottery is broken, how is it repaired?  We use clay to repair it. God made man out of the clay of the Earth and sin broke him. Christ comes and uses clay with spit to “fix” broken man. Christ makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We must approach Christ with faith and trust in Him.  He will restore our sight and guide us as our shepherd through the “valley of the shadow of death” which surrounds this world.  God is always in control.  Despite Original Sin ruining nature, God still fixes it and guides it to perfection in Him.  He is the Redeemer, the Savior who restores the Image of God in us with His light.  Today we rejoice with the “blind beggar” and shout out for all to hear: “I do believe, Lord.”  

 

 

 

 

READINGS:

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 31 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm

Reading 11 SM 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A

The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, 
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, 
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, 
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel: 
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, 
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, 
but Samuel said to Jesse, 
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him; 
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold 
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, 
anointed David in the presence of his brothers; 
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R/ (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R/ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 EPH 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, 
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light, 
for light produces every kind of goodness 
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; 
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention 
the things done by them in secret; 
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

Gospel JN 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, 
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned; 
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe 
that he had been blind and gained his sight 
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said, 
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed 
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind 
and said to him, “Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner.”
He replied,
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said, 
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, 
but we do not know where this one is from.”
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing, 
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, 
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, ADo you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said, 
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Then 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.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this 
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin; 
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

Or JN 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said, 
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

    

     

 

 

 

     

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