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Archbishop Follo: The Joy of Seeing
March 20, 2020. ‘On this fourth Sunday of Lent, we are invited to joy. The Mass helps us to experience Christ present among us and, if he does not free us immediately from the suffering of these days, always and immediately he makes us free and happy in suffering, giving us relief and sure hope.’

Roman Rite – Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A – March 22nd, 2020

1 Sam 16: 1b.4a. 6-7, 10 -13a; Ps 23; Eph 5: 8-14; Jn 9: 1-41

Christ the Light opens the eyes of the blind.

 

Ambrosian Rite – Fourth Sunday of Lent

Ex 34:27-35.1; Ps 35; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Jn 9, 1 – 38b

Sunday of the Blind.

 

1)The Light that heals and gives joy

The passage from the Gospel of this fourth Sunday of Lent invites us to meditate on the story of the man born blind, whom Christ heals with the “mud” of his humanity and the loving power of his divinity. In fact, with a little soil and saliva the Messiah makes mud and smears it on the blind man’s eyes. This gesture alludes to the creation of man as told by the Bible with the symbol of the soil shaped and animated by the breath of God (cf. Gn2,7). “Adam” in fact means “earth” and the human body is composed of elements of the earth. By healing the blind man, Jesus makes a new creation in the truth that illuminates the way to life.

Even with this episode, Jesus Christ, our Lord, shows that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life for humanity. This time the term of comparison is given to us by “light” that is associated with man’s life and subsistence as it is water (Let’ go back to last Sunday’s Gospel  that spoke to us of the Samaritan woman who went to the well to have the water of material life and found the water of spiritual life). Even light is synonymous of life, and its recurring contrast with the reality of darkness, in Scripture, suggests that it is an element characterizing life in contrast with death. God, whom last time we saw outlined as “water” and truth, in the person of Jesus Christ presents himself to us as the “light” that cuts into darkness, illuminates darkness, and penetrates into the depths of evil and sin to overcome it .

The miracle, which we contemplate today, is a sign of a greater healing: that of salvation. The unexpected encounter with the prophet Jesus (Jn 9, 17) becomes a fact that allows a blind person to see to know and adore the Lord Jesus (Jn 9, 34-38). This is the path of everyone who is baptized. His (our) heart is freed from any incrustation of sin that obscures his (our) nature as a child of God. St. Augustine, playing on the meaning of the word “Siloe” which means “Sent” and gives its name to the swimming pool where the miracle takes place today, reminds us that, if Christ had not been the Father’s envoy (missus), man would not have been dismissed (dis-missus) from sin, that is, he would not have been forgiven to be able to welcome and live the gospel of joy.

The liturgy of this fourth Sunday of Lent, called “Laetare Sunday”, invites us to rejoice, as the entrance antiphon of the Mass invites us to do: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts. “(cf. Is 66: 10-11). What is the profound reason for this joy? It is told to us by today’s Gospel, in which Jesus heals a man blind from birth who, along with the light of his eyes receives the light of faith: “I believe, Lord!” (Gv9,38). In this Gospel passage we see how a simple and sincere person gradually takes a path of faith: at first he meets Jesus as a “man” among other men, then considers him a “prophet”, and finally with his eyes open proclaims him “Lord”. And the joy of this man is great.

 

2) Joy

For Pope Francis joy is a dominant factor in his life, in his apostolic ministry and in his teaching, as evidenced by the title and introduction of his Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”: the joy of the gospel that deserves to be reread on this “Laetare Sunday “[1].

The Holy Father in this policy document says: “The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and the lifetime of those who meet with Jesus. Those who let themselves be saved by Him are freed from sin, from sorrow, from inner emptiness and from isolation. With Jesus Christ joy is always born and reborn. “

In the time of bitterness, weariness and of the intellectual approach abstract to the life of faith, the Pope in the “Evangelii Gaudium forcefully poses the joy of the Gospel as the completion of the message of Christ who said “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Today we are invited to “this precious joy upon which all virtue is founded” (Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy , Paradise 24 , 90-91 ) because Easter is approaching and the liturgy creates a dawn that announces the Easter sun and invites us to a  moment of serene contentment in the midst of the austerity of Lent.

The Collect of this Sunday’s Mass reads: ” O God, who through your Word reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.” The fatigue of the journey is the price for the joy of the achieved goal. This reminds us once again that the purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter, for the Easter world that will bloom from the Cross on which the eternal Love is sacrificed as a counterweight to all our denials of love.

Joy begins from the small and big human pleasures that everyone experiences from childhood, enjoying the love of parents, friends, brothers and sisters in humanity and faith. This joy, however, becomes filled with Christ. It comes from Jesus the Redeemer, who brings the glad good news that God is always with us.

Here are some examples to understand this. The first “epiphany” of joy is the Annunciation, which makes Our Lady say: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 2:10). The second is when the greeting of Mary, who carries the Savior in her womb, reaches Elisabeth: John the Baptist leaps for joy in her womb (Luke 1:44). At the birth of Christ, the angel announces to the shepherds “a great joy” (Luke 2:10). When the wise men saw again the star leading them to Christ “they felt a great joy” (Matthew 2:10). Zacchaeus received Jesus into his house “full of joy” (Luke 19:6). On the day of the messianic entrance into Jerusalem “the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:37). These are only some of the episodes of joy for the presence of Christ and the waiting for Him.

The prophetic announcements of the Savior are full of joyful words and jolts of happiness. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, to those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have multiplied the joy; you have increased the happiness. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest as when they divide the prey …  A child is born, unto us a son is given. Upon his shoulder dominion rests and He is called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; great will be his government and peace will have no end.” (Isaiah 9:1-6, cf. 4 Mt 0.14 to 15 and the Christmas liturgy) However, this joy was already preceded by the joy of the patriarchs. In fact, Jesus will say, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

As I already mentioned, there is the joy of the Incarnation and of Christmas. Joy announced by the angel (Luke 2:10), discovered by the shepherds (Luke 2, 20) and by the Magi (Matthew 2:10), and manifested by the aged Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Lk 2.25 to 38). The joy of Christmas comes from contemplating the beginning of our wonderful destiny of redeemed and our return to paradise. “In this day has been planted on the ground the condition of the citizens of heaven, the angels come into communion with men, who entertain themselves without fear with the angels. This is because God came down to earth and man has ascended to heaven. There is no more separation between heaven and earth, between angels and humans “(St. John Chrysostom). The Byzantine liturgy exclaims: “O world, sing and dance at the news (of the virgin birth of Mary), with the angels and the shepherds glorify Him who wanted to show Himself as a child, God before the ages.” Joy of love, joy of union, high tenderness of the superabundant and bright happiness!

Finally, there is the joy of Easter for which we are preparing. It touches the highest pinnacle and finally explodes in the resurrection, indispensable complement to the death of the Lord and to our salvation. The Gospels gush the beatific fire of joy that passes from the angels to Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the disciples of Emmaus. On the bewildered faith of all his followers, Jesus sheds the light of his glorious life, enlightens them and welcomes them. “And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples” (Mt 28, 8). “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20).

All this is summed up beautifully by St. Thomas Aquinas, who says: “Joy is the enjoyment of a sure good,” good that faith allows to see and enjoy.

 

3) The Bread of Truth is the Bread of Joy.

It is said that faith is blind, but that is an incorrect saying. Faith allows to see what the eyes of the body and simple human intelligence cannot see. Faith is to see what God sees: “Because the man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart “(First Reading).

With or without healing, it is only faith that allows us to “see” how God sees from its infinite wisdom. As it is written “In your light we see light “(Ps 35, 10).

Live as children of light, for light poduces every kind of goodness and eighteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in fruitless works of darkness, which bear no fruit, but rather expose them.” (Second Reading)

During this Lent, a time of conversion to the light that comes from God, let’s meditate on the fact that our life is a breath which ends in a moment and let’s ask the Lord to increase in us the light of faith not to discuss whom to blame for the ills of the world, but to make the Gospel and Jesus Christ the rule of our lives. We are dead even before we die if we do not believe in the resurrection from the dead and in the One who guides us toward Easter.

Let us identify with the man born blind who, released from blindness and the interrogation, enters disappointed and confused in the world of those who think that they see. With him let’s go back to meet Jesus who asks him if he believes in him and sees Him as the true man and the true God, the Savior of the world.

Let’s try to feel his thrill when he recognized that voice and fixed his gaze on those eyes full of light. Let’s kneel with him in front of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Let’s believe that our life is a miracle, even when it is shrouded in darkness.  Let’s believe that God loves us and is near us. Let’s listen to his voice in the Bible, let’s do what He says through the Church, and let’s go where He sends us.

Let’s go to confession to be washed by his innocent blood and healed from our guilty and our inability to see as He sees everything that we are, what we could be and what could happen to us. Then we will be in joy.

This joy is a connotation of the consecrated Virgins who are called to give in joy “a particular testimony of charity and a visible sign of the future Kingdom” (Rite of Consecration of the Virgins, n. 30). These women are called to dedicate their life to Christ and to live their existence by bearing witness of the love for Christ. They show us that this is a high and beautiful way of walking in the following of the Redeemer, as it is proposed in the Gospel, and with intimate joy they assume the same lifestyle that He chose for Himself.