Fourth Sunday of Lent: The Light and the Joy of Christ

An Act of Spiritual Communion by St. Alphonsus Liguori. (Image adapted from Archdiocese of Toronto infographic.)

By Fr. Emmanuel Olusola, Pastor at parishes in Allan, Viscount and Colonsay,

Dear people of God, As we all pray for God to heal our land in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic, I bring you a brief reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent.

First Reading: 1st Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a

Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

Gospel: John 9:1-41

The Gospel today talks of the healing of the man born blind. The holy season of Lent is one in which God opens our eyes so that we may see clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.

Blindness in the time of Jesus, like other diseases, had little or no cure. Such diseases brought untold hardship on the one who suffered from them. Blindness brought about social separation and sometimes rejection, even by one’s family.

Mass being live-streamed by priests in our diocese during COVID-19 shutdown:

This is evident in the situation of the man healed by Jesus. Even his parents, out of fear of the Pharisees, when asked how their son came to see again, simply said, “He is of age. Let him speak for himself.” Sickness in those days was seen as a result of sinfulness, and the parents were afraid to accept that their boy’s blindness was on account of their own sinfulness or acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah. Either of these options could have unleashed the wrath of the religious leaders upon them. So they distanced themselves from their son.

Jesus is ever present in every aspect of life, but we feel his presence more when things are darkest around us. This is in fulfilment of his mission statement when he proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, to bring the Good News to the poor, set prisoners free, give sight to the blind, etc. (Lk. 4:18). Our world is thrown into some forms of darkness with the present COVID-19 pandemic. Things are turning around in ways never experienced before, for many families and individuals. In the midst of this confusion, many may begin to question, where is God when it hurts?

God surely listens to the cries of his people and he always comes to our aid. The first reading today recounts the time in Israel when King Saul sinned against God and there was a need to replace the king. In the choice of Saul’s replacement, the prophet Samuel was told not to look at physical appearance, since humans only see the physical, while God sees beyond our imagination.

This period of Lent invites us, therefore, to examine ourselves before God. Many of us are not blind physically but we are blind spiritually, emotionally and in many other aspects. We live in a fast-paced world and in this situation we are oftentimes blind to the needs of people around us or even blind to seeing the blessings of God in our lives.

The present pandemic has forced us to slow down, take a break, sit at home and just relax. We are being forced through this pandemic to spend more time with our immediate families, to listen to one another and to see things in ways our fast world never allowed us to see before now.

In the context of the present pandemic, the second reading begins by saying we were once in darkness but now we are the light in the Lord. Notice that Paul did not say we are IN the light, but that we ARE THE light. Christ has made us in baptism, to be like him, The Light, and through the sacraments, we draw closer to Jesus.

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is called Laetare Sunday, which means REJOICE. We are told to rejoice because our salvation is nearer than we can imagine.  Therefore, no matter how bad things may be around us, God always has a way of pulling us through. Sometimes, it takes the way of plagues such as we currently are facing to lead humanity back to God and to one another.

As we go through this desert experience when malls, offices and even churches are closed, let us remember that God’s presence is always with us.

The theology of the Catholic Church teaches that the home is the domestic church. Let us use this period to strengthen this domestic Church by staying closer to our immediate families. Let us make a better domestic Church the foundation of our parish Church. Let this time be a call for us to return more than ever before to Christ who is ever lifted up for us in the Holy Eucharist.

Although we may not be able to receive him sacramentally at this time, but we sure can receive him spiritually. As taught by St. Thomas Aquinas and one of the Patron Saints in our trinity of parishes, St. Alphonsus Liguori, we can make “spiritual communion” in our homes using the following prayer:

“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament.  I love You love all things and I desire You in my soul.  Since I can not now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.  As though You were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You; permit not that I should ever be separated from You.  Amen”

God bless you all!