Liturgy of the Sunday

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Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


First Reading

1 Samuel 16,1-4.6-7.10-13

Yahweh said to Samuel, 'How much longer do you mean to go on mourning over Saul, now that I myself have rejected him as ruler of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have found myself a king from among his sons.' Samuel replied, 'How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me.' Yahweh then said, 'Take a heifer with you and say, "I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh." Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I shall reveal to you what you must do; and you will anoint for me the one I indicate to you.' Samuel did what Yahweh ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, 'Seer, is your coming favourable for us,' When they arrived, he looked at Eliab and thought, 'This must be Yahweh's anointed now before him,' but Yahweh said to Samuel, 'Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart.' Jesse thus presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, 'Yahweh has not chosen these.' He then asked Jesse, 'Are these all the sons you have?' Jesse replied, 'There is still one left, the youngest; he is looking after the sheep.' Samuel then said to Jesse, 'Send for him, for we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.' Jesse had him sent for; he had ruddy cheeks, with fine eyes and an attractive appearance. Yahweh said, 'Get up and anoint him: he is the one!' At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him, surrounded by his brothers; and the spirit of Yahweh seized on David from that day onwards. Samuel, for his part, set off and went to Ramah.

Psalmody

Psalm 22

Antiphon

The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose

Near restful waters he leads me,
To revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
He is true to his name.

If I should walk in the valley of darkness
No evil would I fear.

You are there with your crook and your staff;
With these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.

My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.

In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

Second Reading

Ephesians 5,8-14

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; behave as children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and uprightness and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, take no part in the futile works of darkness but, on the contrary, show them up for what they are. The things which are done in secret are shameful even to speak of; but anything shown up by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated is itself a light. That is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 9,1-41

As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?' 'Neither he nor his parents sinned,' Jesus answered, 'he was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him. 'As long as day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.' Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, 'Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam' (the name means 'one who has been sent'). So he went off and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours and the people who used to see him before (for he was a beggar) said, 'Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?' Some said, 'Yes, it is the same one.' Others said, 'No, but he looks just like him.' The man himself said, 'Yes, I am the one.' So they said to him, 'Then how is it that your eyes were opened?' He answered, 'The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, "Go off and wash at Siloam"; so I went, and when I washed I gained my sight.' They asked, 'Where is he?' He answered, 'I don't know.' They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man's eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had gained his sight, he said, 'He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.' Then some of the Pharisees said, 'That man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.' Others said, 'How can a sinner produce signs like this?' And there was division among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, 'What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?' The man answered, 'He is a prophet.' However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind without first sending for the parents of the man who had gained his sight and asking them, 'Is this man really the son of yours who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?' His parents answered, 'We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but how he can see, we don't know, nor who opened his eyes. Ask him. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.' His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to ban from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, 'He is old enough; ask him.' So the Jews sent for the man again and said to him, 'Give glory to God! We are satisfied that this man is a sinner.' The man answered, 'Whether he is a sinner I don't know; all I know is that I was blind and now I can see.' They said to him, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?' He replied, 'I have told you once and you wouldn't listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?' At this they hurled abuse at him, 'It is you who are his disciple, we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don't know where he comes from.' The man replied, 'That is just what is so amazing! You don't know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes! We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but God does listen to people who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of someone born blind; if this man were not from God, he wouldn't have been able to do anything.' They retorted, 'Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through ever since you were born!' And they ejected him. Jesus heard they had ejected him, and when he found him he said to him, 'Do you believe in the Son of man?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.' Jesus said, 'You have seen him; he is speaking to you.' The man said, 'Lord, I believe,' and worshipped him. Jesus said: It is for judgement that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind. Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, 'So we are blind, are we?' Jesus replied: If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We can see,' your guilt remains.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Homily

From the first word of the entrance antiphon of the liturgy, this Sunday is called Laetare Sunday (Sunday of Joy). It is an invitation which the liturgy offers to almost interrupt for a moment the severity of Lent. The colour purple, which symbolizes penitence, gives way to pink, as if to have us taste already the joy of the Easter Resurrection. The joy of a man born blind who sees again is the joy which the liturgy asks us for. He was blind from birth and he stayed on the margins of the street to ask for alms. It was a fixed destiny. Happiness for him was a small affair: receiving a coin from someone who passed by. And when Jesus passed, he stopped as soon as he saw him. The disciples argued: "Rabbi, who sinned, him or his parents, that he was born blind?" That blind man is a case to argue about. But Jesus looks at the blind man with eyes of the heart. He clarifies tersely: "Neither he nor his parents sinned." And he shows how God looks at that blind mand. Jesus looks at him, is moved and he gets close and touches him. And he touches him with a thoughtful gesture, not a distracted one. It was a concrete gesture. He takes the dust and after wetting it with his saliva he spreads it on the man's eyes. It is the same hand of God which formed man from creation and which continues to renew him. Those ashes, that dust with which we began Lent is loved by God. Better still, it is the reason why the Lord is loved, the reason which drives the Lord to come down to us. And when Jesus tells him to wash in the pool of Shiloh without asking questions he goes to the pool to wash himself. With very quick summary, he writes: "he went, he washed himself and when he returned he could see." The miracle was not a magical act: it was done through that gesture of tenderness of Jesus' hand together with the obedience of that blind man to the word which was uttered to him.
This healing process is an indication for us too, who so often are blind in our habit of only looking at ourselves, fixated on our egos and resigned to a world that does not seem like it can change. The evangelist repeats the phrase "open the eyes" seven times in this passage. This repetition is not random. Perhaps it indicates the ease with which we can fall back into blindness. The Gospel here suggests that healing is a journey which keeps going and which requires perseverance. Just as it happened for that blind man, once he was healed. People did not recognize him when they saw him. According to the common way of thinking it is not possible to change, it is not possible to become different from what you are. The Pharisees even got angry at that change. They did not know how to rejoice with someone who experiences joy because they did not know how to cry with whoever cries and were not moved with those who were in pain. Instead, they felt anger. Jesus encountered the blind man again: he "found" him, the evangelist notes, as if to say that Jesus does not abandon us. It is not enough to be touched once, to listen and obey once and for all. When the Lord encounters us-as he did with that blind man-he asks us new questions and new commitments of us. These are requests of love and growth in following him. He asks: "Do you believe in the Son of man?" Jesus seeks a friend, he wants a disciple to love, a companion he can change the world with. The blind man responds: "And who is the Lord that I might believe in him?" This is the question of Lent: to know Jesus more, to look at his face more, to allow ourselves to be touched by his love. From the Gospel we hear: "it is him who speaks with you."