Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Mar 26, 2017 Views 154 Listen 4 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Samuel (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 came upon David.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)


(R) 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)

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)

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)

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)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (5:8-14)

Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the 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 rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (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 his 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, "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 worshipped 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 your were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, "We see", so your sin remains."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Jesus cured many people of their diseases and illnesses. Some people sought Jesus to go to their homes and lay His hands on sick people. Some brought the sick to him and begged Him to heal them. Some others called out to Jesus as He passed by, "Son of David", or "Jesus, Master", or "Lord", "Have mercy on us!" The blind man in today's gospel story neither cried to Jesus for help nor was brought to Jesus. He was simply sitting by the roadside. He could not even see Jesus as he was blind. But Jesus saw him and stopped. He recognized that the man was in need of both physical sight and spiritual insight. Jesus never passed by sick people without healing them.

His disciples, as always, were curious as to what Jesus would say or do. They asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?", John (9:2). They might have raised such a question many times, and which has in various times stirred our minds too. They assumed that the man's blindness was the result of sin. They wanted Jesus to identify the cause and show the connection between his blindness and sin. Jesus, as was his style all throughout his ministry, gave an unexpected answer, and in the process, made them understand His mission. He replied, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Jesus' reply does not mean that God had inflicted blindness upon the man so He could later heal him. No. God takes what has happened and turns it into good.

It is clear in the Scriptures that some suffering and afflictions do come as a result of sin, 1 Corinthians (11:30), Psalm (38:3), James (5:16). For instance, once Jesus saw a man whom He had healed, and admonished him not to sin again. We don't know what his sin was. There is no mention of the man's sin in the text. But Jesus said to him, "Now you are well, do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn't happen to you", John (5:14). King David recognized that his sin was the cause of his physical, emotional and social suffering. He confessed his sins and pleaded for mercy, "O Lord, do not rebuke me in anger or discipline me in your wrath", Psalm (32:3-4).

Whereas, Job's afflictions weren't the result of sin - even though his "friends" were insistent that his sin was the cause, Job (1:11-12). Job was a just and devout man, and yet found himself suffering intensely and deeply. It does not mean that Job was sinless, for the Bible tells us clearly that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Job's story helps us only to have an understanding of suffering and to respond to it in a godly way. As for the blind man, Jesus' answer made it clear that his affliction was neither because of his sin nor others' sin but because God had a more meaningful purpose for it, so that "the work of God might be displayed in his life."

Jesus, then, spat on the ground and made mud with saliva and put it on the man's eyes, and told him to go to a pool and wash himself. We might ask why Jesus used saliva and mud to cure the man. Some might think that the use of saliva was pretty gross. As a matter of fact, Jesus healed people in various ways and sometimes in stages. He sometimes just laid his hands on people, Luke (4:40), Mark (6:5); put his fingers into deaf ears, Mark (7:33); and at other times, He just gave a command to heal, Matthew (8:5-13) or cast out a demon, Matthew (17:18). So, we can see there is no fixed pattern or form in how Jesus carried out his healing ministry. He could have healed the blind man just by touching his eyes, but He used his saliva and clay on this occasion. In fact, Jesus used saliva in two additional healings - of a dumb man, Mark (7:33) and another blind man, Mark (8:23).

There is no clear understating as to why Jesus chose to heal in this way. Some people point out that in the ancient world saliva was widely used as a remedy for the treatment of boils, pains, sores, snake bites and eye diseases. Some attribute the use of saliva by Jesus to a Jewish belief that the saliva of a legitimate, first born heir has healing properties for injuries or diseases. Some suggest that Jesus' spit signifies His words and clay represents humanity. Thus, Jesus mingled the spit with the clay to signify the mingling of humanity with the Lord's living Word.

Some say that Jesus' use of mud was meant to remind us of what we are made of. "The Lord God formed the man from the clay of the ground", Genesis (2:7). Likewise, Jesus showed his power as the Creator by using the "clay of the ground" to give the blind man sight. Some others assume that Jesus deliberately broke the Sabbath law to test the Pharisees who regarded doing anything on the Sabbath, even moulding mud or clay, a physical activity which went against the law, even if it is for healing. However, it is possible that each time, prompted by the Spirit Jesus acted, regardless of the law, John (5:19, 30). Perhaps Jesus wanted to show that He is above the law by saying that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

Whatever might have been the reason, the man obeyed Jesus' command without delay or hesitation. He went to the pool and washed his eyes, and returned with his sight. Perhaps Jesus also wanted to make use of this miracle to show how important faith and obedience are in bringing healing or how God makes us co-workers in His healing or wanted to show how the blind man's own faith and obedience helped to bring about healing.

The miracle was so great that his neighbours didn't believe he could be the same man they had seen begging. But he told them that he was the same man, and related the story of how it happened. He also humbly admitted to them that he did not know the healer, but that he was able to see because of Him. They then brought him before the local religious authorities not to get Jesus into trouble, but to spread the message of the wonderful thing that God had done. They recognized the healing as a miracle and Jesus, as a man from God, but the Pharisees refused to acknowledge the miracle. They accused Jesus of being a sinner because He had healed the man on a Sabbath day. When they couldn't come to a consensus, they asked the man again what he thought of his healer. This time the man gave his healer the highest honour, that of a prophet. But that wasn't what the Pharisees wanted to hear.

Dissatisfied with this answer, the Pharisees went on to interrogate his parents. His parents clarified that the man was indeed their son who had been born blind, but refused to answer as to how their son had gained his sight and who healed him. "Ask him. He will speak for himself", they said. Yes. They failed to stand up courageously for Jesus, or even to stand with their son for they were afraid of expulsion from their community. The authorities continued their hostile interrogation. They were not fair judges seeking truth. They had already reached a conclusion. Now they were seeking evidence so they could charge their enemy, Jesus. They made all efforts to discourage the cured man and other believers to spread the good act Jesus has done by saying that Jesus was a sinner. But the man, with an unshakable faith, joy, trust, love, confidence, ease, and courage, said to them, "I don't know if he is a sinner. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." He also strongly went against them saying that Jesus can't be a sinner because God does not listen to sinners, and if Jesus were not from God, He would not be able to perform this miracle.

The story concludes with the man being thrown out of village and Jesus finding him in the temple. Jesus "found him" implies that Jesus was looking for him. The people had rejected the man, John (9:35). But at that very moment, Jesus went looking for him to bring him to faith. He also revealed to the man that on Judgment Day those who are spiritually blind will not be saved, but those who can see, will. That's to say, those who accept Jesus will be saved in the end. Those who say that they can see, but are lying to themselves will still suffer from their unbelief in the end.

This story has a number of lessons for us to learn.

  • The healing was a tangible proof for believing and accepting Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, and yet many people in Jesus' time chose to reject Him. God still performs miracles every day, but most of them simply go unnoticed or are denied. Some of us refuse to repent and believe, even after we have seen many miracles.
  • Our sicknesses and afflictions are not necessarily the result of our sin. God Himself may use them to shape us, to change us in a positive way, to cause spiritual growth, to redeem someone's life with our testimony, to test our faith in Him, and to draw us closer to Him and others. However, we may be also suffering because of sin. So, we should examine our lives.
  • Sometimes we fail to commit ourselves to Christ out of fear how others might react to it. We must consider our faith in God and His word seriously, and no matter how many foes we may have, we must not be afraid to stand up for Jesus and give Him the honour due Him trusting that He will reward each of us according to our works. We must also speak up for those who can't speak for themselves, and let everyone know that we are people of faith in Jesus Christ.
  • God does not ignore us. He knows our pain. He knows how much we need His help. He loves us too much to want to see us suffer especially for our faith. When we face ridicule, harassment, and persecution for our faith, we must trust that God will take the initiative to reach out to us and redeem us.
  • We may be blind in many ways. Some of us do not have physical sight, and some lack spiritual insight. But to move from spiritual blindness to sight, we must, first of all, admit that we are blind, and secondly, we must believe that Jesus alone has the power to open our blind eyes and restore our sight.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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