Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 27, 2022)

Tom went to bed early. He had had a long day at work and was tired. The sun was still shining but he needed sleep. As he slept, a fierce storm suddenly came upon the region. Power lines were down and it was dark. At one point in the middle of the night, while the storm was still raging, Tom woke up surrounded by darkness. He reached over for the light switch but nothing happened. Getting out of bed he began to walk toward the door. He could not see it was so dark. He stumbled on his shoes and then walked into the wall when he missed the door opening.

Now trying another switch to no avail, he realized all the power was out. He made his way, carefully, to the stairs. He held onto the railing going down to make sure he would not fall. Getting into the kitchen he found his cell-phone and turned on the flashlight. He then found a candle to light which would help him see in the darkness until the sun came up, which it eventually did.

Storms in life can sometimes sneak up on us, unexpectedly. Darkness creeps in and we feel trapped. We may stumble, bump or fall. Many people are feeling that way today. The horror of war that has come upon Ukraine and her people ripple throughout the world.

Some light comes in when we see the courage of the Ukrainians, when we see peace-loving countries coming to their aid, when we see people praying throughout the world for them, when we see the Polish people and their neighbors taking in all the refugees, and when we see all the charitable aid coming from around the world to help these people who are in desperate need.

So many of the ripples related to the war added with the lingering effects of COVID raise concerns of uncertainty about tomorrow. Fear, anxiety and distress can quickly creep in and leave us in darkness. In these days we look for a light that will not only brighten the path before us and help us to see clearly but one that endures, a “light that shines even in the darkness.” The light we seek is found in Jesus.

Each year, regardless of the world situation or our own particular life situations, provides us with an opportunity to be renewed in faith. Lent leads to Holy Week and the celebration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. During the 40 days we spiritually go to the desert. The practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the means of this journey.

We do not journey alone but with each other. The catechumens and candidates in parishes around the world walk with us as they prepare for baptism and the initiation sacraments at Easter. The journey, the practices and the communion all help us to bolster, renew and refresh our faith in Jesus.

The Gospel passages for last week, this week, next week and the following all deal with faith. Last week Jesus encounters the woman at the well. He invites her to place her faith in him. Next week we will hear Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. He will invite his sisters and all those present to believe in him. He will even pray to our heavenly Father that they might have faith. The following week is Passion Sunday when we, once again, witness Jesus’ faith in the Father which sees him through passion and death to resurrection and life. This week we hear of the man born blind.

The story is detailed. The struggle between doubt and faith between darkness and light are seen in the interactions between the Pharisees and the various parties in the story: the man himself, his parents and ultimately Jesus. The man born blind was in darkness his whole life. He did not know light until he encounters Jesus. Jesus gives him the gift of sight. The Pharisees, however, choose not to see; consequently they remain in darkness. Their blindness is so complete that they do not even realize they are in the dark, hence Jesus’ final words to them.

Jesus opens the eyes of the man born blind and sometime later he invites him to profess his faith. The man’s faith has been present and growing since receiving his sight. Now is the time to articulate that faith. Jesus asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man replies: “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus then says: “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He replies: “I do believe, Lord.” And he worshiped him. His faith is now clear and it is this faith that will see him through life.

Darkness can come upon us suddenly and unexpectedly in many ways. For many people today that darkness is war. Other causes may be poverty, unemployment, abuse, prejudice and ignorance. They may be more internal or personal such as fear, jealousy or hatred. Jesus is the one who breaks the power of darkness as he says: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Through the effects of his passion, death and resurrection, He remains in the world and continues to be the Light. Today he, once again, invites us to believe.

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.