Rejoice Sunday

‘It is Christ Who brings out of the darkness’

On March 19, the bishop celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, marking the fourth Sunday of Lent. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, I’m absolutely delighted to be here this morning.

Today, this fourth Sunday of Lent, is also known as Laetare Sunday (or “Rejoice” Sunday) – a reminder that we are well beyond the mid-way point of our Lenten journey. So, we rejoice because our journey is taking us to an end which we have yet to imagine, yet, we have already had a glimpse of it. Of course, from our vantage point, we already know the ending that awaits us. It should be a constant reminder to inform our lives every day as a true guide for knowing ourselves and our ultimate life meaning.  

In our Gospel today, we meet up with a man who doesn’t come with great credentials (i.e., someone with degrees in theology or widely charismatic figure in the society). Rather, the issue we have today is a “man born blind.” The culture of the day suggested a certain bias and prejudice that this man must have experienced. Was he born blind because of something his parents or ancestors did in their lives years ago? That was the prevailing wisdom of the time. Did it suggest some physical manifestation of punishment for their sins transmitted to future generations? Jesus says, “No! You’ve got it all wrong.” The real issue is that through the circumstances of life, the “works of God might be made visible.” As long as Christ is present and here now, He is “the light of the world” and, consequently, we can see. It is not helpful to get bogged down in “how” all this happens. [What is important, is] that we do see, to a certain extent, and we can trace our visual awakening to an event – the encounter we had with Jesus Christ. The blind man in the Gospel illustrates that encounter perfectly!

Even when he gave vibrant testimony about what happened, others remained incredulous. They could not “see” the deeds that God was doing in their midst. They began to find ways to reduce the experience: “[H]e did it on the Sabbath,” so He cannot be a “man of God.” Some even doubted that the blind man was even blind! Amazingly, the man sticks to “facts.” “I was blind … I washed my eyes as that man – Jesus – told me to do …now I see!” Even his parents defer to their son and don’t get embroiled in the intricacies of the case. The blind man continues to give witness to what he has met. It is not something he could renounce. The facts remain. The truth remains, not opinions or feelings. The blind man saw and confessed his belief in Christ as the Son of God. 

Our challenge as Christians – from the very first moment when we became aware of the world around us – is to open our eyes and see the world, see life, see relationships in a new way. One doesn’t need a specialized academic degree to do so. One only needs to follow the experience we’ve met. One thing is true: the more the disciples followed, the more they desired to follow.

As Christians, we sometimes worry about who we are, or we hide or mask who we are, wanting to “blend in.” Or we think that somehow we are confined or blocked in by the tangle of webs and inconsistencies in our lives. We feel ourselves reduced to the least common denominator of our lives by resisting any attempt to challenge ourselves – to change our heart or to seek the challenge that will make our Christian life a more dynamic and integral part of our lives. Sometimes we want to leave it as a kind of boutique hobby we do on weekends and high holy days.

Oftentimes, we find the fuller expression of our lives out of reach because of the failings that continue to haunt and plague us, concluding, as many do, “I’m only human!” Is our humanity, our human life defined by our sins and failings – our lowest points? Are we defined merely by the physical or psychological debilities we have? Am I defined by the limitations of my age – too young, too old, too tired? Have we cheapened ourselves to think of ourselves only defined by what plagues us and weighs us down? This is what some think and why they are, or may be, resistant to provocation of Christ in life. That is what so many want us to believe: “It can’t be done … it’s impossible.” So, it is easy to just give up!

Rather, “to be human” means to be generous, to be good, to be just. It is a positive and optimistic attitude even when everything else seems so hopeless! It is Christ, a real Christ, Who brings us out of the darkness that keeps us confined to our solitude and loneliness and alienation into friendship, family, and faith – to a life where we can experience the true freedom of seeing and hearing and loving like never before! It is the fullness of who we are created to be (i.e., in the image of God). It is Christ Who is our light, leading us to a greater experience of life – not satisfied with the status quo or our complaints of inadequacy. That’s why for Christians, life is so very important because each person is an amazing adventure. Yes, it is a lifelong process, one that begins at each moment and continues minute by minute, day by day, year by year. These are things that are not taught in classrooms. They are the lessons of life that take a lifetime to achieve.

As Christians, we conform ourselves more and more to Christ. With Christ, we learn to live the fullness of the dream that God had when He created “man and woman in His own image and likeness” and “Who knew us even before we were born.”  On this Rejoice Sunday, and through these remaining weeks of penance and prayer and works of charity, may we find the blessings of God to recognize that with Christ we can see and experience the hundredfold, becoming new and refreshing witnesses of hope in a world that wants to cling to the darkness and cynicism. So, rejoice – laetare – rejoice that our Lent is nearing an end and has the power to transform us more into the very image of Christ, Whose name we bear when we will have our thirst slaked, our sight restored, and a new life given to us in order to become a light and life for the world! May God bless you and your families!