April 3, 2011 - Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today's Readings

Today is Laetare Sunday, which means “Rejoice Sunday”. Today is the first day of the fourth week of Lent. So, three weeks done is 21 days, and there are 19 days left until the Easter Triduum. We are halfway through! I hope these days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have been fruitful. Do not stop or slow down. When a runner reaches the halfway point of a race, they rejoice, but they keep running. So we too should rejoice but keep running this race.

Another reason to rejoice today is because we see the work God is doing in our lives. If we have truly committed ourselves this Lent to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we should be starting to see the fruit of our labors, that the free gift of grace is able to do more. These forty days provide an opportunity for God, and he is always going to take advantage of an opportunity to save us. We are trying to listen to him. We are trying to love ourselves less and our neighbors more. We are trying to be perfect, and he, who wants us to be perfect, is using this effort to effect real change in our souls.

As we see this change, we rejoice. As we see the progress we have made toward God, we also see how much further we could go, if we would go. For every foot we actually progress, we see another mile of possibility, and we rejoice both in the progress and the possibility. A person who is very far from being a Saint thinks that they are rather close. As they take steps forward, perfection always seems further away. This is not because the progress was unreal, but because their vision has improved.

The Saints are always intimately aware of their imperfection. It seems humorous to us when someone like St. Paul or St. Francis laments their sinfulness. We think that it is a show of humility, like the great people of this world who say “Aww, it was nothing” so that you can tell them that it was really something. Not at all! It is a question of vision. If we could see ourselves as the Saints see themselves, it would be unbearable.

It is like someone who cleans a window and only then realizes how dirty the whole room is. It is like someone who walks outside after working all day in a room with fluorescent lights and only then realizes how dark the room was in comparison to the sun. It is like someone who, while doing their taxes, corrects one mistake and only then realizes that they have done the rest of the form wrong. It is like someone who cleans up a small spill on a grey couch and only then realizes that the couch is actually white.  It is like someone who turns off the television, seeking silence, and only then realizes that the radio is on.

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible.” We have dark places in our souls, but, once we let the light of Christ in, those places become visible.  This light in our souls “produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” If we want the light of Christ to shine on us, we should “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Then, we should not do what is not pleasing to the Lord; we should “not take part in the fruitless works of darkness.”

In the second reading, St. Paul is using an analogy which is accurate from a physics standpoint. He is saying that we can learn something about God if we consider how light works. When we see something, we actually are seeing light, “for everything that is visible is light.” Light is the only thing we can see. Light comes from the sun, hits something, and bounces into our eye. White things are good at reflecting light. Black things do not reflect light. If something were absolutely black, it would not reflect any light at all. We would not be able to see it.

So if something is visible, it is because the light that comes from the sun is reflected back. If something is spiritually visible, the light that comes from God is reflected back. If we look at something perfectly white on a sunny day, we see the sun, since the rays of sunlight which come from the sun are being perfectly reflected into the world. So too, if we look at a soul that is perfectly visible, we see God, since the rays of grace which come from God are being perfectly reflected back into the world. Imagine if every soul here were absolutely pure white. The love would be blinding.

That is a strange phrase, when we say that a light is blinding. We mean that our eyes are too weak for the light. When we are in darkness, the light hurts our eyes. As we move into the light, our eyes adjust. All of us have been born blind because of original sin. The light that comes from God, which is truth, hurts our eyes. We turn away from it. The question becomes whether we will slowly open our eyes to the truth, accept the pain, and let our whole worldview adjust, or keep our eyes shut and covered, afraid of the light.

Surely the man born blind, when Jesus gave him vision, blinked and squinted as he saw light for the first time. Jesus healed him, but he chose to see. He opened his eyes. As the Gospel progresses, we see him opening his eyes spiritually also, until “he said, ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped Jesus.” The Pharisees, meanwhile, refused to see. They refused to adjust their vision to the truth of Jesus Christ, so they stood with their eyes closed and covered.

Jesus says, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” It seems strange to us that there would be a judgment against those who see. Jesus clarifies that the problem is when the Pharisees say that they see. They think their vision is perfect. They think that they can see everything. They say, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”, but we are blind. We do not yet have the vision God intends for us. We should not think that everything we see is everything there is. As the light of Christ makes our soul more visible, we will see more and more, until we are pure light.