Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
"I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind." John 9:39
We hear in the Gospel today the touching story of the man born blind. The poor man is a subject of misunderstanding. His troubles are just beginning. The disciples think that his blindness is a result of sin. Once Jesus has cured the blind man and given him sight, the Pharisees challenge him about the cure on the Sabbath. His parents partially disown him. He can speak for himself, they say. Finally, the religious authorities expel him from the synagogue for having dared to teach them. They are all blind, however. The man has not tried to teach them. The man born blind has dared to do nothing at all but witness.
To be a witness three things are required: to see something, to remember it, and to testify to it. For this reason the man was born blind not because he sinned, as Jesus so well explains. Rather Jesus says, "It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:3). The man becomes a witness to his own sight that gives glory to God. Brought before the Pharisees, the man must remember what happened. He does so by saying, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see" (John 9:15). Having seen and now remembering, the man born blind must now give testimony. When asked who he thinks Jesus is, the man replies, "He is a prophet" (John 9:14).
To see God is an intense desire found in the Bible. God remains a hidden God. There can be no image of Him because He is unseen. One could not see God and live. For this reason, Elijah hides his face when he finally realizes that God is present to him in a gentle breeze. "Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave" (I Kings 19:13) . Yet, Isaiah speaks of the great joy that will come from seeing God restoring His holy place. "Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion" (Isaiah 52:8). When Moses speaks of the presence of the Lord in the midst of His People, he uses these words to describe it. "It has been heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; you, Lord, who plainly reveal yourself!" (Number 14:14). As a matter of fact, God grants Moses the privilege of seeing him. In the Book of Numbers, God will say of Moses, "Throughout my house he bears my trust: face to face I speak to him, plainly and not in riddles. The presence of the Lord he beholds" (Numbers 12:7-8). The simple fact is that no one can see God unless God reveals Himself to him.
Jesus gives the blind man sight so that the blind man can give witness to what he sees. What he sees is a prophet, but more than a prophet. He sees the Son of Man. When Jesus reveals this to him, the man once blind falls to his knees and worships Jesus. Jesus expresses it so well, "You have seen him" (John 9:37). Jesus teaches, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind" (John 9:39). The man who was thought to be a sinner because he was blind, now through his seeing gives witness to a truth that others deny and in so doing make themselves blind.
It is the purpose of the Catholic liturgy to bring into sight the mysteries of Christ. We speak of sacraments as sacred signs. They are such because they bring into the present an eternal reality so that we might see the works of God and give witness to them. Jesus says, "Blest are your eyes because they see and blest are your ears because they hear. I assure you, many a prophet and many a saint longed to see what you see but did not see it, to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Matthew 13:16-17). In a sense, this is the witness we possess in the Mass. We hear the Scriptures read, and we see the redemptive work of Jesus present in the Eucharist. St. John writes, "We speak of the word of life. This life became visible; we have seen and bear witness to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life that was present to the Father and became visible to us" (I John 1:1-2).
At every step in our liturgy we give witness. In the penitential rite we remember our sins and give witness to God¹s forgiveness. We stand for the Gospel to hear Jesus speak to us and make three signs of the cross. Our witness to Jesus¹ word, we pray, will be in our mind, on our lips, and in our hearts. In a rather obvious moment, we witness to our faith by praying the Creed. As we begin the Eucharistic Prayer, in a great act of remembering, we repeat the hymn that the Seraphim angels sang when Isaiah witnessed God¹s glory, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!Š All the earth is filled with his glory" (Isaiah 6:3). We sing it because we are drawing near to the glory of God in the Eucharist. St. Paul will write of it, "Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!" (I Corinthians 11:26). For this reason after the words of consecration we will say in witness, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." We will witness to prayer by remembering the great prayer that Jesus taught, the Our Father. Having recalled Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, we will answer "Amen", like the witness in the Book of Revelation when they see the Lamb finally appear. "I saw a Lamb standing, a Lamb that had been slainŠ The four living creatures answered ŒAmen¹ and the elders fell down and worshiped" (Revelation 5:6, 14).
The Mass is in fact a living witness to Jesus Christ. The blind are made to see and seeing they remember and remembering they witness.