March 6, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Sunday of Lent
Reading I (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a) Reading II(Ephesians 5:8-14 )
Gospel (St. John 9:1-41)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that He is the Light of the world, and He tells us also that He came into this world for judgment, so that those who are able to see would become blind, and those who are blind would be able to see. It is by looking at the Light that we are either blinded or that we are given sight – insight – not physical sight.
If we think about the way things work on the natural level, we realize that the only way we can see is if there is light. You can have 20/20 vision, but if you are in a room with no windows and it is absolutely dark, you might as well be blind; you can see nothing. It is light that allows us to be able to see. We need to have the power of sight, but we also need light. And so if we think about just what happens in the daytime, as Our Lord tells us that while it is still light we have to do the works of the One who sent Him and when it is night none of those works can be done, He is the Light who allows us to do the works of God.
So if we think about the way things are during the light, the sun provides for us to be able to see. Without the sun’s light, we would be in trouble. Yet, at the same time, we know that if we look directly at the sun, thinking that because the light is good and allows us to see therefore we will absorb all the light we can and look directly at the sun, we will become blind. We realize, then, what Our Lord is talking about, that those who were blind would be able to see and those who see would be blinded.
But what does that mean? It means that those who think they have clear sight and use their insight to be able to do things that are wrong, when they look at Jesus Christ they are blinded. They hate Him. They avoid Him. They refuse to believe in Him because they have chosen the works of darkness and they have chosen to put themselves into the dark. Like cockroaches who scamper quickly when light is shed upon them, it is the same idea with those who have willfully chosen sin over goodness. They do not want the light, they have rejected the light, and if they look at the light they are going to be blinded. But for those who want the truth, the light is going to expose the things of darkness. As we read elsewhere in Saint John’s Gospel (John 3:21), those who do what is right rejoice to see the light because everyone can see that their works are that of God.
Now we all know that we do not have all of our works in God, and all of us need to bring those things into the light. Saint Paul speaks of this in the second reading, that we have to bring all the things of darkness to the light and then they will become light. So we need to look into our hearts, we need to look into those areas of darkness, into the places where we have sinned. Perhaps there is something that is in our hearts that we are thoroughly ashamed of, that we are so ashamed and embarrassed of that maybe we have not confessed it. Maybe there are areas in our lives, if we had been away from the Lord for some period of time, that we have simply forgotten about. And then there are areas in all of our lives that are very dark, but we do not even know that they are dark; we do not recognize the darkness. How many times, when suddenly there is an insight, we realize that what we have been doing for so many years is wrong, even though we never even realized it. It is not a sin per se because we did not even know it was wrong, and yet what we have been doing throughout all of that is filling ourselves with darkness. That needs to be brought to the light.
What most of us like to do is put up a façade so that everybody thinks we are good people. But the Lord, in the first reading, made it very clear that, while man sees the appearance, God looks into the heart. And that is where we need to look. Again, if we go back to the Gospel reading, it begins by the apostles asking, “Whose sin is it that this man was born blind, his or his parents?” Jesus answered that it was neither; it was for the greater glory of God, so that God would be made visible. But then as we go on, we hear the Pharisees, who claim to have great spiritual insight, and they say to this man, “We know that you are a sinner from birth, and we also know, of course, that this man – Jesus – is a sinner.” Then when Our Lord speaks about those who are blind and those who no longer are, the Pharisees realize that He is talking about them. At the very end of the reading, He says, It is because you say, “I see,” that you remain in your sin. So we see how the whole thing gets completely turned. It starts out with thinking that the one who was physically blind had sinned, and it winds up being that the ones who thought they could see so clearly are the ones who were truly blind and the ones who had chosen sin.
So too, then, for us, we need to come to the light – to Jesus Christ – and we need to ask Him fervently to expose the darkness of our hearts to be able to show to us, to make visible in the light, anything which is hidden in the darkness, so that not only can we get it off of our souls by bringing it to confession, but that once the light fills those places that are darkness at this time then the light of Christ can be in those places, that the grace of God will be able to work within our souls and we will be able to grow in holiness. This is what the Lord desires for us.
Now do we want to continue to walk in the dark? Many people like to call up the adage “Ignorance is bliss.” It is not. Ignorance is ignorance, pure and simple. The truth, Jesus said, will set you free. If you want to have the true freedom of the children of God, it begins by desiring the fullness of truth, and Jesus Himself is that fullness of truth. So if there are parts of our lives where we are saying, in essence, “I do not want Him here. I like the darkness. I like the sins,” then we have chosen to be blind and we have chosen sin. But those who are true children of the light are those whom Saint Paul says have become light, not merely that you are in the light, but you are light, as he says: You who were once darkness are light in Christ. In other words, if Christ is living in you, the light is going to shine forth from within your soul, which is exactly what Our Lord tells us as well when He says, You are the light of the world. He Himself is the light of the world, as we heard in the Gospel reading today. Yet, in Him we become the light of the world because we live in Him and He lives in us, and He shines forth from within us. But if we do not want that light to shine so that God would receive the glory, if we do not want the light to shine because we like darkness better than we like the light, because we like falsehood more than truth, because we like sin more than virtue, then we are no longer the light of the world. We remain in darkness.
If we are going to be children of the light, we need to ask Christ to fill our hearts, to enter there, and to show to us anything which is not of Him. And then we need to get rid of it. That, once again, is the part that is frightening for so many people. You can just think of the man in the Gospel today. He was born blind; his entire life he was blind. He knew how to deal with things as a blind man: He was a beggar and he had made a living by begging from other people. Now that he was healed of his blindness, his whole life would change. Not only would he be able to see things that he could not see before, but he was no longer going to be able to beg. He would have to go out and work. He would have to learn a skill to be able to support himself. So even though he might have wanted to see on one level, on another level perhaps he was afraid because of what it would require if he could actually see. His life would change, and what might it be like?
We fall into the exact same problem when we think about having to make the changes in our lives. If we like the sins and if we like the darkness, then the thought of exposing those things in the light is a frightening one to us. Not so much because it might be humiliating for us to see, but because we really do not want to change, because at least we know what it is to be in the darkness, but we are not sure what our lives will look like if they are in the light. What they will look like if we are in the light is Jesus Christ, Who is the Light. Why would we not want to be like Jesus? Why would we not want to be in the light? That is what we need to look at.
There is one who is darkness and has chosen darkness and wants us in the darkness. He is the father of lies. And if we are going to choose the light and we are going to choose the truth, then we need to reject the lies of the evil one because everything that is hidden in the darkness, Jesus said, will be exposed in the light. So you have a choice. You can expose it to the light now, and Saint Paul says that then it becomes visible and it becomes light. In other words, you can bring it to Jesus in the confessional and you can expose it in the light, and it will be gone forever. Or you can wait, and on the Day of Judgment when you stand before Light Himself, everything hidden in the darkness of our souls will be exposed in the light. At that point, there is no forgiveness of sin; there is only judgment. So one way or the other it will be exposed because God looks into the heart.
We need to open our hearts to the light, to the truth. And we have an opportunity now to get all the darkness out of our souls so that our souls will shine more brilliantly than the sun. That is what Our Lord desires for us: to be light itself. So do not wait. If there is something there that you are aware of, humble yourself, get down on your knees before the priest of Jesus Christ, confess your sin, and be forgiven. The priest is not there to condemn you. He is not there to yell at you. He is not there to make fun of you. He is there to forgive you and to reconcile you with Jesus. Do not be afraid. There is nothing to fear in Jesus Christ. Come to the Lord, Who is Love, and let the light fill your soul. For all of us, we need to go to prayer and ask Our Lord to show us the areas of darkness that we are unaware of so that the light will be brought into those areas and they will be exposed and be made visible, so that then we can bring them to confession, that we can change our lives and the light will fill every part of our souls.
Then we will be the light that Saint Paul talks about. Then when the Lord looks into our hearts, He will see nothing but His grace. Then the blindness will be completely removed and we will be able to see clearly with spiritual insight because what we will see, like the blind man from the Gospel, is Jesus. And when we can see Christ, then is the light shining fully in our souls, and the light of Christ shining through us will give glory to God. That is what we are all about. That is what Our Lord desires for us. So we, who often choose darkness, are asked now to reject the lies, to reject the darkness, to choose the light, to live in the light, to be transformed into light, so that in Christ we become the very light of God Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.