A reading from the First Book of Samuel
(Chapter 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a)
Saul was the king of Israel, but he had fallen out of favor with the Lord by not fully obeying instructions from the prophet Samuel. It was time for a new king who would be faithful and just. “The Lord said to Samuel: Fill your horn with oil and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Jerusalem for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” Samuel knew that Jesse had seven sons, but which one would it be? Perhaps Eliab? The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.” So, Jesse presented six of his sons, and the Lord rejected all of them. But Jesse had one more son, David, who was tending sheep. “The Lord said ‘There, anoint him, for this is the one.’” Why would God choose someone so seemingly inappropriate and so young? “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart.”
Yes! That is the way God chooses—not by appearances but by looking into our hearts. Let us look into our own hearts, especially during Lent, a season of introspection. Do our hearts contain what God would hope to find there?
(Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4; 5, 6)
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I should want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” Whatever you are going through that is painful, stressful, or depressing, God will refresh your soul, even now. Call on him.
A reading St. Paul's Letters to the Ephesians
“Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth…. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’’’
This theme of darkness and light has been used throughout history, because both elements—darkness and light—are powerful and relate to our everyday experience. Entering a dark room, having the light go out suddenly, and having to read without good light can be challenging experiences. Light brings clarity, warmth, and comfort. So, as the author says, “Christ will give you light.”
In these times with their many shadows, ask Christ to give us, give you, light.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
This is one of the longest gospel stories, and it has one self-evident meaning and one deeper meaning. Jesus meets a man born blind. In this culture at this time, someone is to be blamed for the blindness—usually, the blind person’s parents. That is why the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus, on that Sabbath day, rubs the man’s eyes with clay and tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man does that, and when people ask him how he can now see, he tells them about Jesus healing him. Then the Pharisees ask him, and he tells them the same story. Some of them condemn Jesus: “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others ask the formerly blind man, “What do you have to say about him since he opened your eyes.” He says, “He is a prophet.”
The Pharisees, who are supposed to be the truly religious people, condemn Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath and therefore did not follow the letter of the Law. For Jesus, the Law of Love that came from his Father was the true Law. The Pharisees remain in darkness, but the man has come into the light and can see because of his faith in Jesus.
Do you ever feel a sense of darkness in your life or in your very soul? It can come from within for any number of reasons: illness, disappointment, the loss of mental or physical abilities, or a loss of faith. It can also originate from outside events, threats, or broken relationships—or a combination of such things. It may even be just one thing in an otherwise happy life. Where can you find the light amid the darkness? Is there an action you can take? Can you ask for someone’s help? The one source of healing and light that is always there is your Spirit, your lifelong partner who lives within you. Keep saying hello to the Holy Spirit.
Painting: Healing of the Blind Man, by Carl Bloch (1871). Frederiksborg Museum, Hillerod, Denmark. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.