“Rejoice Jerusalem” are the opening words we will hear this Sunday at Mass. This call to rejoice may seem strange when for the Church Lent is a time of spiritual ‘combat’ and painful self-denial against the many forces that clamour for our heart, or entice us away from God. Nevertheless the liturgy invites us to rejoice. The Gospel gives us the reason for our joy. Basically it is God and more specifically his kindness and mercy to us in our sufferings and struggles. Joy then is not contrary to suffering and renunciation. Instead our mortifications and trials of life are concrete opportunities to see God’s hand in our life and to experience His grace and love. Therefore, Lent is precisely the time when we renew our sense of joy because in our ‘combat’ we experience the delight of God’s merciful friendship.
We know this to be true because of sacred revelation. We see this clearly in the Gospel this Sunday. St. John tells us that Jesus sees and approaches a “man who has been blinded from birth,” and of his own free will Jesus restores the man’s sight (Jn 9:1). Without the man even imploring Jesus’s help, he receives mercy and healing. We can quickly gloss over this moment as a trivial detail but this would be to miss the deepest truth of Christianity; we are redeemed because God took pity on us and in Christ Jesus came to save us. In his mercy he ‘touched’ us to remove our ‘blindness’ of sin and all that follows in its steps. It was not the man’s faith that summoned the Lord but rather it was the Lord who came to him on seeing his adversity.
Amazingly Jesus says the blind man was kept in his infirmity in order that “the works of God might be displayed in him” (Jn 9:2). These works are the work of mercy, Jesus healing and restoring sight. It is within this framework that we ought to consider our lives, open to God’s saving touch. The Gospel emphasises that we should rejoice as Christians because like the blind man our brokenness and limitations can be the opportunities for God’s mercy in our lives. Our poverty allows God to be merciful to us.
We may feel uneasy or bothered by the fact that God allowed this man to suffer for such a length of time without his sight so God could perform his works in him. Imagine how shunned he was by others in society who thought his blindness was a sign of his sinfulness. Faced with these realities people often conclude there is no God or if there is a God he cannot be a good God. Yet Jesus points us to the answer of their puzzlement. He wants us to grasp one of the greatest mysteries of our faith that it is precisely in our sufferings and brokenness that we can experience God’s love in the most powerful of ways. It is from our places of shame and sinfulness that we can be the most transformed.
From this Sunday’s Gospel we can see how God can use the sadness and suffering of this world as his opportunity to heal us. God in healing our infirmities acts mercifully which is the highest expression of love. God permitted us to fall in our freedom since he knew that his mercy can heal all suffering. What a mystery!
Our joy as Christians resides in the fact that our imperfections and failures are not obstacles to God’s love and saving action. This Lent as we discover our limitations as we struggle with our penances and mortifications we should not become discouraged but rejoice that we are drawing closer to God since he comes closer to us through his merciful help.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A (John 9:1-41)