Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday word, 22 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday4 B, Scrutiny 2 (22 Mar 2009)
1Sm 16. 1b,6-7,10-13a; Ps 23; Eph 5. 8-14; Jn 9. 1-41
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Credible Witnesses
The significance of today’s lenten celebration flows from the second scrutiny of the Elect. We will soon celebrate their initiation at the Easter Vigil. Their initiation, like ours, is a response to divine invitation: God invites us to salvation and to full life in and with God.

A word about that word “scrutiny.” As a church word scrutiny has a precise meaning. Very early in the history of the church some men and women, who had responded to God’s invitation, desired to affiliate with the community of Jesus’ disciples. The church community made them hearers of the Word. They listened to the scriptures and were encouraged to find themselves in them. When their formation matured, and they matured in living the way of the Christian life with fidelity, the church promoted them to Hearers of the Gospel. The pace of their formation increased.

This phase was marked with frequent hand-laying, a gesture used by the apostles to impart to others peace, forgiveness, authority and Holy Spirit, who is the energy of divine life and the personality of Jesus. These were done in the presence and with the participation of those already initiated by water, chrism and the eucharist. In a phrase, a scrutiny is a rite to help the Elect turn from sin and grow in more godly.

Your scrutiny, my friends, also causes us already-initiated to consider our lives. Together we continue the call of Ash Wednesday: Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel! The prayers of today’s scrutiny tell us what turning from sin and what adhering to the gospel mean: allegiance and witness.

Lord God...Hear our prayers for these elect, whom you have called to be your adopted children. ...[deliver them] from the prince of darkness, to live always as children of the light./1/ This scrutiny, like your first, reminds us all that the Lord of light and the ruler of darkness vie for our allegiance. The difference is stark: God desired to anoint us so we all have a share in the prophetic, priestly and royal ministry of our Messiah Jesus. The ruler of darkness, however, has nothing life-giving to offer us. To paraphrase the insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola the ruler of darkness has no power to give us a moment of life./2/

The life God in Messiah Jesus by their Spirit offers us is not a possession to be contained but a gift to be shared. The messianic life of Jesus we share propels us to be witnesses, as the second prayer of today’s scrutiny reminds: Lord Jesus...let [these elect] prove to be staunch and fearless witnesses to the faith./3/

We witness by how we live the faith. St. Paul reminded us that to live our faith means to live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. That means that moral formation is even more crucial than sound instruction in Catholic doctrine. Both are necessary, and lives, which produce[] every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth, announce Jesus to others with great credibility.

Credibility is a dynamic in today’s gospel. The Pharisees, the instructors and interpreters of religious instruction needed to know. To the parents of the man born blind they said, “How does he now see?” and to the man they demanded, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

Their answers were not enough for them. They were certain Jesus was not of God. With mud and spittle, not thunder and lightning, Jesus opened his eyes. Jesus was credible even though he was not certain about Jesus’ origins. The man said to his interrogators, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.” Credibility of our faith does not hinge on our certainty. People who do not see your scrutiny but see your lives will meet Jesus without realizing it!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the light of the Trinity. Ask the man born blind to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about your spirit’s blindness and its sight. Offer them both to Jesus, and ask him to help you pass from darkness to light more each day. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It helps us to receive the light only our Messiah can give and to live by it both to glorify God and to save our souls.

1. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 168.
2. See A Pilgrim’s Journey, 20. Ignatius referred to himself as a “pilgrim.” [Other editions exist of his testimony to the first-generation Jesuits. They keep the same numbering scheme.]
3. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 168.

Wiki-images of St. John and of Jesus healing the blind man are in the public domain.

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