for the fourth Sunday of Lent
1 Sam 16:1...13 - Ep 5:8-14 - Jn 9:1-41
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
A Kingly Baptism
1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
1 Sam 16:1b, The Lord said to Samuel, «Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.» 6, Samuel looked on Eliab and thought, «Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.» 7, But the Lord said to Samuel, «Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.» 10, And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, «The Lord has not chosen these.» 11, And Samuel said to Jesse, «Are all your sons here?» And he said, «There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.» And Samuel said to Jesse, «Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.» 12, And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, «Arise, anoint him; for this is he.» 13, Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.
The first reading for this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, recounts the consecration of King David, around the year 1000 before Jesus Christ. This consecration is not a baptism, but it is similar to baptism: it prepares the soul, and the entire person, to follow, with docility and faithfulness, the inspirations of the Spirit of God: "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward." (1 Sam 16:13)
A thousand years after the consecration of King David, Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, was born of the Virgin Mary. Now, Mary then became the wife of Joseph, a descendant of this same King David. Jesus, our High Priest, is therefore King not only by his Divinity, but also by his human lineage, through his foster father Saint Joseph. As Saint Luke writes, "The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David." (Lk 1:26-27)
Jesus is our God and our King! The High Priest of the New Covenant, Jesus exercises his royal priesthood for us: not only does Jesus, through his priesthood, grant us the forgiveness of our sins, but he also confers on us the royal dignity that is his own. In the measure that we forgive those who have wronged us, we are forgiven by Christ and made participants in his kingship. "He who humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk 18:14)
If David became King, consecrated by the prophet Samuel, this was done, finally, to give a human dimension to the royalty of the priesthood which benefits all who are baptized in Christ: our baptism is truly a Kingly Baptism. As the apostle Saint Peter says, we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that [we] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pt 2:9)
Eph 5:8, Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9, (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12, For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; 13, but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. 14, Therefore it is said, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."
Today's second reading is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. Like the first reading, these lines by Saint Paul speak to us of baptism and serve as an introduction to this Sunday's gospel. Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus meets a man blind from birth, and, by healing him, he shows us that he is almighty, not only in giving sight to that blind man, but also in healing us of our evil tendencies, the source of our spiritual blindness.
Through baptism, we who were spiritually blind gain the ability to see by receiving the light of grace: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." (Eph 5:8) "The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true... Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Eph. 5:9-10) If we are light in the Lord, then we have become a point of reference for all believers, and for the entire world, just as the king of a nation is its legitimate guide: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." (Matt 5:14-15)
Jn 9:1, As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2, And his disciples asked him, «Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?» 3, Jesus answered, «It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. 4, We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. 5, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.» 6, As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, 7, saying to him, «Go, wash in the pool of Siloam» (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8, The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, «Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?» 9, Some said, «It is he»; others said, «No, but he is like him.» He said, «I am the man.» 10, They said to him, «Then how were your eyes opened?» 11, He answered, «The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight.» 12, They said to him, «Where is he?» He said, «I do not know.» 13, They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14, Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15, The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, «He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.» 16, Some of the Pharisees said, «This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.» But others said, «How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?» There was a division among them. 17, So they again said to the blind man, «What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?» He said, «He is a prophet.» 18, The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19, and asked them, «Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?» 20, His parents answered, «We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21, but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.» 22, His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23, Therefore his parents said, «He is of age, ask him.» 24, So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, «Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.» 25, He answered, «Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.» 26, They said to him, «What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?» 27, He answered them, «I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?» 28, And they reviled him, saying, «You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29, We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.» 30, The man answered, «Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31, We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32, Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33, If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.» 34, They answered him, «You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?» And they cast him out. 35, Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, «Do you believe in the Son of man?» 36, He answered, «And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?» 37, Jesus said to him, «You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.» 38, He said, «Lord, I believe»; and he worshipped him. 39, Jesus said, «For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.» 40, Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, «Are we also blind?» 41, Jesus said to them, «If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.»
For commentary on this long gospel, I suggest that the reader refer to my previous homilies, in which various aspects of this gospel were discussed:
Through Mary, may the grace of our baptism be our light, guiding us on the Way of eternal Life!