Saturday, April 2, 2011

OPTIONAL MASS OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT



This Mass may be used on any day of this week, especially in years B
and C when the Gospel of the man born blind is not read on the Fourth
Sunday of Lent.

Readings and Commentary:[2]

FIRST READING


I will look to the LORD,
I will put my trust in God my savior;
my God will hear me!
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy!
though I have fallen, I will arise;
though I sit in darkness, the LORD is my light.
The wrath of the LORD I will endure
because I have sinned against him,
Until he takes up my cause,
and establishes my right.
He will bring me forth to the light;
I will see his justice.
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Commentary on Mi 7:7-9

This selection concludes the Prophet’s lament in v.7 with faith and trust that God will forgive the sins of the people. It then begins the final section of the book which presents his own contrition and hope for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy to those who return to him.

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RESPONSORIAL PSALM


R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek!
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper; cast me not off.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD!
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
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Psalm 27 begins in the form of a soliloquy asserting God’s role as refuge and savior. This passage continues with a prayer as the psalmist yearns to see God’s face to obtain his indulgence.

“Commenting on this psalm, St. Augustine writes; ‘In the most hidden place, where only you may hear it, my heart says to you: Lord, I seek your face: and I will continue in this search, without ever taking rest, so that I may love you freely, for I will never find anything more precious than [your face]’ (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 26.8)[3]

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GOSPEL:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe
that he had been blind and gained his sight
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said,
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”

So a 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.”
He replied,
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?

Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said,
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from.”
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, (Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
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Commentary on Jn 9:1-41

The story of the healing of the man born blind is the sixth sign that Jesus is the Son of God from St. John’s Gospel. In this story we are presented with Jesus as “The light of the world”. The story provides a number of key theological points that help understand the mission of Christ.

The first of these points is the understanding that sin is not inherited. The Jews believed that the man born blind had inherited sin ("Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?") This understanding would have been shared by the Pharisees in that it was supported by both tradition and Old Testament Scripture (Exodus 20:5).

Next we see that the Pharisees are accusing Jesus of violating the Sabbath, considering it “work” to cure a person on that day when all work was to cease. The logic that flowed from this was that Jesus could not he a Prophet (much less the Messiah) if he did not keep the scrupulous Pharisaic Laws governing the Sabbath.

The references to the miracle were clearly disturbing to the people of the Jewish community as we hear even the parents of the man born blind avoiding validating Jesus’ standing as prophet or Messiah for fear of be called blasphemous and being thrown out or shunned by the faith community. This is what happened to the man born blind as he continued to argue that Jesus was from God and that he was the Messiah. This reaction/rejection attitude about Jesus as Messiah was formalized by the Jewish hierarchy around 85 A.D. when the curse against the minim or heretics was introduced into the "Eighteen Benedictions."

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Reflection:

Please refer to Reflections or Homilies for the A Cycle of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

[1] The picture is “Christ healing the Blind” by El Greco, 1567
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] The Navarre Bible: “Psalms”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2003, pp 109

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