Fourth Sunday of Lent
1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
(Alt. Jn 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38)
In the middle of the long gospel about Jesus healing the man born blind from birth, we hear powerful words about light and darkness. We’re reminded how Jesus, “the light of the world,” banishes the dark. He then does that — literally — through this remarkable miracle, bringing sight to a man who has never seen.
But I think there’s another kind of light in this passage and it’s something we might easily miss because it is mentioned almost in passing. Jesus doesn’t just heal the man and move on, no. He follows up. He comes back.
After he has been given sight the formerly blind man is utterly alone, rejected by his community, his religious leaders, his family. He’s been thrown out into the streets. The man who was scorned when he was blind is scorned again, even after he’s been given his sight. The world just wants to write him off.
The only one who doesn’t is Jesus.
In what may be the only instance like this in the gospels, Jesus goes to seek out someone he has healed. And we come to realize that this man has been given more than just sight — he has been given consolation and affirmation. Christ gives him reassurance. He gives him a new life, and hope.
It’s really a remarkable encounter. It tells us that amid all that happens to us, God does not forget us.
As we turn the corner into the last weeks of Lent, that may be something we all need to hear. On this Laetare Sunday, these readings — and this episode of healing — remind us that there is, literally, light at the end of the tunnel. Our time of penance, penitence and prayer is nearing an end.
And we have a companion on the journey. Jesus is with us, through everything. He is there not just for those of us striving to rend our hearts and amend our lives. He’s not just listening when we grumble about fasting or giving up the things we love.
It is so much more than that. He is there for anyone who struggles or suffers. Anyone who is rejected, mocked, dismissed. He is there for the outcast and the isolated.
He is there for those who feel they have been thrown out. And to them, and to us all, Christ offers this ongoing miracle: light! Brilliant, bewildering light. The light of compassion and mercy and hope. And in that light, we see what we have never seen before. We see that we are not alone.
Jesus’s treatment of the man he healed is a lesson that says we are not abandoned. The Lord goes looking for us when we have been tossed aside.
Need more proof? The first reading from the Book of Samuel shows the surprising ways that God works. He chooses for his king a young and inexperienced shepherd named David — someone nobody expected. He wasn’t even considered — just another outcast, pushed aside. Not even invited into the room.
But David was the very one God wanted. It turns out, God often wants those nobody else does.
The message this Sunday is one of abiding hope. It is a message to anyone who has ever felt alone or unloved. To anyone who has ever felt abandoned or betrayed or left out. To anyone who feels that they may not be pretty enough, or smart enough, or clever enough, or successful enough. Yes, I mean you and me.
This week, take time to think about that blind man who saw and believed, but was rejected by the world. Jesus didn’t just let him go. The Son of Man went looking for him, and found him. He let him know he mattered.
God feels that way about every one of us. He remembers us, especially when we feel most forgotten.
Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacon’s Bench.” He serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.