Sunday, April 3, is the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A, Cycle I). It is also known as Laetare Sunday. (Rose-colored vestments may be worn.)
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalms 23:1-6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
Think of this Sunday’s readings in terms of the three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. We all have a bit of the monkey who covers his eyes to the others who are right in front of him, the monkey who covers his ears to what he is supposed to do, and the monkey who covers his mouth to the important things that he should say.
The first reading, about the calling of David, is about our blindness to the value of others. When the prophet comes looking for a king, Jesse is certain that Eliab will fit the bill: He is tall and strong. But not only is it not Eliab — it is not any of the older sons: The chosen king is David, the boy who has been left to look after the sheep.
So often in life we assume that looks or strength or talent equals greatness. We expect that exciting, gregarious person at work to be the one who adds the most value, not the quiet one we never notice. We expect the friend of ours who seems to have everything put together to be a paragon of strength — and often find ourselves surprised.
God is pointing out our blindness: We often do not see with his criteria; we judge by human criteria. We should not judge at all, but rather should accept others as equal in dignity. We should take the monkey hands off our eyes.
In the second reading, St. Paul describes another kind of blindness: The moral blindness of the monkey who won’t listen to the truth. Actually, St. Paul takes it a further step. Not only do we block out what is right, we cup our hands to listen harder to what we shouldn’t.
“Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness,” St. Paul says. “It is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret.”
Would St. Paul watch TMZ, rent exploitative movies or gossip about Charlie Sheen? Devoting significant time to the “works of darkness” tends to deform the conscience rather than inform it, because those pursuits play on our imaginations and numb our sensitivity to sin.
We need to know when to open our ears to goodness — and when to close them to evil.
The last monkey covers his mouth to the truth. Ignoring the truth is the focus of today’s Gospel.
To restore our sight and our dignity, we need Christ. As Our Lord tells us at the end of today’s reading, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” In acknowledging him, we can imitate the blind man, regain our sight and avoid the self-serving pride which ensnared the Pharisees.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.