“While I Am in the World, I Am the Light of the World”
While many of us treasure the season of Lent as a time of preparation for the renewal of our Baptismal promises at Easter, there are some among us who are preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil. We witnessed these people in our parishes on the First Sunday of Lent as they took part in the Rite of Election and entered the third stage or period of preparation which the Church calls a time of Purification and Enlightenment. Having formally expressed their willingness to receive the sacraments of initiation, the Elect enter a time of reflection, intensely centered on conversion, marked by the celebration of the Scrutinies on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent.
In its wisdom, the Church prefers that the Sunday readings from Cycle A are used for these Sundays because they are particularly suited for those preparing for Baptism. The Gospel reading for Third Sunday is the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, while the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday is the story of the Man Born Blind, and the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday is the story of the Raising of Lazarus. Each of these Gospel readings contributes to the richness of our understanding of Baptism: the story of the woman at the well provides an image of “the spring of water gushing up to eternal life”; the story of the man born blind relates how this man “who was blind can now see”: and the story of Lazarus announces that “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Our gospel today focuses on blindness and sight, on darkness and light. Jesus encounters two situations in the gospel. First, there is a blind man. He has been blind from birth, but now he sees. Gradually his sight develops to see not only physically, but to see spiritually that Jesus is the Son of God. He now chooses to live in the light. Second, there are also the religious leaders. They profess that they see clearly, but their eyes are closed to the good that Jesus has done. In shutting their eyes to this healing, they deliberately reject the coming of God’s reign. They choose to live in darkness.