4th Sunday in Lent - A Light in the Darkness

Lent is a time of peace. We know it as a "penitential season" - a time of self-denial, self-sacrifice, a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. Yet all throughout this season, the Church constantly reminds of us of the Peace of God. We are reminded of the all-encompassing peace felt by the disciples as they witnessed Christ's Transfigured glory; we shared in the peace felt by the Samaritan woman at the well as she realized that she was in the presence of God. And this week - a man born blind is made to see and to feel the comfort and peace of the Light of the World.

Lent is a time of peace.

I think we all seem to fail, at times, to understand that Lent is the extended celebration of God's mercy and compassion. Over and over again, our Father welcomes us home, reaches out his hand, healing us and offering us His peace with outstretched arms. And we come to the Table of the Lord week after week precisely because we are sinners and pilgrims, because we are sometimes blind to His love or blind to the needs of others - not because we are perfect.

When will we finally and fully accept the incredible gift of forgiveness and unconditional love that our Father offers us so liberally? Through the Church, God our Father prepares a banquet for us Sunday after Sunday, and calls out to all: "Let us eat and celebrate..." Each time we gather around the Table, we come fully conscious of our sinfulness, of our need for forgiveness and mercy, of our hunger for the Bread of Life. And every time, we should be aware of those who do not come, because they are afraid, in turmoil or feel unworthy.

We want to clutter up our lives and carry a lot of extra baggage - just in case - because we are always tempted to think that we can succeed because of our efforts, our resources. It is hard for us to let go - really hard for us to trust God totally. Often we think that our faithfulness, and our effectiveness as disciples is the result of our own prayers, our sacrifices, and good works. We begin to grow proud and independent. That's when we get into trouble; then come the dark moments of failure and weakness, of doubt and fear. We have to bottom out, and recognize our powerlessness before we allow the Lord to take over.

To be consistently persons of faith who take seriously God's promise of peace, we must be constantly nourished by Word and Sacrament. That's why the celebration of the Eucharist is so central and so indispensable us. We come to the Table always conscious of our frailty, our infidelity, our selfishness and pride. We come as pilgrims and sinners. We come as those blind to the warmth and light of His goodness.

But we also come as persons aware that we have been sealed with the Spirit, persons redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Christ. We come because we believe that the Lord sends us forth week after week to be his prophets, his healers, his peacemakers. Despite all of our protests of unworthiness and ineptitude - and despite our blindness and lack of vision - the Lord reassures us.

"As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the World." Jesus' words ring just as true now as they did when He spoke them to the man born blind. He wants to open our eyes and to bring us the only peace capable of satisfying the deep hunger within us all - the only peace capable of breaking through the darkness and blindness of this world.

The mystery of God-With-Us is the final, fullest proof of God's desire to become close to us - to become a part of our very being. In Jesus, the Word becomes our flesh. Every facet of His human journey speaks to us of the nearness of God. He walked with His Father, not only in the Temple, but in the carpenter shop, at the family table, in the desert and on the mountain top. He recognized the image of the Father in the members of His family, in the townspeople of Nazareth, in the poor, the lepers, the crippled, the deaf and the blind who flocked to Him. He enfleshed the compassion of God in His reaching out to the tax collector, the prostitute, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, the thief on the cross.

The Season of Lent is a constant reminder that He continues to reach out to each and every one of us - not as a vengeful, demanding God but as Light, Hope, Comfort and Peace.  We can be no less for one another.