‘Wake up from your sleep, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.” There is an unmistakable urgency in St Paul’s rallying call that we “wake up” that we acknowledge the unfolding of Christ’s presence in our lives. At times we are like sleepwalkers, scarcely aware of what Lent calls us to. We can so easily sleep through it all. Just another Lent!
What Lent promises in its preparation for our celebration of Christ’s death and Resurrection was perfectly clear to St Paul. “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of the light. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness.”
As sinners, we carry within ourselves the darkness of the past, the sin that is hidden and unresolved. We also carry within ourselves the light that is Christ’s presence, a light that sometimes grows dim, but insistently calls us back. True repentance is that graced moment in which we acknowledge the darkness that blinds us, when we entrust our darkness to the Father’s forgiveness, when we step out of that darkness into the light of Christ.
During Lent there will be many opportunities to go to Confession as a preparation for Holy Week. Let us focus on the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the opportunity to step out of the darkness and rejoice in the Light.
To cling to our darkness is to choose blindness. We cannot see what is before us. The First Reading, describing Samuel’s anointing of David to become God’s chosen king, demonstrates a kind of blindness. Samuel declared that he had come to anoint one of Jesse’s sons. Jesse obediently presented him with the older, stronger sons. Surely the future king would be among their number. But Samuel refused to choose from among the older brothers. Instead he chose the youngest, David, the shepherd boy, who had been hurriedly summoned from the fields. It had been revealed to him that “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances, but God looks at the heart.”
We can indeed allow ourselves to be blinded by appearances. We can go further, compromising ourselves in the attempt to keep up with what appears to be good to the eye of a sinful world. Such attempts Paul would dismiss as “the futile works of darkness”. Let us look to heart that lies beyond the superficial appearance that we present to the world.
John’s account of the blind man whose sight was restored becomes a reflection on Jesus who is the Light of the World. “As long as the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world I
am the light of the world.”
This beautiful narrative, including the prolonged dispute with the Pharisees who refused to accept Jesus, crystallises Lent’s challenge. Are we content to live in darkness, blind to the Lord, or do we chose Christ, inviting him to open our eyes to the light of his presence? The blind man, once his eyes had been opened by Jesus, saw beyond mere appearances.
He acknowledged Jesus as a prophet, and ultimately as his God and Messiah. “The man said ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him. Jesus said: ‘It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see.” As we approach Lent, let us pray: Lord, that we might see.