Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen! Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ! Today, as most of you have known by now, is the 4th Sunday of Lent A.Light and darkness are part of life. We usually prefer places which are bright, we like people who bring ‘light’ into our lives. In their company we feel more free and more at home. Their optimism is catching as it fills us with hope and provides inspiration.Those who can see with their eyes are aware of what is happening around them. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. All this are denied to a blind person and worse to a person born blind. The word used nowadays to describe such persons is people with disabilities. Physical blindness is not only the blindness there is, there is also what we may call spiritual blindness. If the truth is to be told, we who see physically can be spiritually blind. For instance, we are often blind; perhaps by prejudices, by our ignorance, by our fears and our pride, and so, too often, we choose to sit the dark, afraid of the light and what the light might reveal to us about ourselves.

At times disadvantage can become a blessing to someone. For instance: In the year 2000, there was a man who was awarded as the best Bible seller. Some B.B.C. journalists went to interview the man. They put this question to him “What was the brain behind your success”? To the question the man replied, “If you know your weak points they can become stepping stones into life”. As a man who stammers he said people who speak fluently cannot with stand us. So, I decided that they either buy the Bible and go and read at home or they should stand so that I will read it to their hearing. And almost everybody took the option of reading the Bible at home instead of listening to me who stammer, so they bought a copy from me each person I approached. Speaking about weak points can become stepping stones into life; listen to the story of this blind preacher. As a blind man, he will always begin his preaching by raising up his red-edged Bible and shouting, “I was blind but now I see.” In this way he would attract a group of curious people around him and begin witnessing Christ to them. If you needed a distinction between physical and spiritual blindness, this is it. Physically he was blind, but spiritually he was clear sighted, or at least so he believed.In Vienna in Austria there is a church in which the former ruling family in Austria, the Hapsburgs, is buried. When royal funerals arrived outside the church, the mourners knocked at the door of the church requesting to be allowed in. A priest inside would ask ‘Who is it that desires admission here?’ A guard would call out, ‘His apostolic majesty, the emperor’. The priest would answer, ‘I don’t know him.’ They would knock a second time, and again the priest would ask who it was. The funeral guard outside would announce, ‘The highest emperor.’ A second time the priest would say, ‘I don’t know him.’ A third time they would knock on the door and the priest would ask ‘Who is it?’ The third time the answer would be, ‘A poor sinner, your brother.’ It is only then the priest will open the Church for them.That true story reminds us of the fact that we are all sinners no matter what our rank in society or Church might be. Perhaps most of us do not think of ourselves very often as sinners in need of God’s mercy. This is what made Archbishop Fulton Sheen to say that in the past “Catholics believed only Our Lady was immaculately conceived but nowadays Catholics believe they are immaculately conceived”. In other words we Christians and particularly Catholics do not think that we were born sinners (with the original sin) or we are sinners again. Could I ask you to reflect on your attitude to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Confession! Unfortunately sometimes that sacrament of reconciliation is treated as a joke and we joke about it. One wonders why people would treat the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a subject of jokes. Is it because we have forgotten that we are sinners and the value of this sacrament is lost? Is what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said about us Catholics true? That in the past Catholics believed only Our Lady was immaculately conceived but now we believe we are all immaculately conceived. Another way of asking that question is “Are we blind to our sinfulness and our need of God’s mercy?”The Gospel reading of today (John 9:1-41) speaks of Jesus healing the blind man. Every miracle of Jesus is meant to teach us something and this particular miracle of the healing of the blind man teaches us that Jesus came to cure our spiritual blindness. There were other people in the Gospel who could see yet they were spiritually blind. They were the Pharisees. I would like us to ask ourselves is it possible that we may have a blind spot with regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and our need of God’s mercy? How often do we go to confession? During this season of Lent may I suggest that we go to the Pool of Siloam to wash our spiritual eyes so that we can see again what the Lord’s call to each of us is, I would like to recommend to you to receive the sacrament of reconciliation very often or once a month if you are a catholic.

I am firmly convinced that some of us who are neglecting this sacrament of reconciliation have no idea of the enormous graces God gives us when we receive the sacrament. One way I like to think about it is that as we confess our sins the blood of Jesus flows over us from Calvary and cleanses us. Just as we believe that during Holy Mass Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is extended to us through time and space, similarly when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness in the Sacrament of reconciliation that forgiveness is flowing to us from Calvary. I believe that in this sacrament we receive not only forgiveness from God but we also receive strength to live the Christian life. This is what Jesus said to St. Faustina about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.Talking to St. Faustina about the sacrament of reconciliation Jesus said: “There, the greatest miracles take place and are continually repeated. It suffices to come with faith to the feet of my representative (the priest) and to reveal to him one’s misery and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. If a soul were as bad as a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already seem to be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. When you go to confession, know this that I myself am waiting for you in the confessional; I am only hidden in the cover of my representative the priest, but I act personally in the soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great there is no limit to my generosity.”Jesus also said to St. Faustina the greater the sinner thinks he is, the greater the mercy. “Summon all those to confidence in the beyond your understanding depth of my mercy for I desire to save all. The well of mercy was opened wide with a lance on the cross for all souls. I do not exclude anyone.”Jesus said, “Tell ailing mankind to draw close to my merciful heart and I will fill them with peace. Mankind will not find consolation until it turns with confidence to my mercy and love.” Jesus also said, “I desire the confidence of my people. Let not even the weak and very sinful fear to approach me, even if their sins be as numerous as all the sand of the earth all will be forgiven in the fathomless pit of my mercy.”When we receive the sacrament of reconciliation what we heard in our second reading is true of us, “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discern what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8-11). Finally, lent is the time for each of us to ask whether we are in the light or still in the dark. Do we overlook people in need and keep discussing only the abstract question of evil in the world like the disciples who asked whose fault it was that the man was blind? Are we blind to our sins and perhaps glory in being blind – the very limit of human blindness – to the sufferings of the poor and the sick, the oppressed and the abandoned? Are we afraid to support just causes, like the parents of the blind man who would not stand up for him, out of fear of authorities? Do our fears always out number our dangers? Is our faith so weak that it cannot see any good beyond our sorrows? The heart of a Christian is like a creeping plant which withers for want of that faith which it needs in order to spread. Are we blind to our own faults, which are not in the stars but in ourselves? In order not to face them, do we always blame others for our sins? The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none. The time is drawing near, for the renewal of our baptismal promises in the Holy Saturday liturgy. May we, therefore, come out of darkness and begin walking in the light of the risen Lord. This is the favorable time for salvation, repent and do penance. Make yourself a new heart and a new spirit.

Have a wonderful 4th Sunday of Lent.

+AB Matthew Audu Jos