Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Light of the World

(4th Sunday of Lent, A)

At the climax of our gospel today the Lord proclaims, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” This judgment is not something off in an unknown future. It is the judgment that is present every time Jesus appears: when he appears in our hearts as an invitation to patience, service, or prayer, and especially when he comes among us as the bread and wine of this Eucharist. Wherever the Lord is, there is his judgment.

The word in the original Greek that we translate “judgment” is krima, meaning the delivery of a judgment, like a sentence imposed by a judge. It’s closely related to the word krisis, from which we derive the English word crisis. Whenever Jesus is present there is a crisis that is also a judgment. Like any crisis, the decisions we make in the midst of the crisis will determine that path we take for the future.

And that decision is to accept, to consent, to believe in Jesus Christ as the revelation of God, or not. That’s what we saw happening in Jesus’ final conversation with the man who had regained his sight. Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And he worshiped him, and said, “I do believe Lord.”

This is what it really means to gain our sight, to learn to see clearly: to come to believe, to see that Jesus is Lord, that he is “the Light of the world.” To see Jesus as the Light, and to see and interpret things by this Light of the world is to have true vision.

This judgment, this crisis happens every time we gather here for the Eucharist. We take ordinary bread and wine and by the calling down of the Holy Spirit, the great Eucharistic Prayer of thanksgiving, and by the Lord’s own words at the Last Supper, this bread and wine becomes for us the Body and Blood of Christ. But do the bread and wine look or smell or taste any different after we have consecrated them? No, not to the bodily senses at least. And that’s just the moment of the crisis and judgment. We can accept from God the spiritual sight to see that this bread and wine is now the Body of Christ broken for us on the Cross and the Blood of Christ poured out in the ratification of the new and eternal covenant, or we can harden our hearts and remain blind to this new vision.

The Lord says he came into the world so that the blind might see, and those who see might become blind. That’s the great reversal of this judgment. If we admit that we need God’s help to really see Jesus as the Light of the Word, then he will help us to gain our spiritual sight. If we think we know it all, that we can see everything clearly, then God will leave us in our spiritual blindness. And that makes the spiritual division between the seeing and the blind, and that’s the judgment of God on the world.

So let us pray for our sight, for the vision to see and believe that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Then, as Paul tells us today, we will be able to live as children of the Light, as those who see and understand the world in the true light who is Jesus himself.

Our world doesn’t understand itself, and it is led into all kinds of violence and misery because it follows lesser lights: the intellectual lights of science and reason, the emotional lights of desiring riches and security. But when we accept from God the sight to see and believe that Jesus is the Light of the world, we will be able to understand ourselves and our world in the glorious Light of the Risen Lord.

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