Lights of the World: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Christ’s Miracles on the Andrews Diptych. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Central idea: Christ is the light of the world. Doctrine: Light of the world. Practical application: How we are to be lights of the world.

To view the Lectionary 31 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Christ is the light of the world

Reading 1 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

The LORD said to Samuel:
“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice,
Samuel looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There—anoint him, for this is the one!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed David in the presence of his brothers;
and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

  • The words “christ” and “messiah” mean anointed, literally oiled. The messiah is the one anointed with oil because he is chosen by God.
  • God chose David to be “my king” not because of his appearance—which was very impressive—but because of David’s heart.
  • In Christ the Messiah, God the Father chooses every one of us for a destiny greater than the earthly destiny of King David. He chooses us to share in his eternal life.
  • According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

David is par excellence the king “after God’s own heart,” the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the prayer of God’s Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord. In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer. The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer. (CCC 2579)

  • The light of Christ shines through God’s anointed son, David, as he can shine through us. One of the best ways to pray the Psalms is to see them as being spoken by Christ himself. They can also be our own words to the Father. In this way, they are a kind of chorus chanted to the Father: by Christ, by David and all the Jews, and by the Church and each of us individually.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

  • A sheep is always on the move in search of pasture. Green grass and gently flowing water are his only wants. He fulfills these wants by following the paths his shepherd leads him along.
  • What normally follows a flock of sheep? Wolves and jackals, not goodness and kindness.
  • Even if such enemies lurk within eyesight, this sheep can eat and drink and sleep without fear, protected by the shepherd and his weapons: his rod and staff.
  • Our condition in the world is often to be in need, to be afraid of harmful enemies, and to become lost and confused.
  • Through the Redemption, the LORD promises to be our good shepherd, but we need to follow his lead.

Reading 2 Eph 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention
the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”

  • Darkness is a symbol of sin. Sleep is a metaphor for death. Light overcomes darkness and awakens one from the death of sleep. This light is a symbol for Christ our Redeemer.
  • When we sin we produce “fruitless works” that we perform in secret, away from the light.
  • We live today in a specially perverse time, in which people perform shameful acts in public and demand that everyone approve of them, or else.
  • By virtue of the light Christ gives us, we are able to produce works of “goodness and righteousness and truth.” This light is the truth he reveals and the grace he imparts. These gifts are why we can “live as children of light.”
  • According to the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” Gaudium et Spes (“Joy and Hope”): “Christ . . . makes man fully manifest to man himself and brings to light his exalted vocation” (quoted in CCC 1710).
  • We have lived in darkness and death and can now live in light, producing good works and awakening to eternal life.

Gospel Jn 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is,“
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe
that he had been blind and gained his sight
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said,
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind
and said to him, “Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner.”
He replied,
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said,
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from.”
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

  • Jesus’ disciples assume that either the man who was born blind or his parents had sinned, and so the blindness is a punishment from God. The Jewish authorities agree with this view. They condemn the man, saying, “You were born totally in sin.”
  • Instead, Jesus says his condition “is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Quoting from St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas says “‘Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.’ This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” (ST, I, q. 2, a. 3)
  • What are these “works of God” to be “made visible”?
  • Jesus is doing the works that Paul exhorts us to do: St. Paul said, “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
  • Our Lord declares, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  • What does the man born blind “see” when Christ gives him light by restoring his sight? Besides seeing the physical world, he can also see the truth of things: He says of Christ what the Jewish authorities cannot: “He is a prophet.” And a little later, when Christ gives him more light, he recognizes Christ as the “Son of Man,” and so, “he worshiped him.”
  • If we are open and honest and ask, God will give us light to see the truth and grace to live according to it. But we can deliberately close ourselves to the truth. We claim we see but we are really self-blinded. Then we do works of darkness.

Doctrine: Light of the World

  • Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” What did he mean?
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest” (CCC 2466). The person of Christ is the full revelation of God to mankind. In other words, everything God wants man to know and to be like can be seen in the Incarnate Son.
  • “’Full of grace and truth,’ he came as the ‘light of the world,’ he is the Truth” (CCC 2466). To be the light of the world means to be the truth that can be seen. This light is for our benefit: “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (CCC 2466).
  • “The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know ‘the truth [that] will make you free’ and that sanctifies” (CCC 2466). By learning from Christ and imitating Christ the disciple of Christ becomes transformed by Christ. This discipline makes that disciple free and holy.
  • Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus’ light is now accessible to his disciples through the Holy Spirit. “To follow Jesus is to live in ‘the Spirit of truth,’ whom the Father sends in his name and who leads ‘into all the truth’” (CCC 2466).
  • To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No’” (CCC 2466).

Practical application: How we are to be lights of the world

  • The Church has the duty of showing forth “the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies” (CCC 2105).
  • She does this through her living members: “Christians are called to be the light of the world” (CCC 2105). Recall that Jesus said, “We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.”
  • How do we do these “works” so as to be light for others? We do it by evangelization.
    • First, we Christians must ourselves be evangelized and formed:
      • “By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them ‘to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live’” (CCC 2105).
    • Second is the evangelization of others:
      • “The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.” (CCC 2105)
    • Thus, the light we bring, the light of Christ, includes whatever is true and good, and these are intrinsically attractive to everyone.
    • In other words, Christ and his Church want us to become living experts or “artists” in living truth and goodness. This is what the saints are.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This outline has drawn on the bolded points.

  • CCC 280, 529, 748, 1165, 2466, 2715: Christ the light of the nations
  • CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
  • CCC 1216: baptism is illumination
  • CCC 782, 1243, 2105: Christians are to be light of the world
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