On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, just before we begin to enter Holy Week, we are summoned to Bethany. If we had been friends of Mary, Lazarus, and Martha, and found out that Lazarus was gravely ill, we probably would have dropped everything to be with them. This was what was so surprising about the behavior of Jesus. Although he was their close friend, he chose to stay away, that God’s glory would be manifested. This is a persistent theme in John’s Gospel. Right to the very end, Jesus’ works were meant to give glory to the Father. As our Lenten journey reaches a crescendo, let us be mindful that, as people who have “put on Christ” in baptism, we are also called, by our attitudes and actions, to give glory to God.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14). We are at the midpoint of our Lenten journey of conversion. As always, God never gives up on us, especially those who have “fallen asleep” along the road to conversion. The most powerful stories of conversion are proclaimed during these final weeks of Lent. They have the power to shake us out of our sleep. Today’s Gospel story of the healing of the man born blind exposes the real blindness in the time of Christ—the blindness of the self-righteous religious leaders. In a few weeks, at the Easter Vigil, the Church will proclaim “Christ our Light” as the paschal candle is carried into darkened churches throughout the world. May the darkness of sin that still pervades our lives, communities, and world, be dispelled by the Christ who comes to bring sight to the blind and light to the world.
Each time today’s Gospel story is read, I can’t help but think of the many television commercials I’ve seen depicting perspiring athletes lifting a beverage to their lips while the scorching sun beats down on them. Our culture has definite ideas about how to quench thirst. Today, those ideas are turned upside down. The Samaritan woman operates, initially, on the TV commercial level. She asks Jesus for the flowing water so that she will not have to keep coming to the well. Jesus then talks about what real thirst is, and how he, and he alone, can quench that thirst. Lent calls us to find those places deep within ourselves where we thirst. In our thirst, as did the Israelites, we cry out to God asking for springs of living water. Deep down we know that only the Lord can satisfy these thirsts.
Lent is all about change and change is usually not easy. In order to change we have to leave something behind. Today we hear about a very old man who decides to answer God’s call. Abram experiences a tremendous amount of change when he leaves everything behind, risking it all for God’s promise. Jesus changes, is transfigured, right before the eyes of his disciples. The Lenten scriptures issue the call for us to change, to be transfigured, so that we, too, will soon share in the glory of God. What is it that the Lord is asking us to leave behind? Are we willing to take the risk for the promise made by God? These questions are at the heart of the Lenten journey of conversion.
The first Sunday of the season of Lent always includes a Gospel account of the temptation of the Lord Jesus in the desert by the devil. This year, the story is set against the backdrop of the first reading from Genesis, which recounts the very first temptation by the devil. That story is set in a garden of delight. The Gospel story is set in the desert. As believers, we know that temptation comes our way in our own gardens of delight as well as the deserts of our lives. As Lent begins, our attention is drawn to that temptation within each of us to become like God—we want control, power, and answers to all of life’s difficult questions. As communities of faith, we are given this season of repentance so that we can join our hearts with others on the difficult journey of conversion. We look to God and to one another for strength against temptation.