Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2020
Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday, which comes from the entrance antiphon “Laetare Ierusalem” (Rejoice, Jerusalem, Isaiah 66:10). Today we rejoice because we are halfway through the austere Lenten season marked by intensive fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We rejoice because we are slowly but steadily approaching the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, that is, the passion, death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. We rejoice because God through his Son Jesus Christ has entered our sinful world and shown us his mercy and compassion by setting us free from the darkness of sin.
In today’s Gospel from John Chapter 5, we read that Jesus was walking along with his disciples when he came across a man born blind. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ This question was prompted by a prevalent Jewish assumption that suffering and sickness were a logical consequence of personal or ancestral sin. Jews believed that there was a correlation between suffering and sin. Things don’t just happen. Everything happens for a reason. Jesus debunks the theodicy that sickness and suffering are divine retributions or a form of karma for sins committed. He points out the blindness of his own disciples saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents. Rather he was born blind so ‘that the works of God might be made manifest in him’ (Jn 9:3). In other words, he was born blind so that the Lord will use his situation to manifest his power, care and compassion to those who suffer.
As the gospel story continued, Jesus did something spectacular, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). The man obeyed and came back with his sight fully restored. This miracle reminds us that the Lord is with us and cares about the pain and grief that we experience in our daily lives. It also portrays Jesus as God who has power and authority over every kind of disease and infirmity.
Dear friends in Christ, today we are anxious and petrified as we wrestle to contain Covid-19, which is causing tremendous mayhem, anguish and agony across the world. Watching the news and reading stories on social media is depressing as new infections and fatalities are reported every blessed day. Many Christians are now asking, is God punishing us for our sins? Is God furious because we have dismissed belief and faith in God from our lives? Is God angry because we have kicked Him out of our governments, out of our schools and out of the public square? Is God saddened because of escalating secularism, individualism, relativism and militant atheism in the world? It suffices to state that Covid-19 is definitely not about an angry God punishing his own children, for God is love (Deus Caritas Est).
However, this insidious virus devouring every nook and cranny of our lives allows us to come to terms with our broken human nature and our urgent need for God. This is a time when we must create an intimate personal relationship with Jesus because with God all things are possible. When suffering, misfortunes, pain, loss, disaster, epidemics and pandemics like Covid-19 afflict a people and a nation, which is deep-rooted in God, then it brings out the strength, the beauty, the nobility and the endurance within the hearts of its people. As Saint Paul testifies, ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rm 5:3-4).
My dear people, we cannot win this battle on our own. We must fight on our knees in prayer and adoration. We have heard Pope Francis’ relentless call for the world to join in prayers. Prayer is the key to conquer and subjugate this monstrous virus that is posing a colossal threat to our very existence. May our Blessed Mother, the “salus infirmorum,” “health of the sick” intercede for us all.
Fr Eugene Chianain Song, Cfic
God Bless & Stay Safe!