The 4 th Sunday of Lent Year A Year A Readings, Lectionary #31

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1 The 4 th Sunday of Lent Year A Year A Readings, Lectionary #31 Begin in prayer Spend a few moments in prayer before reading the Scripture. Ask the Lord to let his Word speak to your heart. Lord, you are my Shepherd: I shall not want. Guide me in right paths and refresh my soul as I preach your goodness to my sisters and brothers. Be with me now, Holy Spirit, as I prepare my homily for next weekend. Guide my words and my life to reflect the joy you bring. Amen. Liturgical Context Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. God s incredible reconciling mercy is the theme of today s Gospel. Scrutinies are celebrated with those who are preparing for baptism (elect) at the Easter season. There are three scrutinies. The first scrutiny is celebrated on the Third Sunday of Lent, the second scrutiny is celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and the third scrutiny is celebrated on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Scrutinies are penitential celebrations that help uncover what is still in need of reconciliation and healing in the elect as they prepare for baptism. Cycle A readings are used for the celebration of scrutinies. David is anointed in today s first reading. Anointing in Scripture meant to touch a person with a substance. That substance could be water, spittle, fat, oil, blood, or mud). Anointing is the heart of our sacramental life. See Word and Worship Workbook Year A or Year C for a through treatment of today s readings and liturgy.

2 Approach the Text Read the Scripture for this Sunday several times. Let its words and phrases truly affect you. Use the Lectio Divina method (available from PastoralPlanning.com as part of this homily kit) to allow the Word to fill your heart and excite you about the homily you are preparing. Begin by reading through all the readings for this weekend. FIRST READING: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a The Lord said, "There--anoint him, for this is the one!" God chooses the unlikely David from among Jesse s sons to be king. God chooses whom God wills. God elects his people. People can do nothing on their own merit to achieve God s election. God anointed David, thus signaling the power and presence of God s Spirit in guiding and leading David as king. Anointing effectively commissioned a person for special service. David was called into God s service. God called him and thus David enjoyed God s special protection. God was elected, so too have the elect been chosen by God. The scrutinies today remind us of that election as they prepare for baptism. For your reflection: What is God calling you to in your life? When has God ever called you? How does it feel to be elected, chosen by God? SECOND READING: Ephesians 5:8-14 Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness. The Ephesians community struggled light metanoia---a complete with Gnostic influences. conversion of heart. Today s reading highlights the Some scholars suggest that this was struggle between light and darkness. used in a baptismal liturgy because The reading suggests that Christians of the images of light and darkness must turn completely toward the that permeate the text. For your reflection: Where is metanoia needed in your own life? What are the areas of your life in which darkness take precedence over the light? Preparing the Homily Mary Birmingham PastoralPlanning.com Page 2

3 GOSPEL: John 9:1-41 "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, We see,' so your sin remains." Jesus contrasts the darkness he has been encountering with the Light he came to bring. The blind man stands in dark contrast to those who think they see but who are in truth blind. The backdrop of this story is the feast the Jews were celebrating called the Feast of Tabernacles that commemorated the settling of the Promised Land and the future hope for a messiah. Booths were erected, water was poured on the corner of the altar as prayers were prayed that conjured images of living water and the light of the world. The story today is one of the seven signs (miracles) of John s Gospel. John used the term signs, as he understood them to be proof that Jesus was the promised messiah of sacred Scripture. Jesus made a clay paste from his spittle and the dirt on the ground. He touched the eyes of the man blind from birth. Jesus told the man to go and wash in the pool from which the waters for the Feast of Tabernacles had just been drawn. The man was then able to see. His neighbors were dumbfounded. Pharisees question the man and accuse Jesus of healing on the Sabbath. They approach the man s parents. They are afraid of being expelled from the synagogue and send the Pharisees back to their son. The man indicates that he is now a disciple of Jesus by telling the Pharisees that they should go and ask their questions of Jesus and perhaps they too would be compelled to follow him. The blind man experienced healing of epic proportions that caused deep conversion in his life. The Pharisees insist that God does not answer the prayers of sinners and Jesus is a sinner so how could the man be healed? It becomes obvious that Jesus is a prophet. Jesus is righteous. Jesus follows God s will. God answers Jesus prayers in ways that have never been answered before. This is an awe-filled revelation. The man is thrown out of the synagogue. Jesus looks for the man and what follows is an expression of faith and worship of Christ that reads like a baptismal liturgy. The blind man comes to see that light means salvation and sight. Jesus challenged the Pharisees. He tells them that his mission is to bring light to those who cannot see. They are indignant. Does Jesus presume to say that they cannot see? Jesus insists that people must first understand that they are blind if they want their sight restored. The Pharisees, in their self-righteous indignation believed themselves to be among those with sight. The person who does not recognize their need for healing is hardly open to it when offered. The miracle (the sign) of this story serves to provide Jesus with legitimacy and authority. It is a means of evangelization as it is a catalyst for bringing people to faith in Preparing the Homily Mary Birmingham PastoralPlanning.com Page 3

4 him and it is a teachable moment that teaches the community about Jesus the Light of the World. For your reflection: What is the primary message of this Gospel? What is your greatest blind spot in your life? In what way are you blind? In what way do you refuse to see? When (if ever) have you ever moved from blindness to sight? In what way are we as a church or society collectively blind? What is the challenge of this Gospel? In what way does it invite you to grow in faith and to be a better disciple? Take an inward glance Think about how the call to holiness is embedded in this week s liturgy: * [1 Samuel] "The Lord looks into the heart." What does the Lord see when he looks into your heart? How often do you judge by appearances? If others were to judge you by appearances only, what evaluation would they make? * [Psalm] "I fear no evil." Let's face it: sometimes, we do fear evil. What evils do you fear the most? Are you more fearful of physical evils, or are spiritual evils more fearsome? Are you a timid person? Are you a lion in the pulpit? * [Ephesians] "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." We're told elsewhere in Scripture that the Lord wants a contrite heart. How hard are you trying to present what you know to be most pleasing to him? What do you need to do in order to make such a presentation this Lent? * "Who sinned?" Everyone is always looking for someone, or something, to blame for present misfortunes. Where do you look? Whom do you blame? On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly do you believe Jesus when he tells his disciples that the man's blindness can't be blamed on anyone? * "I don't know." How often is this your answer when parishioners ask you to help them understand the presence of evil in the world? How easy is it for you to admit it when you simply don't know the answer to someone's spiritual questions? * "He does not keep the Sabbath." Name the ways that you fail to keep the Sabbath. How do you encourage others to keep holy the Lord's day? Take an outward glance Think about how the call to holiness is embedded in the daily experiences of the people to whom you will be speaking: *[1 Samuel] "From that day on...." Can your parishioners look back and name a particular day, or moment, when they can imagine that is was "from that day Preparing the Homily Mary Birmingham PastoralPlanning.com Page 4

5 on" their life took an important turn? Was it a turn for the better, or for the worse? What are the important, life-changing days in your parishioners' lives? * [Ephesians] "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." What are the spiritual obstacles that stand in the way of your sisters and brothers learning what pleases the Lord? How many of your parishioners are seeking such knowledge in spiritual direction, on retreats, in confession? * "He does not keep the Sabbath." On the whole, do your parishioners keep the Sabbath? What are your parishioners hearing from the pulpit about keeping holy the Lord's day? * "You are trying to teach us?" What do you learn from your sisters and brothers? With so much experience sitting out in the pews, who are the saints and heroes whose lives can be models for the rest of us? Speaking of Scripture Preparing the 8-minute homily How easy it is to blame God for our misfortunes! Perhaps you've contemplated the mystery of evil and suffering this week. Try to preach a homily befitting the joy of Laetare Sunday--give your sisters and brothers reason to celebrate: the Lord is the source (not of evil, but) of all good things! There must have been a time in your life when you were blind, but later were able to see. This story may help many people sitting in your pews. To what were you blind? A prejudice that was ingrained by your culture or family? A selfish behavior that you had learned to justify? Bad eating or drinking habits? Someone near you asking for help whom you chose not to see? Or what? Timing Homily notes Memo 30 seconds Greet everyone and say one thing to connect with what is on the mind of the community news, weather, sports, parish events, visitors, a special group which is present, or other. Humor is good here. God is sending his love through you to your listeners. 1-2 minutes Tell a story or provide an image that will fire the imagination of your listeners. Do not launch into a treatment of the readings. This image or story must be one that is easy to understand by everyone, young and old. Avoid using standard jokes here. Instead, as you prepare the homily, what comes to mind as illustrative of the message in the readings? Keep this very short. It takes any group of people a few seconds to get used to the sound of your voice in a room and this is a way to begin that will help your listeners hear you. Again, make sure this stays brief. The point of the homily is not you or your story but the Word of God and this image or story is a way to set the stage for that. 3-4 minutes Connect that image now to the message in Make two or three quick Preparing the Homily Mary Birmingham PastoralPlanning.com Page 5

6 today s readings. Again, avoid providing commentary on the readings or exegesis which is disconnected from your image. You want people to remember what you say and take it home. What hope does the message today offer to your listeners? 1-2 minutes Return to the liturgy. Gesture toward the altar and say, Let s come back here now to this liturgy You re setting the stage for what will follow. Make a quick connection between the message today and the Eucharist. 30 second Thank your listeners and end on a very positive note. points here. Remember that the message must fit into the lives of the people in front of you. How will celebrating Eucharist and receiving communion change you and your listeners? How will it help them incorporate the message of today s readings into their daily lives? Sit down. Conclude in prayer To conclude your preparation, think about the community for whom you ve just prepared to preach or teach, and spend a few moments in prayer. Lord, help me to see that to which I remain blind. Give me the courage to share my story with the people set before me this weekend. I open myself to the wisdom you alone can give and I offer myself as the earthen vessel which will carry your Word to these people. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Preparing the Homily Mary Birmingham PastoralPlanning.com Page 6

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