Sacrament of Illumination The Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

Sacrament of Illumination The Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

1 Samuel 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

The theme of blindness connects today’s second reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and the Gospel passage from John’s Gospel. 

In the Gospel passage, Jesus heals a man who was physically blind. Then, speaking to the Pharisees Jesus refers to another kind of blindness, spiritual blindness. He says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 

Along with describing Baptism as a second birth, the early Church Father Saint Justin Martyr called Baptism a sacrament of “illumination” of “mental enlightenment”.[1] According to Brant Pitre, calling Baptism a Sacrament of Illumination was “one of the favorite names for the sacrament of Baptism” of the early Church.[2]

After receiving the gift of Baptism, we are to, in the words of Saint Paul, “live as children of light”. This does not mean that baptism instantly gives us the ability to see clearly what the right action is to take in every situation. Rather, writes Saint Paul, we need to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” In other words, comments Pitre, we are to study to know what is right from what is wrong. Then, relying on divine grace we are to act in accordance with what we have learned.

As we study and become more aware of what is right from wrong, and then pray for the grace to live in accordance with what we know and spiritually see we begin to wake up from the sleep of sin as we become more like Christ who gives us light. (Ephesians 5:14) 

         What do we know as we study right from wrong, we know truth, above all as lived out by Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the incarnation of truth. If we wish to know how to act, look to Jesus and we will see how to act in the best way possible. Then pray to Jesus to act as he does by participating more deeply in his sacred life. As “we draw close to Christ,” said Pope Emeritus, “truth and love are blended.” May we not live lives where how we love is not informed by the truth of Jesus Christ, for, as Pope Emeritus stated, “Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like ‘a clanging cymbal’ (1 Cor 13:1).”[3]

         Lord Jesus, we come before you with spiritual blindness. Heal our blindness as you healed the blind man in today’s Gospel. Then, when we are able to see how we should act grant us your grace to love more and more in accordance with your truth so that in our lives how we love will be ever more informed by our knowledge of you as “the way, the truth, and the life”.

May God Bless You,

Father Peter

[1] St. Justin Martyr, “Baptism as Illumination in the Early Church – Justin,”, From St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology, chapter 61 on baptism as “illumination”.

[2] Brant Pitre, “The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A),”

[3] Cardinal Robert Sarah, God or Nothing, 181.

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