1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
A central theme in today’s Liturgy of the Word is that of enlightenment or illumination. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we leave the darkness of sin and begin to live as “children of light”.
The first reading conveys this truth through the story of David’s election. God sees beyond David’s outward appearance and directly into his heart. We know that David is not perfect and will sin gravely. But despite this failing, David earnestly desires to serve God and to worship him alone. David fully repents from his sin and, in turn, becomes a model for the righteous. He continues as a shepherd of the kingdom, leading his people in the worship of the one, true God of Israel.
David is anointed with oil by Samuel and the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon him. Something similar occurs at our Baptism: along with purification from sin, we are anointed with oil and filled with the Holy Spirit. Through this simple act, we become part of God’s family. By Baptism we share in the priesthood of Christ and in his prophetic and royal mission (CCC, 1268).
The Psalm calls to mind the image of a good shepherd who leads his flock through the desert and dark valleys to places where green pastures and fresh water are abundant. The Good Shepherd is by our side and will lead us along paths of righteousness. God’s closeness transforms the dark valley and it loses all danger, “it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in tranquility, accompanied by the familiar rhythmical beat of the staff on the ground, marking the shepherd’s reassuring presence” (Benedict XVI, 13 March 2012). The Psalm sees the Lord inviting us to dine with him during our earthly journey and then sending us on our way toward the promised land, the heavenly Temple of the Lord.
The Gospels reveal Jesus to us as the Good Shepherd who seeks us out when we are lost and lays down his life for us. “He is the way, the right path that leads us to life, the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears. He is the generous host who welcomes us and rescues us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of his body and his blood and the definitive table of the messianic banquet in Heaven. He is the royal Shepherd, king in docility and in forgiveness, enthroned on the glorious wood of the Cross” (Benedict XVI, 13 March 2012).
In the second reading, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to recognize that they previously belong to the darkness (ignorance and moral evil) and were under Satan’s rule, but now they have “become light ‘in the Lord’ because they are united to Jesus, in whom truth (4:21) and divine life are found” (P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 144). The Spirit that we receive through Baptism allows us to discern what actions are pleasing to the Lord. Not only should our actions conform to the way of light and truth, but we should also expose prudently the fruitless works of darkness. Light must shine through us and aid in the conversion of those in darkness. Toward the end of the passage from Ephesians, Paul may be quoting an early Christian baptismal hymn that addresses the one to be baptized as one who is morally asleep and dead in sin and invites him or her to receive the light and life of Christ (P. Williamson, Ephesians, Baker Academic, 147).
In Gospel we encounter the fifth sign of seven that John records for us. (Next week we will read the sixth sign: the raising of Lazarus. This will prepare us for the seventh sign, the greatest sign: the Resurrection of the Lord). Today’s miracle – curing a man born blind – is part of God’s providential plan. It is a physical miracle or sign that points to something greater, something spiritual. Just as Jesus opened the physical eyes of the man born blind, he will restore us in such a way that we will see reality anew with the eyes of faith and with supernatural wisdom. The man is cured and is also progressively enlightened in a spiritual way. He moves from thinking of Jesus as just another man, to seeing him as a prophet, and then as coming from God and finally as Lord, worthy of worship
Baptism cures us from our ignorance and brings us to enjoy the Sabbath rest with God. Having received in Baptism the Word, we become a “child of light”, called to spread the light of Christ to all nations (CCC, 1216).