This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent as we continue to follow Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem.. This Sunday the RCIA will celebrate the Second Scrutiny. In Masses where this occurs, the readings from Cycle A will be used. The other Masses will use the normal Cycle B readings. I have provided both sets of readings below. In the Cycle B readings, the first reading presents us with a fitting image of our Lenten journey. We are a wayward people, longing for home. This reading reminds us that everything is in God’s control and that we shall be brought safely home in the end. The second reading reminds us of the tremendous love of God, Who deemed us worthy of sharing in salvation. The gospel reading is a statement of God’s love and the life offered to us in Jesus. It is also a challenge to live in light, doing deeds that will serve to enlighten the world.
First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23
14 Likewise all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’S temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
15 Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for he had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. [17 Then he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who slew their young men in their own sanctuary building, sparing neither young man nor maiden, neither the aged nor the decrepit; he delivered all of them over into his grip. 18 All the utensils of the house of God, the large and the small, and the treasures of the LORD’S house and of the king and his princes, all these he brought to Babylon.] 19 They burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects. 20 Those who escaped the sword he carried captive to Babylon, where they became his and his sons’ servants until the kingdom of the Persians came to power. 21 All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.”
22 In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!'”
NOTES on First Reading:
* 36:14-23 This section is a summary of the events surrounding the exile in Babylon. It uses the predictions and perspective of Jeremiah to interpret the exile.
* 36:20 This ends the reflection on the evil of not listening to God’s Prophets with the claim that the exile would last for 7o years in fulfillment of Jer 25:12. It would be a punishment for neglecting the sabbath-year law of Lev 25:4; Exod 23:10.
* 36:22-23 The words of these verses are a repetition of those of Ezra 1:1-3a. Ezra- Nehemiah are thought to have originally formed the last part of the single work of the Chronicler, of which 1 and 2 Chronicles are the first part. Later, when Ezra-Nehemiah was regarded as a natural sequence to the two Books of Samuel and of Kings, it was separated from 1 and 2 Chronicles and placed before them. This made 1 and 2 Chronicles became the last part of the Hebrew Bible. In order to prevent this work from ending on a gloomy note of doom, Ezra 1:1-3a was repeated as 2 Chron 36:22-23.
Second Reading: Ephesians 2: 4-10
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so no one may boast. 10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 2:5 Paul expresses our relation through baptism with Christ, the risen Lord, in terms of realized eschatology. He treats our exaltation as already completed although Eph 2:7 brings in the future aspect too.
* 2:8-10 The dichotomy is not faith vs. works but God’s grace vs. human good deeds. All that God has given us is by grace.
Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 3:14 Moses just placed a snake on a pole and raised it up so it could be seen and those who looked upon it with trust in God would be healed ( Numbers 21:9-11). This is the first of the three Son-of- Man sayings to refer to Jesus’ exaltation. The allusion to Num 21:9-11 may be a typology created in the Johannine church.
The evangelist has used a Greek verb that implies glorification in order to invite comparison with Jesus on the cross and portray the snake in Numbers 21 as a type of Jesus.
Wisdom 16:6-7 speaks of the incident as turning Israel toward the Torah and toward God as Savior.
* 3:15 The Johannine connection between believing and having eternal life is applied to the story from Numbers.
Eternal life, used here for the first time in John’s Gospel, refers to the quality of life in fellowship with God not its duration.
* 3:16 The evangelist breaks into the story with a discourse about the sending of the son to bring life to the world. It expresses the realized eschatology of John’s theology. This is the only place outside the Prologue (John 1:1-18) where Christ is called only son typed after Isaac.
This verse is somewhat unusual in that John’s gospel does not focus on Jesus’ death as a sacrifice like some other New Testament books.
* 3:17-19 The Greek root for the word translated as condemn means both judgment and condemnation. Jesus’ purpose is to save, but his coming provokes judgment. Some condemn themselves by turning from the light.
* 3:19-21 Using an ethical dualism of light and darkness, this explains why some reject God’s salvation. This appears to be a Johannine Christian reworking of preexisting Jewish material.
* 3:21 To “do the truth” is an idiom for being righteous.
If Scrutinies are celebrated, the following readings are proclaimed instead of the previous readings.
First Reading: 1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a
1 The LORD said to Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
6 As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is here before him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
10 In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” 12 Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There-anoint him, for this is he!” 13 Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 16:1-14 There seem to be multiple traditions about David’s anointing. Each story, as recorded, seems to present itself as if it were his first one. The anointing presented in this chapter is unknown to David’s brother Eliab in the story that follows in the next chapter (1 Sam 17:28), and David is anointed twice more after Saul’s death (2 Sam 2:4; 5:3).
This story is the beginning of a whole complex of David stories that present David’s rise to the throne until he finally becomes king in 2 Sam 5. Many of them present the increasing tension between David and Saul as Saul falls farther and farther from God’s favor.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5: 8-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, 9 for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. 10 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, 12 for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 5:8-14 This is Paul’s admonition to live lives worthy of the great privilege to which the believers are called. As children of the light we must live lives that are full of that light. We must be channels of light to others. We can’t do that if our lives are full of darkness.
* 5:14 These words are probably from an early Christian hymn which was possibly part of a baptismal liturgy. Compare the content with Ephesians 2:5-6; 3:9 and Isaiah 60:1.
Gospel Reading: John 9: 1-41 or 9:1, 6-9,13-17, 34-38 (for the short form)
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. 4 We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
8 His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” 10 So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?” 11 He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” 12 And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”
13 They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. 15 So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” 16 So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” (But) others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” 20 His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for him self.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 28 They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. 32 It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” 34 They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. 39 Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
NOTES on Gospel Reading:
* 9:1-10:21 This fifth sign in John’s Gospel illustrates the saying, “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5). The conflict narrative about Jesus contrasts Jesus (light) with the Jewish authorities (blindness, 9:39-41). The theme of water is reintroduced in the reference to the pool of Siloam. There is irony in that Jesus is being judged by the Jewish leaders, yet they are judged by the Light of the world in 3:19-21.
* 9:2 It was a common belief of that time that physical illness or misfortune was a punishment for sin or, at least, the result of sin committed personally or by one’s family.
* 9:6 This was a common action by the “healers” of the day.
* 9:7 The Old Testament background for this image may be 2 Kings 5:10-14. The name of the pool means “sent.” This is an allusion to Jesus who is the one who is sent and in whom the catechumens will find light. They who had been spiritually blind from birth will be given sight by the one who was sent as the Light of the world. The early church saw Baptism as the immersion in Christ that would provide the insight of reality to which they had been blind from birth. The blind man’s progressive sight parallels the catechumen’s progressive insight into the mystery of Jesus. First, knowledge that there was a man named Jesus (9:11). He is a prophet (9:17). He is seen as a man from God (9:33). He is the heavenly Son of Man (9:35). Finally, He is worshiped as Lord (9:38).
* 9:14 It was in using spittle, kneading clay, and healing that Jesus had broken the sabbath rules laid down by Jewish tradition.
* 9:22 This is an artifact of the time in which the Gospel of John was written. The same terms are used again in John 12:42 and 16:2 The real separation between the Jews and the Christians did not occur until sometime after 70 AD when the temple was destroyed and Judaism reached a crisis that threatened its existence in the Roman Empire. Jewish leaders acted to distance themselves from the Christians because the followers of Christ had acquired the disfavor of the Roman empire.
Widespread and organized rejection/excommunication from the synagogue of those Jews who confessed Jesus as Messiah seems to have begun around A.D. 85, when the curse against the minim or heretics was introduced into the “Eighteen Benedictions” used in synagogue services.
* 9:24 This appears often as an Old Testament formula of adjuration to tell the truth. See Joshua 7:19; 1 Sam 6:5 (Septuagint version) as well as John 5:41.
* 9:32 The only Old Testament cure from blindness is found in Tobit (Tobit 7:7; 11:7-13; 14:1-2), but Tobit was not born blind. The statement in this verse was still true until about the year 1728 when the famous Dr. Cheselden by a surgical operation, gave sight to a 14 year old boy who had been born blind.
* 9:34 The popular belief of the time was that illness was a punishment for sin.
* 9:40 The Pharisees often called themselves “the teachers of the blind” referring to the common folk as “the blind” in that they did not know the law.
* 9:41 The Pharisees tended to trust in their own righteousness and refused to see the extent of their own need. Thus they placed themselves beyond Jesus’ reach as He reached out to them. </html