The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Lent Week 4: Tuesday

Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Today's readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; Psalm 64; John 5:1-16 Read more

Lent Week 4: Monday

Monday, April 04, 2011
John 4: 43-54: From Faithless Familiarity to Fervent Faith Read more

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sunday, April 03, 2011
Today's readings: 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalm 22; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Saint John, throughout his gospel, makes great use of the images of darkness and light. In today's gospel this is manifested in Jesus' encounter with a blind man, a man who lived in darkness (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16). This man's physical disability is used by John to represent the spiritual blindness of Israel and indeed of the whole of humanity. We walked in darkness, unable to see God, until Jesus, the light of the world gave us sight (John 9:5).

The early Church associated this illumination, this enlightenment, with baptism. Indeed, today's gospel was often used in the instruction of catechumens to illustrate this very idea. Just as the Blind Man receives the gift of physical sight after he is anointed by Jesus (John 9:6) and sent to wash in a pool of water (John 9:7), so the Christian receives the gift of spiritual sight, of faith, when he or she comes up out of the waters of baptism.

But it seems that whilst this healed man - and by implication also the newly baptized Christian - is able to 'see' the light after he comes up out of the waters, he does not immediately understand the gift that he has received, or indeed the true identity of the giver of that gift. Our formerly blind man is able to tell his neighbours that Jesus has healed him, but he cannot tell them where Jesus is. A process of deepening must take place if his relationship with Christ is to mature. This deepening occurs in the midst of his interrogation by the Pharisees, by the testing of the Pharisees.

Here we have an interesting parallel with Jesus' forty day fast in the desert. It is often suggested that Jesus in his humanity came to understand his mission in his confrontation with Satan in the wilderness. The testing of Satan deepens Jesus' understanding of how he must carry out God's will. Similarly, in today's gospel it is the questioning, tempting, testing of the Pharisees that leads the healed man to delve further into the mystery of the Incarnation.

First, in response to the confused questioning of the Pharisees, he declares that Jesus is a prophet (John 9:17); next, when the questioning gets more aggressive, his spirited defence of his healer leads him to declare that Jesus is 'from God' (John 9:23); finally, when the Pharisees throw him out, Jesus comes to find him and reveals that he is the Christ, the Messiah. The Blind Man bows down and worships (John 9: 38). We see in the Blind Man, then, an allegory of a spiritual journey. The once Blind Man faithfully witnesses to what he has seen. As a result his gift of sight, given by cleansing waters, matures into a recognition of Jesus' true identity.

We too are on a spiritual journey. We come from God, and are on our way back to God. Our baptism marks not the end of the journey but a new beginning. It is a gift that must be unpacked over a lifetime. Yet often we only come to understand how precious our baptism is, how precious is our gift of faith, when that gift is threatened. During Lent we follow Christ into the desert to be tested. This testing is to help us refocus our priorities. We more easily recognize what is truly important when it seems like we have nothing. Read more

Lent Week 3: Friday

Friday, April 01, 2011
Today's readings: Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 80; Mark 12:28-34 Read more

Lent Week 3: Thursday

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Todays readings: Jeremiah 7:23-28; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Luke 11:14-23 Read more

Lent Week 3: Wednesday

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
 Today's readings: Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9; Psalm 147: Matthew 5:17-19

Our Lenten penances can be a great source of spiritual strength to us, allowing us to deepen our relationship with Christ and enter further into the Paschal Mystery. We can allow our daily penitential observances to help us in ‘transcending the good life’ as Herbert McCabe once wrote. On the other hand, we can become a little too obsessed with the externals of observance and forget why we are performing such actions; indeed, the actions themselves can become a source of anxiety and fear and so be rendered meaningless.
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Lent Week 3: Tuesday

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lent Week 3: Monday

Monday, March 28, 2011
Today's reading: 2 Kings 5:1ff; Psalm 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4; Luke 4:24-30

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Third Sunday of Lent: A Rock and a Hard Place

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent Week 2: Saturday

Saturday, March 26, 2011
Today's readings: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 Read more
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