Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent and today I want to talk about grace and its relation to our faith. This is not an easy topic. It is a difficult topic, but it’s really central to understanding the Christian life. Faith is not just an intellectual assent to something. It’s not just saying “I believe that” or “I know that’s true”. For example, I can say I know that Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. I wasn’t there, but I believe that. I believe that happened. It’s reported by historians that it happened. There’s no reason not to believe it. So I believe it. But that fact has no impact on my life. None at all. It is of no importance to me that Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815. Now, by contrast, I also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins, and rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. That has an impact on my life. I believe that. I believe it not only because it’s reported in the Gospels, but I believe it because God has given me the grace to have the faith to believe that. And that has an impact on my life, too. So faith is not just an intellectual assent to something. It’s a commitment. It changes our life. It has an impact on the way that we live. And it’s a commitment. Commitment is hard, right? Anybody who’s been married knows that. Commitment is hard, but God helps us to sustain that commitment by the gift of His grace. What is grace? Grace is the free and undeserved help of God. It’s a gift. It’s unmerited favor. It’s God’s love for us. It’s a gift from God to us, and God’s grace supports our faith in Him.
Our readings today reflect this idea. Our Old Testament reading was from 1 Samuel, chapter 1. This is the story of David’s anointing. David who is going to become the King of Israel is right now a young man. Samuel who is the Judge of Israel at this time is sent by God to go find the future King of Israel and to anoint him. Samuel goes and he finds a family there; he finds Jesse and his sons. Jesse has a number of sons and they’re very tall, handsome, rugged, strong people and he goes, oh yeah, this is going to be them. God says no, it’s not one of them. So 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.” 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 the one!” And so Samuel anoints David with oil, “and from that day on”, Samuel tells us, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” This is a beautiful story that illustrates what grace is. Grace is this gift of God. “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” So David is anointed, he has a very special mission to perform with his life, and God enables him to do that. That is grace.
Our Gospel story today also illustrates this and directly relates it to faith, which is my central topic today. This is from the Gospel according to John, chapter 9. Jesus sees a blind man. He’s been blind all his life. Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, smears it on his eyes, and says to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.” People start asking the guy, what happened to you? You’ve always been blind and now you can see. Some are just people who know him. Some are Pharisees, who say, how was he able to see? And he said, He put clay on my eyes, I washed, and now I can see. Some of the Pharisees question this. They say, He must not be from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath. He worked on the Sabbath, which was forbidden in their law. Others said, how can a simple man do such signs? They asked the blind man, well, what do you think? And he said, He’s a prophet. So they threw him out – because they rejected what this man was saying. So the man sees Jesus again. Jesus comes and finds him. Jesus seeks him out and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the formerly blind man answers, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord”, and he worshiped Him.
This is the grace of God, and it’s the grace of God that gave this man faith in Jesus Christ. The grace of God here is illustrated by what Jesus does for him. He heals his blindness – and its relation to faith is shown in how Jesus discloses Himself to this man, and then he believes in Jesus. This is how grace gives us faith and supports our faith, that continuing commitment to live the life that God has created us to live. Even once we believe, we’re continually faced with challenges to our faith. This happens to all of us.
Our Epistle today gives us guidance about this. Our Epistle is from Ephesians, chapter 5. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus. He says to them, “you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” God is always holding out this gift us. Always! At the beginning of our faith, with our conversion – like what happened to the man in the Gospel story today – in enabling us to live the life he’s prepared us to live. Like David, with the Spirit of the Lord rushing out upon him, so that he could do what God made him to do. And also in continuing to live our life, we can experience sanctification, which is the way God changes us, through His grace, to enable us to become more and more the people He’s created us to be. This is what Paul is talking about here. “You are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” He’s talking about receiving this gift of sanctification, which is also from God’s grace. God’s grace supports our faith in Him, and God is always holding out this gift us. God’s grace enables us to accept that gift. How do we accept that gift? We accept that gift by being willing to make Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We accept that gift by trying our best to live the way that God has created us to live. We accept that gift by receiving His grace through the sacraments. We accept that gift by studying the word of God, by reflecting on it, and by letting it have that impact on our lives. These are ways we accept that gift that God is holding out to us right now and all the time. And in doing that, we become children of light. We are part of the Christian faithful; part of the body of Christ on earth. We live as children of light by the grace of God. God is always reaching out to us. Reach back and accept the gift of God’s grace!