Dear brothers and sisters!
The Lenten journey that we are embarked upon is a special time of grace during which we can experience the gift of the Lord’s benevolence in our regard. The liturgy of this Sunday, which we call “Laetare Sunday,” invites us to rejoice and be glad as the entrance antiphon of the Eucharistic celebration proclaims: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts” (cf. Isaiah 66:10-11).
What is the profound reason for this joy? Today’s Gospel, in which Jesus heals a man blind from birth, tells us. The question that the Lord Jesus asks the man who was blind constitutes the culmination of the account: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” (John 9:35). That man recognizes the sign that Jesus works and passes from the light of the eyes to the light of faith: “I believe, Lord” (John 9:38).
It is to be noted how a simple and sincere person, in a gradual way, sets out on the journey of faith: In a first moment he meets Jesus as a “man” among others, then he considers him a “prophet,” and in the end his eyes open and he proclaims him “Lord.” In opposition to the faith of the blind man there is the hardening of the hearts of the Pharisees who do not want to accept the miracle, because they refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The crowd, instead, stops to debate about what happened and remains distant and indifferent. The parents themselves of the blind man are overcome by fear of the judgment of others.
And we, what attitude do we assume toward Jesus? We too, because of the sin of Adam, are born “blind,” but in the baptismal fount we were enlightened by the grace of Christ. Sin wounded humanity, destining it to the obscurity of death, but in Christ there shines the newness of life and the goal to which we are called. In him, reinvigorated by the Holy Spirit, we receive the strength to defeat evil and do good. In fact, the Christian life is a continually conforming to Christ, the image of the new man, to attain full communion with God. The Lord Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), because in him “there shines the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) that continues to reveal in the complex plot of history the meaning of human existence.
In the rite of baptism, the candle that is presented, lit from the great paschal candle, which is the symbol of the risen Christ, is a sign that helps us grasp what happens in the sacrament. When we let our life be illumined by the light of Christ, we experience the joy of being liberated from all that threatens our life’s complete fulfillment. In these days that prepare us for Easter let us revive in ourselves the gift received in baptism, that flame that is sometimes in danger of being extinguished. We must make it burn brighter with prayer and charity toward our neighbor.
We entrust the Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, that all may encounter Christ, the Savior of the World.
[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the death of my beloved predecessor, Venerable John Paul II. Because of his upcoming beatification, I did not celebrate the traditional Mass of suffrage for him, but I recalled him affectionately in prayer, as I think all of you did. While through the Lenten journey we prepare for the feast of Easter, we also draw near with joy to the day in which we will be able to venerate this great Pontiff and witness of Christ as Blessed, and entrust ourselves still more to his intercession.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[In English he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. I especially greet the students from the Oratory Preparatory School, Woodcote, and a group of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians studying in Rome. In today’s Gospel Jesus, the light of the world, gives sight to the man born blind. May the light of Christ, received in Baptism, always guide us through this life to the splendour of divine glory. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!
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[After greeting several groups in various languages, he concluded in Italian:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you, I wish you all a good Sunday.