March 19, 2023 — Fourth Sunday of Lent

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A; Psalm 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 or John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

But the LORD said to Samuel, “…, for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Acting collectively to defend the land

In today’s readings from 1 Samuel, Ephesians, and John’s Gospel, we are challenged to see in new ways. As David is anointed instead of his older brothers, we are told that God does not judge based on the appearance of a person, but rather he sees into the heart. Jesus heals the blind man and with his new sight he is unrecognizable to those who had known him before. “I am the [same] man,” he is forced to assert. In Ephesians, we find the powerful contrast between dark and light representing death and life, truth and error. To see by the light of God is to be a witness to the truth and to recognize the difference between the forces of life and death.

This Lent at Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, we are reflecting on the significance of standing for the land. What does it look like to Stand for the land? What would it mean to see with the eyes of the poor who depend on the land, and must defend it?

At Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, we challenge ourselves to practice solidarity rather than charity. Charity, in the sense often meant today, of giving to those we pity, falls short of its deeper meaning: caritas, which means love. We are called to love, to see by the light of the Lord and so see to the heart, not merely appearances. Therefore, we express love not through paternalistic, one-sided giving. God’s love is properly expressed through solidarity, meaning to think and act in terms of community.

Community is a web of relationship and mutual recognition wherein members lift one another up when they fall and challenge each other to improve when they miss a mark. It is incumbent upon us as a global solidarity movement to join in community with our partners and learn where we too can grow.

In Honduras, we partner with Fundación ERIC-Radio Progreso. This fascinating grassroots Jesuit organization is dedicated to strengthening Hondurans’ understanding and democratic acumen, and to mobilizing them to struggle against forces that have historically plagued their country with violence and corruption. Its media work, which reaches hundreds of thousands, can be fraught with danger, as community journalist Sonia Pérez recently discovered.

Radio Progreso’s former head, Fr. Ismael Moreno, notes that although much was hoped for from Prime Minister Xiomara Castro because she was elected on a progressive platform, true power remains in the hands of powerful economic interests that are backed by sections of the judiciary. He encourages Hondurans to press for justice and institutional change; to question the co-optation of the state by the elite; and to forge a social movement to nourish what he calls the country’s “incipient democracy.”

This is an example of how our partners see deeply. Seeing by the light of the Lord is to see past the appearance of things; and the love of Christ is a love which heals our blindness and opens our eyes to the light. Organizations like Fundación ERIC-Radio Progreso can help us to live out our calling. Supporting their work is crucial not only for land defence in Honduras, but also for us to learn from poor people in Honduras how democracies are entangled with the owners of economic power. This is true in Canada as well as Honduras. Solidarity challenges us to recognize these international connections and to act collectively to defend the land.

In Ephesians, Paul exhorts us to expose the works of darkness. To make them visible in the light. To us residents of the privileged Global North, these works may at times be hidden; but in solidarity, in heeding the witness of our partners, they become visible, and it becomes possible to act and foster life, as against the forces of death.

Author: Kiegan Irish, animator for Eastern and Northern Ontario, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada

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