JESUS WANTS TO HEAL OUR SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS
(A biblical reflection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A], April 3, 2011)
Gospel Reading: Jn 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 (longer version: Jn 9:1-41)
First Reading: 1Sam 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalms: Ps 23:1-6; Second Reading: Eph 5:8-14
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth.
As He said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used and sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened His eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about Him, since He has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered Him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him. (Jn 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 RSV)
The problem of evil is central for all believers. Why do the good suffer and the evil seem to prosper? There are no sufficient rational explanations. We must walk in the ways of faith. In the Gospel, the man born blind was understood by the disciples (in accordance with the theology of the day) to be suffering from sin (his own and/or that of his ancestors). They asked Jesus: “ Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn 9:2). Jesus rejected such a theology, because the problem of evil could also be an opportunity for God’s grace to work through human suffering: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:3-5). Here, Jesus was given the opportunity to heal and to teach about true sight and the effects of spiritual blindness.
The blind man in the Gospel was not complaining about his plight. Nor is the man depicted by St. John as crying out after Christ for a cure. Born blind, he really had no way of knowing what he was deprived of. It was Jesus who took the initiative. Notice the little ceremony Jesus went through to cure the man. He made clay of spittle and dust and “anointed” the man’s eyes. It is significant that St. John used the word “anointed” here. St. John probably chose it as an allusion to the rites of baptism. The earliest Christians recognized that the evangelist intended his readers to see the realization of Jesus’ sign in the sacrament of baptism. Jesus also made the point that the man received his sight only after he had fulfilled the command to wash in the pool of Siloam, a washing which also makes us think of baptism.
The first and second readings also have something to do with baptism. The first reading speaks of an anointing and its result. It presents the call of David to be God’s anointed. God sent Samuel to Jesse of Betlehem who had eight sons. David – the youngest – was not the first choice, as a matter of fact was the least expected. His brother Eliab was the leading candidate, because he seemed to have the “right stuff”. Eliab was tall and strong, and commanded respect, but not so in the eyes of God (1Sam 16:6-7). After choosing David, Samuel went through a ceremony of anointing like that in baptism (1Sam 16:13). The priest anointed us with the sacred oil, and truly the Holy Spirit rushed upon us.
The second reading speaks of St. Paul, who, writing to the Ephesians, challenges them to live a new way. Through baptism the Christian is no longer a child of darkness but now must live by the light of Christ (Eph 5:8). It is not enough to give the appearance of goodness. One’s very heart must be such that our lives desire to “produce every kind of goodness and justice and truth. Be correct in … judgment of what pleases the Lord” (Eph 5:9-10). There will come a time when all of us will render an account of our stewardship. All that we have done and all that is within our hearts will be manifest. In a world that promises so much light and peace, it is crucial to remember the words of St. Paul: “Christ shall give you light” (Eph 5:14). St. Paul spoke of the Christian as one coming out of darkness into light, as one born blind gaining the power to see. His words should make us think of the candle the parents and godparents hold for the infant in the ceremony of baptism, as the priest says, “Receive the light of Christ!”
In the Gospel story there were two reactions to what Jesus did, that of the Pharisees and that of the man born blind. The Pharisees were people who refused to see. At first they would not accept the fact that the man before them had been born blind (Jn 9:18). His parents had to be dragged into court to prove that he was their son, that he had been born blind, and that he had been cured (Jn 9:18-21). Despite all the evidence, the Pharisees did not want to admit the cure because they did not want to have to believe in Jesus. Jesus tried to enter their lives, but they would have none of Him. They preferred to remain spiritually blind. When the man told his judges and accusers that Jesus was from God, their response was typical of those who do not have the humility to accept Christ: “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” (Jn 9:34). They threw the man out (Jn 9:34) and in the process threw out Christ as well.
Faith was God’s gift to us in baptism. We were led from darkness into spiritual light. At the conclusion of Lent we will be asked to renew our baptismal vows, but we really do not have to wait until then. We can make the renewal even today. As we stand for the profession of faith in the Mass, the words should come not only from our lips but also from our hearts. Our “Amen” as a response to the words of the priest and/or the Eucharist ministers, “The Body of Christ”, at Communion should mean “I do believe, Lord.” And when we leave the church we should do so with faith that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, as we professed in responsorial psalm. He will satisfy our needs. We need fear no evil because He is within us. Through all the dark valleys of life He will lead us along the right paths to the house of His Father where we will live forever. How fortunate we were that as Jesus walked along He saw us and stopped to cure us of spiritual blindness. What a blessing it is that we can see Jesus with the light of faith and say, “I do believe, Lord.”
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You are indeed my Good Shepherd. You have led me from darkness into spiritual light, by healing my spiritual blindness. Thank You Lord Jesus. Amen.
Jakarta, April 1, 2011
A Christian Pilgrim