A FORMER BLIND BEGGAR BECOMES A THEOLOGIAN
(A biblical reflection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – 22 March 2020)
Gospel Reading: John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 (longer version: John 9:1-41)
First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
The Scripture Text
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 Silo’am (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 worshiped Him. (John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 RSV)
In today’s Gospel we have an example of God’s choice, on which confuses the religious leaders of the day: a blind beggar who becomes a theologian! John’s beautifully crafted story tells how a blind man comes to see the light in Jesus, both physically and spiritually. When Jesus’ disciples first see the blind man they presume that his affliction is a result of sin. But Jesus sees in the blind man something else: this roadside beggar who has always inhabited a world of darkness will be the one to display the work of God and point to who Jesus really is.
When Jesus heals the blind man he returns home a new man. His surprised neighbors check their memory and some refuse to believe their eyes. They are unwilling to let this new event interfere with their fast memories – in spite of the man’s protest: “I am the man”. He doesn’t claim any special knowledge of the one who cured him but identifies Him simply as “The man called Jesus” (John 9:11).
Unlike the healed man, the Pharisees are sure who Jesus is. But as they grow more blind, the former blind grows in insight and now identifies Jesus as a prophet (John 9:17). This is not a welcome development, and the man’s parents are hauled in as prospective allies in the case against Jesus. They state that their son is old enough to speak for himself. And speak for himself he does! He refuses to deny his own experience; “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
He soon realizes that he will be listened to only when his testimony confirms the prejudice of his interrogators. But rather than frighten him, this knowledge frees him to develop his evaluation as a Man of God. He does so well that he annoys his listeners who refuse to be enlightened by a simple person like him. They drive him away, but Jesus seeks out this budding theologian and reveals Himself to him. Now the rejected man is the only one in the community who sees Jesus as the Son of Man, …… the light of the world.
God has elected us to display His works. In our baptism we have been chosen to point to Jesus by the witness of our Christian lives. To many people, including ourselves, we may seem an unlikely choice. But our greatness lies in the fact that we have been chosen, not in ourselves alone. Allowing God to work in us, we can keep alive the story of God’s eccentric choices!
Prayer: Be with Your Church, Lord Jesus Christ, so that she may bring Your judgment into the world and lead the humble to the light, showing those who think they see that they have become blind. Amen.
Jakarta, 21 March 2020
A Christian Pilgrim