by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent –. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said “I don’t know.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” Has parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “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. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
Every word of the Gospels speaks to us o Christ's identity and mission. Whether they present the Lord's own speech, recount his actions, or even paint for us a portrait of how different hearts respond to his message and deeds, we always gain insight into who Christ really is, or into what exactly he intends to give us. In reading today's miracle story Gospel, particularly in its long form, we might be amazed ay how little Jesus appears directly. The vast majority of the passage refers to him, but does not feature him. Rather, it follows the varied reactions to the miracle worked for the man born blind.
In fact, this great contrast - between Christ's simple interaction with the blind msn and the complex, proud and incredulous response of the people - gets to the heart of the miracle's meaning. The blind man approaches with faith and humility, Christ heals him, and he goes away seeing. All is simple and direct. The crowds, the Pharisees, and the blind man's parents do not have hearts open in faith or humility. Thus, they run about in circles, from place to place, from witness to witness, hearing the same story over and over, and yet, ending up back where they started, unchanged, unbelieving and unhappy.
For centuries, the church has set this miracle before those seeking to become Christian as an examination of whether they will approach with humility and faith, confessing that they need the Lord to open their eyes, and believing that he can do so. If they possess this disp0sition, then they can expect after baptism to see and know the face of God with the heavenly mysteries. If not, they cannot expect to see anything new at all, no matter what the Lord offers and does. Their life will, in a sense, remain pre-Christian, and without true sight.
For those of us who are already Christian, the challenge and self-examination are exactly the same. Do we wish to be changed, and do we believe that Christ can change us? Do we admit to God and to the church that there is something off in our souls, and that we are blind, in need of healing? Or do we defend ourselves against God and the church, saying that we are basically fine and have no need of mercy, that we see perfectly well and have no need of enlightenment? If we answer yes to the former, then Christ can and, we should expect, will act decisively, giving not only the sight we need, but access to mysteries far greater than we could ever have thought to ask of him. If we are compelled to answer to the second question instead, then we can expect only more darkness and confusion, going around in circles and coming back to the start with the same spiritual infirmities, weaknesses and exhaustion.
This season of Lent invites us to call out to the Lord for our sight. All our Lenten disciplines aim at setting our hearts free to desire the Father and his kingdom, to long for the face of the Lord, to thirst for the living waters of the Holy Spirit, and the only price for receiving these priceless gifts is that of humility and trust. Wisdom surely leads us to take advantage of this moment, follow the example of the man born blind and how to receive the generosity of Christ our God.