4th Sunday of Lent – 26th March 2017

Healing of the Blind Man

Scripture Reading – John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38
The blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. He spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man.

‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“Healing of the Blind Man”

by Fr John Horan

This Sunday’s long, dramatic gospel story, about the Healing of the Blind Man, is trying to get us to open our eyes.  It sets out to challenge our way of seeing. The paradox is, that although we may have perfectly good eyesight, we can miss what is staring us in the face. The problem is not so much with our actual seeing as our interpretation of what we see.  In the story the Pharisees went to comical lengths to avoid seeing what was in front of them. They saw only what they wanted to see. Unbeknownst to ourselves we can all fall into that trap, there is a Pharisee lurking within us all.

We all, like the Pharisees, think we see reality as it is, but of course we don’t. We see through filters which we are seldom conscious of.  For example, none of us are aware of our blind spots, and we all have them.

And so we look at reality through the filters of our own biases, our own up-bringing, our own hurts and life experiences, our own self-image and very importantly we see reality through the filter of the culture which we are immersed in every day. Culture is often blamed for the wrongs of the past. “That’s the way things were then” we say. No doubt future generations will have a field-day pointing out our own cultural blindfolds and they will denounce us for not seeing clearly.

Our first duty as Christians is to put on the mind of Christ or in other words to see reality through Jesus’ eyes. That’s why Pope Francis, is so insistent that we read, even little bits of the Gospel every day, lest we forget how to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. By becoming immersed in, and receptive to, Jesus’ powerful stories and sayings/ the filters through which we see the world and other people will gradually change. The negative and distorted filters of our own self-centeredness and preoccupations will change to the life-giving filters of Love forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion. In other words the mind of Christ will gradually take over and we will see the world through his eyes.

It’s only then that we’ll understand, at some deeply motivating level St Teresa of Avila’s often quoted words:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.

The more unaware we are of our filters the more we will rush to judgement about others and Jesus warned us about that, he used the word ‘beam’ instead of filter. The author Laura Ingalls Wilder put it this way: “Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.”  That should give us pause for thought.

Lent gives us an opportunity to examine our filters. Seeing through the strong emotions of, anger, fear, jealously, or hatred, are relatively easy to detect.  Others are more subtle, but no less important. Naming them brings them into the light. Then, at least, we have a choice to do something about them or not.

Gracious God help us to see with the eyes of Jesus so that we can always find God in others.


LECTIO DIVINA

by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB

Introduction to Lectio Divine

Chapter Nine of St John’s Gospel is a masterly account that has no parallel in the synoptics (even though there are several instances of the blind being healed: Mk 8,22-26; Mt 9,27-31; Mk 10,46-52; Mt 20,29-34; Lk 18,35-43). The meeting between Jesus, light of the world (9, 5), and a man born blind describes a precise journey of faith (9, 11.17.33.38) and also an unstoppable march towards incredulity (9, 2. 34. 41). The episode opens with a question from the disciples: is blindness a sin? It concludes by showing that the sin of blindness is not the inability to see with one’s eyes, but lack of belief in Jesus, the light of the world.

Following the account of the miracle (9, 6-7) there is a lengthy conversation with various speakers. Jesus and the blind man are present throughout. It develops into an investigation into the identity of the blind man. The focus of attention moves, however, from the man born blind to Jesus the light of the world. The blind man, a known beggar, gives evidence of his cure to the people who knew him (9, 8-12). He is interrogated by the Pharisees (9, 13-17.24-34), and his parents also are questioned (9, 18-23). The healing poses questions for some. Others try to find reasons to deny the evidence (9, 16). The blind man receives the gift of sight first (9, 7), then the gift of faith (9, 35-38). He finishes up being expelled from the community (9, 34). In fact, in the process instituted by the authorities against the man who could now see, the sentence is passed, not by the judges, but by the accused, Jesus, in absentia. (9, 40-41).

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

As he went along Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth, a man who had never seen the light. Although it happened apparently by chance, the meeting resulted from an initiative of Jesus. When Jesus saw the man, the disciples asked why he was blind. Healing came from the meeting with Jesus. The theological discussion was the result of the disciples’ question.

Jesus does not explain the origin of the man’s blindness but exonerates him from any blame.  He was not at fault. His blindness was not a sin but an occasion for God’s salvation to be made known, and Jesus, obedient to the Father, brings the man salvation. Evil becomes an opportunity and a motive for God to do good. Before giving light to the blind man, Jesus says that he himself is the light of the world.

After revealing his identity as light of the world, Jesus performs a miracle. It is related simply, in sober terms. The gesture of Jesus recalls God’s creative act (Gen 2, 7). Only one who is light can give light. He does so in a completely gratuitous act. He does not ask for faith nor does he expect gratitude. Before the man begins to see, he begins to obey. He goes and washes himself in the pool of Siloam. This is the first stage in his journey of faith. At Siloam he can see – obedience which obtains healing is his way to begin to believe.

The first to be amazed were those closest to the blind man. His acquaintances have doubts about the man’s identity but no one doubts that this man can see. He will have to tell them how the miracle happened, to prove to them that he is the same blind man they knew before. Opening the eyes of the blind is the work of the messiah who is to come (cf. Is 42, 6.7; 49, 6.9). The blind man can tell what happened to him, but he does not know who his healer is. In this way, they, his neighbours and acquaintances, becomes witnesses of the miracle, even though they are not believers.

His testimony of what he experienced is the second stage towards faith. It does not matter if he has to face a long investigation and punishment.  The Jews, who are opponents of Jesus, not of the blind man, cannot deny the fact so they try to discredit its author. God is not with one who violates the Sabbath. They base their argument on God while denying the works of God!

The man who was cured miraculously is not believed and he remains alone. Even his parents abandon him. But he cannot believe that the man who healed him is a sinner. Disagreement develops over him, another stage in the slow process towards faith. The blind man calls Jesus a prophet. In John this title is used only to refer to Jesus’ mission (4, 19; 9, 28). The fact remains that the judges do not accept the evidence, but the man who was cured continues his slow journey of faith. Professing faith in Jesus can lead to family disagreements and social rejection.

The man has to face further investigators, harder and more insistent than the first. Now, they say, he must give glory to God…, by denying the works of God! He makes no judgement. He simply states the facts; he was blind, now he can see. His interrogators know, however, that this wonder-worker is a sinner, but they don’t know where he comes from. As the interrogation proceeds, the blind man is drawing ever closer to faith (9.11.17), and closer to being condemned by those who want to see the facts (9, 34). Their sin can be seen in their blindness (9, 41).

Jesus returns to the scene (9, 35-38) to meet again the man who was driven out because he defended Jesus. In this second encounter – the central stage – he comes to true faith. At first he knew his benefactor only by name (9, 11), then he considered him a prophet (9, 17), a man who comes from God (9,30-33), and finally he declares him the Son of God (9,35), in accordance with the experience promised to the disciples (John 1,51). In a passage typical of John, for him to reach faith (9, 36) he had to be with Jesus, who allows himself to be seen by those who believe (9, 37).  Faith allows us to see not only Jesus, but also his true identity and his mission.

And so the journey of faith of the man born blind reaches its conclusion. It began with his eyes being opened to the light, and ends with an explicit profession of faith in Jesus (9, 38), the Son of Man (9, 35) and light of the world (9,5). Without the words of Jesus (‘you are looking at him’) the blind man would have continued to see but would not have come to believe. This man’s reaction is that of an authentic Christian: he sees and believes, he believes and he adores (9, 38), regardless of the consequences.

The final saying of Jesus clarifies the whole episode (9, 41). There are those who cannot see, like the man born blind, and there are those who do not want to see, like the Pharisees. Those who cannot see are not blameworthy, but, for those who do not want to see, their sin remains. This kind of blindness is the result of sin, the obstinate refusal to accept Jesus as the light of the world. (9, 41; cf. 9, 4-5).

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

The scene opens with Jesus and his disciples meeting a man afflicted with a disability. Jesus sees the man in need of salvation while the disciples are asking whether or not he is to blame for his situation – two contrasting ways of seeing the evil that afflicts a neighbour. Some see the suffering and do what they can to help. Others concern themselves with reflecting on the possible causes. Who am I like – Jesus or the disciples?  What reaction do I have on seeing evil? Do I judge and condemn those who suffer, or do I think about their salvation?       

Before he could see, the blind man had to obey an unusual command given him by a stranger he did not know.  Jesus did not require faith before healing him, but ‘blind’ submission to his command. Light will come to his eyes immediately, but faith comes only after a journey of obedience and testimony. Could it be that it is because I lack obedience to God that I cannot see myself freed from my evils? Is not lack of docility to God the cause of my evils? And do I not find it significant that Jesus freed the man from his sickness before he gave him the gift of faith?

‘Blind’ obedience was enough for the blind man to be healed, but to believe in Jesus he had to give witness repeatedly in front of a hostile crowd. Believing in Jesus is not easy. Anyone who really believes, even if he still has some uncertainty and very little light, may have to face misunderstanding and calumny, alienation from family and rejection from society. What price do I pay for my belief? What price am I prepared to pay to have Jesus as my Saviour?

The blind man also has to pay another price for his new light, his faith in Jesus. In the central part, the longest part of the gospel account, Jesus disappears and leaves the blind man to defend the truth of the miracle and the identity of Jesus. Not only does the man make his enemies angry, he is also alienated from his parents. He remains alone, with his faith, testifying to what happened. We all want to see, we also want to be freed from our evils. But are we ready to pay the price to obtain more light, even if it means losing the esteem of the people closest to us? Faith in Jesus is a gift, but it has uncomfortable, even dangerous, consequences.

The works of God were made manifest in the sickness of the man born blind. Jesus revealed himself as ‘the light of the world’ by giving light to a blind man. Evil always has a reason, even if it harms those who suffer and leads others to think wrong. God is the enemy of the evil in man, just as light is the enemy of darkness. Where evil has the upper hand, God is about to come, as surely as day follows night. How do I perceive the evil in the world, in my neighbours, in myself? Do I see evil as Jesus did? Do I approach the sick in the way he did? When people are suffering, is it an occasion for me to reach out to them and do some good?

Pray the text. Desire God’s will: What do I say to God?

Lord Jesus, light of the Father, we kneel at your feet, like blind people unaware of our infirmity. Look upon us, Son of David, as you looked upon the blind man you met on your journey. Kindle your light in our hearts. Grant us faith in you, and we shall be radiant.  Heal us, Lord Jesus, with the touch of your hand, and with your word which opens our ears and our hearts to your light.  Send us, Lord, to the pool where we can be washed clean and receive new life. Give us the strength to obey what you command. Protect us, Lord Jesus, when our faith is put to the test, and if you leave us alone, do not leave us without faith enough to respond to those who do not believe, nor without courage. Even if we lose the support of our loved ones, may we never lose your light! Let the light of God shine in us, Lord, till we cry out like the blind man, “Lord, I believe!”

PRAYER

Lord God, in your surpassing wisdom
you reconcile man to yourself through your Word.
Grant that your Christian people may come with eager faith and ready will
to celebrate the Easter festival.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

IMAGE

HealingOfTheBlindMan

PRAER_Request-3