Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A — Modern
John 9: 1- 41
This Gospel begins with the disciples asking a seemingly non-controversial question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” There was no doubt for them that the man’s blindness was a result of sin, and they just wanted to know whose sin it was. That sickness was a result of sin was the belief throughout the Old Testament. Recall that Job’s friends were convinced that he must have done something wrong. I’ve met numerous people who in the midst of tragedy or sickness wonder what have they done that God is punishing them. Jesus response was unexpected, “neither he nor his parents sinned.” It should be reassuring to us that God is not sitting on his Heavenly Throne waiting to pounce on sinners with sickness or tragedy. If this were the case all of us would be living miserable lives of sickness, for after all, we are all sinners.
After Jesus makes it clear that is not a punishment from God for our sins, he heals the man who was born blind to the amazement of both his followers and detractors. To the followers this is another sign that they are indeed following the Messiah. The detractors try to twist this around to lay the doubt as to whether the man truly was blind. This is quickly rebutted by the testimony of his parents and neighbors. The Pharisees then tell the followers that it is not the work of God, but of the devil. This too is without success. The formerly blind man gives his brief testimony, “One thing that I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
Why was it so difficult for the Pharisees to accept the miraculous nature of this healing? For one thing it took place on the Sabbath, and their interpretation of the Sabbath was so restrictive that it bound even the work of God. By healing the blind man on the Sabbath Jesus shows the power of God over human affliction, and the authority of God over misinterpretations of the commandments. All of this was too much for the Pharisees to see and accept.
One wonders, who was truly blind, the man who couldn’t see or the Pharisees? The man born blind could not see the world around him, but he was able to “see” who Jesus is. He had an interior vision of God’s presence and power. The Pharisees were blind to God’s presence in Jesus. Unlike the man born blind who desired sight, they did not realize their blindness and so did not seek healing. Throughout the remainder of the Gospel they stumble in their blindness as they continually fail to see that Jesus is indeed Messiah and Lord.
This Gospel calls on us to rejoice with the blind man who recognized Jesus and who was healed, and it challenges us to look within ourselves to see if there is a blindness in our lives that prevents us from seeing the power and presence of God. Are there teachings in the Scriptures and of the church that we refuse to take seriously? Are the blinds in our souls closed to God’s grace so as to deal with the possibility that what we are ignoring or rejecting the ways in which God desires us to live? During Lent let us be mindful of the call we received on Ash Wednesday to fast, pray and repent. In doing this may our eyes be truly open to the beauty of God’s work both in Scripture and in the Church.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.