Fourth Sunday of Lent
John 9: 1-41 April 3, 2011
Jesus, in order that the works of God might be made visible, gives sight to a man who had been blind from birth. Members of the community then proceed to debate the meaning of the various aspects of the event: why Jesus put clay on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam; whether the man was really the blind man they had known; the significance of Jesus’ making the clay with his saliva on the Sabbath; the fear of the man’s parents to acknowledge that Jesus was from God; the expulsion of the man who had been blind because he insisted that Jesus really was from God.
The passage ends with the judgment of Jesus that the man who was born blind now truly sees; while those who claim to see have closed their eyes to the works of God made visible before their eyes.
John uses the remembrance of Jesus’ cure of a blind man to develop a universal, theological meaning of the event for us, the hearers of his gospel. We are aware that Jesus is the source of division among people today, just as he was in his own Jewish community during his lifetime and decades later at the time of the gospel’s composition.
There are numerous actors in the gospel narrative with whom we might identify and then explore the implications for our own life situations.
We can identify with Jesus, the light which shines in the darkness. Christians who have accepted this divine light in turn must allow the light of Christ to shine through them so that the works of God might be made visible. The narrative seems to affirm that the blind man who has received the light of Christ, himself becomes a light shining in the darkness. His simple, to-the-point responses suggest that they might have been spoken by Jesus in similar circumstances. He, like Jesus, has become a source of division.
One might readily identify with the beggar, blind from birth. Here is a person who seeks the truth and has the courage to act upon it even though suffering is the result. The narrative illustrates the cost of discipleship in a world of darkness, which tries to overcome the light (Jn 1:5).
Most Christians would not think of identifying with those who refused to see the light and thus become hardened in their blindness. Jesus, however, also warns us that those who say “We see” may really be blind to the presence of God in their midst. Consider this sentence from the First Letter of John to his fellow Christians: Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1:11). A good prayer for this Sunday might be: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.