IV- Lent I Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41
Jesus’ giving of sight to a blind man, reported in today’s Gospel, teaches us the necessity of opening the eyes of the mind by faith and warns us that those who pretend to see the truth are often blind, while those who acknowledge their blindness are given clear vision. In this episode, the most unlikely person, namely the blind man, receives the light of faith in Jesus, while the religion-oriented, law-educated Pharisees remain spiritually blind. "There are none so blind, as those who will not see." To live as a Christian is to see, to have clear vision about God, about ourselves and about others.
By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the book of Samuel, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. Samuel was given the warning: "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart."
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul, says that Baptism is an “awakening and living in the light”— Christ: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Paul reminds Christians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
From earliest times, today's Gospel story has been associated with Baptism. Just as the blind man went down into the waters of Siloam and came up whole, so also believers who are immersed in the waters of Baptism come up spiritually whole, totally healed of the spiritual blindness with which all of us are born. Raymond Brown comments that in the lectionaries and liturgical books of the early Church, there developed the practice of three examinations before one's Baptism. These correspond to the three interrogations of the man born blind. When the catechumens had passed their examinations and were judged worthy of Baptism, the Gospel book was solemnly opened and the ninth chapter of John was read, with the confession of the blind man, "I do believe, Lord," serving as the climax of the service. Paintings on the walls of the catacombs of Rome portray Jesus healing the man born blind as a symbol of Holy Baptism. The early Christians looked at their Baptism as leaving behind blindness and darkness and stepping into the glorious light of God.
A great part of the way this event is told us by St John is to show us the contrast between the faith of the man, and the blindness of the Pharisees. They refuse to believe the man. They refuse to believe the evidence before them. They are blind to the works of God, even though the Jewish Scriptures ought to have prepared them for the coming of the Messiah, who would open the eyes of the blind.
“The blind man’s progress in spiritual sight is paralleled by the opponents’ descent into spiritual blindness.” Here is a contrast between those who know they are blind and those who claim to see. According to these blind Pharisees, Jesus, by healing the blind man doubly broke the Sabbath law, which forbade works of healing, and also kneading which was involved in making clay of spittle and dust. So they concluded, "The man who did this cannot be from God, because he does not obey the Sabbath law."
The stubborn pride and prejudice of the Pharisees prevented them from seeing the hand of God in it. This made them incapable of recognizing a miracle. But the cured man insisted that Jesus, his healer, must be from God. The blind man was asked: "Who healed you?" First he answered, “A prophet healed me.” Then he answered, “The Son of Man healed me.” Finally, when he realized who Jesus was, he fell down on his knees and worshiped him. As a result, he was excommunicated. When we fully believe in Jesus as the Son of God, the world will hate us or excommunicate us as Jesus already foretold.
Although the Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, there are still many among us who are blinded by the same pride and prejudice. Spiritual blindness is very common in modern times. Perhaps, the most awful disease in the world today is spiritual blindness. Such blindness refuses to see the truths of God's revelation. I saw the movie “God is not dead” this week with some of the people sitting here. A professor like the blind Pharisees in this gospel, starts off his class taking a written adherence from the students to the preposition that God is dead. But one student refuses to adhere to that and the whole movie is trying to prove the existence of God by the student and the professor, even against his own conviction, trying to refute that God exists, finally contradicting himself. Till just before the end of the movie he remains blind like the Pharisees in the gospel today, refusing to see the light. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus said there is no forgiveness for such deliberate stubborn spiritual blindness.
We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots -- in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light. It is even possible for the religious people in our day to be like the Pharisees: religious in worship, in frequenting the Sacraments, in prayer-life, in tithing, and in knowledge of the Bible – but blind to the poverty, injustice and pain around them. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind-spots. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart.
Lent is a good time to take stock of how we are affected by this blindness, to see just how blind we have been to Jesus and His call to discipleship, and to realize how often we have preferred to stay blind. Let’s ask the holy Spirit to take control of us and help us leave the stupid stubbornness we sometimes hold on to.