Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Today’s Gospel follows a theme of light and darkness that is spread throughout John’s writings beginning with the prologue where light shines through the darkness. It also follows several previous unpleasant encounters between Jesus and the religious leaders. They are watching and ready to pounce at the first opportunity.
In Jesus time, during the Feast of Tabernacles large candelabras were lit in the temple courtyard symbolizing “the revelation and truth of the Jewish faith.” The temple priests poured water down the steps to symbolize the spread of the Jewish faith throughout the world.
Jesus and his disciples gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this feast, and Jesus announced, ” I am the light of the world.” That did not fly well with the Pharisees. So today’s event provides fertile ground for them to argue against Jesus. They see him as evil, not light.
Walking along with his disciples, Jesus notices the blind man. He doesn’t just ignore him as another beggar like we are tempted to do. I remember a time in El Paso when I went to the grocery store. It was not at all uncommon to see an indigenous woman from Mexico with her child sitting on the sidewalk begging for money. I saw her and was too busy to bother giving her anything. It’s easy to do, especially when it happens so frequently. Fortunately, as I left the parking lot, my conscience got the best of me and I turned around and went back to give her something. It is easy to just ignore people, but Jesus was always aware of the people around him. Remember the woman with the hemorrhage who merely touched his cloak and Zacchaeus up in the tree.
Apparently, the blind man did not know Jesus. He didn’t call out or ask a friend to intercede for him but Jesus saw him and knew what he needed. He made mud and put it on his eyes, harkening back to the creation story where man is fashioned out of mud. He told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, a reference to baptism. When he came back able to see, the religious leaders showed their own blindness. “This man is certainly not from God — he healed on the Sabbath.” Can’t all of us tell a story of when law or tradition was placed above person? A closed mind is equivalent to blindness. Jesus used this conversation to explain that he is “the light of the world”; Pharisees wouldn’t like that! The blind man understood what had happened to him and was grateful. He was also willing to take on the unbelievers and point out their darkness. His truth-telling is admirable.
It is hard to understand why anyone would see this wonderful act of healing as evil, but don’t we all have our blind spots? Putin doesn’t see his war as evil. He thinks it is a good thing. People who deny others their just rights don’t see it as evil, they think they are protecting themselves and their families. The Taliban thinks they are protecting women by denying them an education or the opportunity to work as equals to men.
We are not blind, but we do have our own blind spots. Where is my own blindness? Who are the people I ignore? Is Jesus really the light in my own darkness? Like the blind man’s parents, do I choose to protect my own interests instead of speaking out? It’s nice to rest in the light and feel secure. It is more difficult to spread that light out into the darkness.
Don’t give up hope. Experts tell us that when a blind person regains their sight everything is blurry at first. Their perception is off, for example, if they knew the difference between a block and a cone by feeling them, when they see them, they may not be able to identify them. Their brains have to figure out how far apart their eyes are to adjust perception. They may not be able to tell you which of two objects is in front of the other. It takes time. Our blind spots need time, too. We need to be patient with ourselves.
“Open my eyes, Lord, help me to see.”