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4th Sunday in Lent (A)

I was blind and now I can see. JOHN 9:1–41 By June Renie

Today’s gospel takes us to the Book of Signs. Signs are important. They point to something. Here they point to Jesus, healer and light of the world. His controversial presence brought significantly opposing views. For some He was Messiah but others like the Pharisees, rejected Him, claiming “we are disciples of Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from” (Jn 9:29).

Today’s narrative commences with a man born blind, who, after a healing encounter with Jesus, obtains sight, physical and spiritual. It concludes with people who had physical sight but were spiritually blind.

Scripture records, “as He went along He saw a man… blind from birth” (Jn 9:1).  Seeing him, His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?”

The disciples seemed only interested in the cause of his blindness; they accepted blindness as a “terminus”.  Jesus replied, “Neither he nor his parents sinned, he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (Jn 9:2–3).

Thus began a discourse with His disciples wherein He explained to them that though there was a connection between sin and suffering, not all sickness was the result of sin.

Job’s afflictions e.g. were not sin consequences. Sometimes the purpose was for God’s work to be manifested through the affliction. Many good and spiritual healings and conversions have resulted from the afflictions of godly people.

It is here in the presence of blindness that Jesus speaks of the light, declaring himself “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). As light, Jesus came to enlighten us about God and to bring both physical and spiritual light and sight to the world. He is motivating us to work as He worked for the kingdom while we can, as there will be nights/darkness when working for the kingdom may not be possible.

Out of compassion Jesus healed the blind man.  John recounts that Jesus spat on the ground, made a paste with His spittle which He applied to the blind man’s eyes, telling him to “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” (Jn 9:7). The word Siloam means sent. The man was sent. He went and was miraculously cured. It was a Sabbath day.

News of this miracle spread throughout the land and soon the Pharisees heard and the former blind man was brought before them. The Pharisees questioned him as to how he came to see. He recounted his encounter with Jesus. They did not believe him and argued among themselves as to whether he was blind from birth, or whether a person who healed on the Sabbath was a sinner and consequently could not perform miracles. They were so blinded by the Sabbath infraction that they couldn’t see the miracle.

They sent for his parents who verified that he was their son, that he was born blind and out of fear directed that any further questions be directed towards their son saying “He is old enough let him speak for himself” (Jn 9:21).

More questioning and all they got was “that I was blind and now I can see” (Jn 9:25). As the conversation continued, the Pharisees became so incensed that they drove him from the temple, confirming their discipleship with Moses.

Jesus found him and revealed Himself to the man whose discourse with the Pharisees demonstrated not only restoration of physical sight but also spiritual sight.

“He has opened my eyes …you don’t know where He has come from…if this man were not from God He couldn’t do a thing” (Jn 9:32–33). This is what he said that incensed the Pharisees.

Jesus offered him salvation saying, “Do you believe in the Son of Man… the man said, Lord I believe, and worshipped Him” (Jn 9:37).   Jesus concludes this narrative, “it is for judgment that I have come into this world… that those without sight may see… those with sight may turn blind.”

Jesus convicts the Pharisees because though they claim to “see”, hold to their bigotry and are unwilling to embrace truth.

The gospel meditations for March are by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish, Petit Valley.