Photo Credit: Church of Jesus Christ and Josh Weidmann
The Gospel in next Sunday’s Catholic liturgy is the story of the man born blind whom Jesus cures. (John 9:1-41)
I hope your celebrant reads the longer version of this story (indicated above), because it contains a few nuances that help us understand this powerful Lenten lesson. The line of this title is also a line from the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, which recounts the reality of a sinner’s blindness which is cured by God’s grace. No doubt the line is taken from this Gospel story.
As he walks with his disciples from the temple precincts where he was nearly stoned to death, Jesus comes across the man who had been born blind. The Jews firmly believed that anyone born with an affliction inherited that affliction as punishment for parental sins or even the pre-birth sin of the afflicted one. (They subscribed to a complicated theological doctrine that held one could sin before birth.) The man asks Jesus to cure him. He has some understanding that Jesus has been healing people and he knows Jesus is special as evidenced in addressing him as Rabbi. The story develops like a narrative of conversion and baptism and finally commitment to Jesus. Let’s examine how each of these takes place.
Jesus uses his spittle to make a clay which he thoroughly rubs over the man’s eyes, an act of anointing as in the baptism ritual where hands, ears, eyes are anointed. Spittle was considered a healing substance. Upon instruction, the man washes his face in the pool of Siloam, the name meaning, ‘one sent,’ in Aramaic. The washing is also symbolic of baptism as the water will ritually wash away the blindness. However, the blind man is not sure of Jesus’s mission; he is not yet put to the test of his new initiation. He will face the test as all baptized Christians do at some point in life after baptism.
But the test happens quickly for this man. Brought before the Pharisees, he and his parents are questioned but the parents defer to their son because they are afraid. The son is agitated with the questioning, almost bellicose. He stands firm. He proclaims one of the most beautiful lines in scripture, “I know this much: I was blind and now I see.” He continues his argument concluding, “If this man were not from God, he could never have done such a thing!” The man is then expelled from the temple precincts and professes to Jesus who had sought him out saying to Jesus, “I do believe.” The man’s ritual conversion and physical healing have made him a follower of Jesus. The grace of this conversion nourishes his soul with courage to live out the cost of discipleship. Indeed, he now ‘sees.’
No matter what religion you may profess, you are sometimes called to defend something or someone that requires the grace of your faith. When you do this, your vision is expanded, and your courage deepened. The grace of your faith is at work. You now can see. Many people, even faithful believers, carry a burden God doesn’t want them to carry. It might be something they have buried for years. It might be a sin; it might be just an infraction or a simple shortcoming. It might be a personality flaw or a jealous feeling about someone else. It could be a desire that is unreasonable, unattainable. If it is festering inside your heart, it has to be faced and uprooted. It might require therapy or the guidance of a person whose professionalism can help. Until we uproot that gnawing little pest inside, we cannot be a completely whole person. I am not talking here about the mega problems like addiction, infidelity, abuse, hatred of others, etc. I am thinking about the so-called minor issues that can mount to major preoccupations of our spiritual lives.
I’ve had many experiences with people who wanted to unburden themselves of that pesky mosquito they just couldn’t swat away. It’s a very deep problem for the person but not for God. I stood by a man once who asked if he could burn his journal in front of me and voice the deep one problem that hung on to his conscience like a fly on a honey cone. We stood there, smoke rising as he tore the pages and laid them on the fire. The evening dusk smothered us and swallowed the smoke into the emerging night sky. Ominous, but not fearful. He finally said, “I went to reconciliation today and I am now able to get rid of this burden.” We hugged and he wept. I know his eyes were opened and he could now see; he was free of his burden.
Reflect on this Gospel story this week. Take it apart verse by verse and see what may apply to your spirituality, especially your efforts to be a whole person. When you are a whole person, you are the person God wants you to be.
Pray to see what lurks inside of you keeping you from total vision of God’s plan for you.
Pray to say: “I know this much: I was blind but now I see.”
Thank you for this message Sr. Mary Ann. I truly needed to read it. God bless you for your ministry to us!
Thank you so much. (I think you are Rita.)I enjoy trying to repent something every week that Someone might find helpful. I always try to write what I think I’d like to read, to know, to walk with all week. I’m glad it helped you. Praies this loving Lord of all!! S. MAF
Hi Sister Mary Ann! I am brand new to your blog. I’m an avid follower of Sr. Melannie Svoboda’s blog, and evidently you are too, and that’s why I’m here! I really appreciated your reflection on today’s gospel. Just beautiful and insightful. There’s this earthiness to Jesus’ ministry that you just have to love. Today at Mass, our priest raised a good point. He said this man was either directly or indirectly blamed for his blindness, but Jesus doesn’t do this. That got me thinking: Isn’t this what we do to the homeless sometimes? Blame them for their condition? Thank you, sister. I look forward to reading more reflections!
Thank you, John and welcome to my gathering of weekly readers.
Melannie and I are good f friends and we love to occasionally get together and swap ‘writer’s news and information’ and even technology challenges! We have known each other for about 50 years. In fact, she was one of two people who inspired me to undertake a blog. It was like my eyes were opened and now I see!!! So glad you got something out of today’s blog. It’s a wonderful story about coming to recognize Jesus in our lives. Blessings, S. Mary Ann