Fourth Sunday in Lent - Scrutiny (Year A)
1. I am the light of the World (John 9:5), says the Lord. Like any physical problem, people want to understand why it happened - what was the cause of this form of suffering. Sometimes, the cause of blindness was easier to determine- an accident, illness, or battle injury. But when someone was born blind, it was more difficult. In the time in which Jesus lived, many people considered blindness and other physical defects to be a sign of sin. That is, if someone or their parents did not live right before God, their sin might result in a physical affliction. For this reason, they are speculating as to the cause of the man’s blindness (which further caused him to have to beg instead of work).
2. Before we judge those people as primitive of superstitious, we have to consider that we ourselves often have the same kind of speculation. When we get ill or injured, or there is a great disaster, such as the earthquakes in Haiti or Chile, many people speculate as to why God would permit such a thing. We might even ask God what did I do to deserve this? Be honest, some people even wonder what sin God must be punishing. Some sins do result in a consequence of personal suffering. For example, if you kill someone, that other person is dead, and sooner or later you will have to grieve. If a couple uses contraceptives, they can become sterile. If you cause scandal, you can lose your good name or significant income- just ask Tiger Woods.
3. Anyway in this particular situation, Jesus responded by saying that it was not sin that caused this man’s blindness. Rather, God permitted it in order to show His glory. That is, Jesus intended to heal the man all along. Healing someone born blind was not just a great miracle for the benefit of the recipient- it was a sign of who Jesus is. Only God could restore the sight of someone born blind (without use of surgery or lasers or microscopes etc).
4. The healing is also a symbol for Baptism. In the physical world, light is necessary to see anything. But even if there is light all around us, we will only see to the extent that the light can reach inside of us. Furthermore, the light has to be focused or likewise we will not see clearly. To be able to see is to receive light- illumination within us. When we were baptized, either we or our parents and godparents received a lighted candle with this command to receive the light of Christ. That is, we received illumination from Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world. At baptism, His light began to shine in us. Of course, our parents and godparents were admonished to keep the flame of faith alive- that is, to keep the light of Jesus Christ burning inside, growing stronger, shining the light of Christ to guide us on our pilgrimage through life.
5. Being able to see the world, however, is not enough- our minds must be able to interpret the images. So sight is also a metaphor for understanding. When we explain, we say do you see what I am saying? And when we understand, we say yes, I see it now. It is not unusual then, that the man born blind begins to see, not only the physical world around him, but who and what Jesus is. That is what the illumination of Baptism is for- to help us see things as God sees them.
6. Through the story of the Gospel we heard today, the man born blind grows in this understanding of Jesus. He first calls Jesus, “a man,” then “a prophet,” then “from God,” then “Lord,” and finally he bows down an worships Jesus.
7. Sin has the opposite effect, however. Those who oppose Jesus and His words cannot understand the sign of His divinity. They are blinded by their own opinions. In First Samuel, Samuel at first is sure of who should be anointed king based on the human judgement. But God teaches him to wait because God sees things differently. What is really sad is that many of those who rejected Jesus had the benefit of being able to study the Bible. They should have recognized the signs. In any event they should have turned to God in humility for help in determining what should be done. But they did not. Even some of the people who followed Jesus and listened to Him were more concerned about what they believed to be an insult than in learning the truth. That is, if we recognize our sins, our weaknesses, our ignorance, our need for God, then the Lord can and will work to heal us and give us understanding hearts. But if in our pride we will not see our need for healing, then we will stumble about in blindness.
8. If we do not want to be like those who rejected Jesus, we had better face the facts. We need Jesus- not just to heal us from sin, but for every aspect of our lives. Only by exposing our own sinfulness and letting the light of Christ shine even in the hidden recesses of our souls, can we hope to see and reflect that light in the Glory of Heaven.