March 20, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Eyes of faith can cure all forms of blindness

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Then Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind’ ” (Jn 9:39).

The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Jn 9:1-41) offers us a sustained reflection on different forms of blindness. First, there is the physical blindness of “the man born blind” (Jn 9:1). The second form of blindness in this Gospel story is psychological. This is the refusal to believe what we have seen with our own eyes. A third form of blindness is spiritual, the inability to recognize God’s grace in our lives.

The disciples are looking for an explanation for the man’s blindness. They want to know if his parents’ sins were the cause. Jesus dismisses the idea that physical disability is a consequence of sin. “Neither he nor his parents sinned” (Jn 9:3), he says. He is blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn 9:3). God’s ways are not our ways. The man’s condition provides an occasion for God’s healing power to be revealed. “We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day,” Jesus says. “Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:4-5).

The light of Christ illumines our blindness. Unfortunately, the man’s neighbors couldn’t accept this. They deny that the man whom Jesus has cured is the same man they are used to seeing as a blind beggar.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” (Jn 9:8) Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am” (Jn 9:9). So they said to him, “[So] how were your eyes opened?” (Jn 9:10). He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see” (Jn 9:11).

The incredulous neighbors take the man to the Pharisees. These religious leaders display the third kind of blindness, a spiritual sightlessness that prevents them from trusting in God’s presence and healing power. “So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see’ (Jn 9:15). So some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.’ [But] others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?’ And there was a division among them” (Jn 9:16).

Spiritual blindness divides us from one another and from God. Even when the Pharisees summon the man’s parents who assure them that their son was indeed born blind, they can’t see beyond the fact that Jesus “does not keep the sabbath.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner” (Jn 9:24). He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” (Jn 9:25-26)

He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from” (Jn 9:27-29).

The man Jesus cured sees clearly now—on all three levels. He has physical sight, but he also sees through the others’ psychological denial and religious hypocrisy:

The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything” (Jn 9:30-33).

If Jesus were not from God, he would have no power. Seeing this truth is what frees us from darkness and brings us into the light.

When Jesus cures the man born blind, he challenges his disciples, the sightless man’s neighbors, the Pharisees—and all of us—to see with the eyes of faith.

Let’s pray for the grace to see and believe what only the light of Christ can reveal. †

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