Freed from blindness

Gospel Commentary Jn 9:1-41

 

It is hard for me to comprehend what it is like to be blind. Reading today’s Gospel reminded me that, unfortunately, I take my ability to see for granted. My heart goes out to those who are blind. I just can’t imagine not being able to see a child smile, watch the snow fall, gaze at a sunset or ponder the artist Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew.”

 

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus heals a man born blind. His life must have been filled with heavy burdens. He had suffered from this affliction all of his life. In addition, the man was considered by many in his day to be an outcast because blindness was mistakenly understood to be the result of his sin or the sin of his parents. He did not have the helpful resources and services that are provided today for the blind in the western world. It brings me great delight to imagine the overwhelming joy he must have known when Jesus spat on the ground, made clay with the saliva, smeared the clay on his eyes and gave him sight.

 

On a spiritual level, we are all blind. Without God’s assistance, we are unable to see God as He truly is, grasp the true dignity of our human lives or view clearly the Gospel path that leads us to the abundance of life. Without Jesus, we wander around this world, stumbling like the blind trying to find our way, bumping into all kinds of obstacles and falling into all kinds of pits. Without Jesus, we are truly lost and desperate.

 

Jesus takes away our blindness and brings us into the light. He is the light of the world. He grants us the grace to see with the eyes of faith the beauty of God, the blessing of being made in God’s image and likeness, the Gospel way of life that brings lasting joy and peace. Jesus reveals to us the face of God, our Father, and invites us to plunge into the depths of His amazing love and mercy. Jesus sets us free from the chains of sin and from aimlessly wandering this earth wondering if there is any meaning to our toil.

 

After first being inspired by Jesus’ personal concern for the blind man, I am also stirred by the courage of the man who is healed. After his cure, the scribes and the Pharisees begin to search for this man and to initiate an investigation into his life and the cause of his healing. Observers of the miracle are afraid to testify before the scribes and Pharisees, including the man’s own parents. His mother and father confirm that their son was in fact born blind, but they are afraid to speak about Jesus, the One who gave their son the gift of sight. The fear of religious and social persecution from the Sanhedrin for anyone who supports Jesus is strong. “For the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.”

 

In contrast, the man with the new gift of sight is without fear. He stands up to the scribes and Pharisees. He calls Jesus a prophet. In the face of a biased inquiry, the healed man demonstrates surprising wisdom and notable courage. He states to the religious leaders, “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.” As a result, they threw him out of the synagogue.

 

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, hears that the man was being persecuted and tossed out of the synagogue, and so He seeks him out. Upon finding him, Our Lord reveals Himself and His full identity as the Son of God. The man who can now see offers a simple and beautiful response, “ ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshipped Him.” Jesus came to him in the darkness of his blindness and healed him. Jesus came back to him in the darkness of persecution and gave him faith and strength.

 

Our Lord’s compassion for the blind man is extraordinary. So is the Lord’s compassion for you. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:19).

 

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington.

 

 

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017