by Sister Pauline Micke
The Gospel we hear today presents some unique aspects that invite us to go deeper in our reflection. First, this account of the story of the Man Born Blind only appears in John’s Gospel, not any of the Synoptics. Secondly, it occupies the middle position between the Third and Fifth Sunday Gospels, between the stories of the Samaritan Woman and Lazarus, Sundays which the Church uses as times of Scrutiny in the RCIA process.
Finally is the symbolism and imagery John uses in this chapter: light and dark; blindness and sight: belief and unbelief. In each of these, John presents an encounter with Jesus and his Mission. We grow in understanding why Jesus has been ‘sent’ (Siloam in Hebrew, the name given to the pool) and what John says these encounters mean for our own ongoing conversion. We cannot consider all of these at this time, so let us chose one.
In the Gospels for the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays in Lent, Jesus carries out works – or signs, as John calls them. In each encounter, a statement of belief follows the work or sign. In the Christian Scriptures, the word believe is found in its various forms 238 times; 98 of these occur in John’s Gospel. For John, believing is seeing. In a very real way, Chapter 9 is often seen as a summation of John’s entire Gospel.
As we reflect on Chapter 9 and the encounters Jesus has with different people (including us), we are aware there is much un-listening, un-seeing, and un-believing in this account:
- The Pharisees have seen and heard, but either they haven’t perceived or don’t want to perceive what has happened.
- The Apostles ask a question: they want to know who has sinned, this man or his parents.
- The parents play it safe by telling the Pharisees to ask their son since he is of age. They know that, if they were to testify to the true facts of what is happening, they would be thrown out of the temple.
The Man Born Blind does tell it as he experienced it and is driven out of the temple. To understand the symbolism of the Pharisees’ action, we must remember that when this Gospel was written, around the year 100 AD, the temple no longer existed; it had been destroyed in 70 AD. John, therefore, is telling us that Jesus is the new place of God’s revelation. Jesus is the new covenant, who continues God’s faithful relationship with us.
This is the real un-blinding that happens here. It is the central meaning of all the encounters with Jesus in Chapter 9.
When the Blind Man is driven out, Jesus goes to find him and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answers, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus simply and, I believe, gently says, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” The Blind Man then responds, “I do believe Lord,” and he worshipped him.
In each of these encounters, we become more aware that the sight Jesus came to give us is to let us see how we appear to our God; this then is how we are to appear to ourselves. Jesus invites us not to look beyond but within, where Jesus is more than meets the eye.
In closing, I give you a couple questions for your reflection this week:
- Like the Pharisees, what keeps me from perceiving what Jesus presents to me daily?
- The Pharisees give evidence that they don’t want to see anything differently. Where, at times, do I reveal this same attitude and behavior?
May your Lenten Journey be blessed and guide you to that place where you can say deeply from your heart, “I DO BELIEVE, LORD.”