Spirituality of the Readings
Sunday’s Gospel is about the cure of a blind man—and about the blindness of those who think they can see.
The healing takes place on the Sabbath: Jesus makes clay with his own saliva (an earthy detail) and sends the blind man to wash in the “Pool of Siloam.” When he comes back, Jesus is not there anymore but the man’s sight is! Confusion reigns among the bystanders. “This can’t be the blind guy that used to sit and beg.” “No, it is someone else.” “Ok, but it looks just like him.” And so on.
They drag him to the Pharisees, and now confusion conquers all. “The law says thou shall keep the Sabbath holy,” one Pharisee says. “Look at the facts. This Jesus fellow pretended to work a miracle on the Sabbath day. “Therefore he is a sinner and cannot have come from God.” Another finishes the thought, “ … so he certainly could not work a miracle!” They make up a rule for themselves: “Anyone who now can see must always have been able to see!”
“Let’s go get proof,” they say. “His family must know he was never blind.” They run and find the parents. But these reply blandly that their son certainly had been blind since he was born! Ouch!
So they go back to the man with a new strategy. They pretend that they believe in the cure and are fascinated by it. They pose a cynical question. “How did this Jesus accomplish such a wonderful miracle?” The blind man’s tart reply is: “I told you already and you did not listen. Do you need to hear it again? Or is it that you want to be his disciples, too?” Sarcasm in the gospel! The Pharisees are outraged and they begin insulting the man.
Why are these Pharisees so impassioned? Because they will lose their power and their wealth and control if Jesus actually has divine power. He will take over. They have to blind themselves to the truth or else.
What is that truth?
Simple. Jesus has given not only sight but depth of sight to a man born without it. This is why the fellow was blind in the first place, Jesus tells us, so that the works of God could be made seeable. Does the man accept this? “I do believe, Lord,” he says.
His heart had been healed in addition to his eyes.
Who can understand such a cure? Not the Pharisees. Not you or me if we are protecting our place in the world. They lusted for control over others, for respect and self-will. They need spittle put on their souls so they will see clearly. So do we. Surely, given the chance, we would act the same way.
And that is why this long Gospel is presented now, during Lent, the time of preparation. You and I are preparing for a still greater healing at Easter, and we need to start washing out our souls to see it. Jesus will suffer from the world’s blindness and will die from it. But the world, by killing him, will be healed from death and suffering, from hate and fear, healed by events that began with hatred itself.
Jesus descended into darkness in order to open our eyes to a love stronger than dark.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University