By Revd. Fr. Paul Danbaki Jatau Ph.D
TEXTS: 1 SAM16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; EPH 5:8-14; JOHN 9:1-41
JESUS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Today is called “Laetare” (rejoice) Sunday. On this day, the Church exhorts us to be joyful because Christ our shepherd gives us the vision of light, cures our blindness and looks into the heart of each and every one of us. He does not judge us from appearances. In the first reading, God anointed David through Samuel to replace Saul as the new King of Israel. He does this irrespective of other seven sons of Jesse who were presented for anointing. This story shows that God can write on a crooked line. Man looks at appearance but God looks into the heart of each and every one of us.
The procedure with which Jesus in the Gospel text healed the blind man is filled with symbolic meanings. First, he applies a paste of mud prepared out of his saliva and asks him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The former symbolizes baptismal anointing (done in the early Church and continued till today) and the latter baptismal washing with water. The very fact that Jesus asked him to wash in the pool of Siloam instead of healing him on the spot, indicates two things: (1) he is presented here as a faithful disciple who obeys what the Master commands; (2) the name of the pool ‘Siloam’ (which means Sent) symbolizes an inner washing — of sins by the water of baptism by which a disciple becomes ‘one who is sent’ or a missionary.
Jesus opens not only the blind man’s physical eyes, but also his eyes of faith to recognize his real identity stage by stage, deeper and deeper. At first, the blind man knows him only as a man called Jesus, then as a prophet, later on as a man from God. and finally as the heavenly and divine person, Son of Man. His faith culminates in an act of worship of Jesus as the Lord by making the shortest and simplest confession of faith: “Lord, I believe”. He becomes a model for us for making a progress from ignorance of Jesus to confession of faith in him and boldly bearing witness to him, whereas his neighbours continue to remain in ignorance; his parents fail to confess Jesus publicly out of fear of excommunication; and the Pharisees obstinately refuse to accept or admit the truth in spite of seeing it with their eyes. Thus, this text highlights the movement of a would-be disciple from unbelief to belief, ignorance to knowledge of Christ, blindness to the light of faith, and superficial faith to the depth of faith-surrender.
The healing of the blind man is only a sign of the spiritual light which Jesus has come to give to those who are spiritually blind. This story begins with a man born blind presumably due to his or his parents’ sins and ends with some of the Pharisees, presumably righteous ones, pronounced sinners by Jesus because they pretend to “see”. At the end, the blind man not only receives physical sight but also spiritual light. Thus, the story ends with the paradox and a double meaning common in John’s gospel – those who are blind see and those who think they can see are blind.
Paul, who once experienced spiritual blindness, reminds the Ephesians that faith and Baptism rescued them from the darkness of sin and introduced them into the light of Christ. Paul invites all Christians to live as the children of light and judge everything by the light of Christ.
1. Lent is a time to renew our baptismal commitment, a time to admit that we repeatedly become spiritually blind. We have to examine ourselves and see how seriously we are preparing ourselves to renew our baptismal grace and wash our inner selves once again with the baptismal water at Easter Vigil. At Easter we want to ‘see’ the Risen Christ in faith and acclaim, “Lord, I do believe”
2. We can become spiritually blind by judging people merely on their external appearance; by not seeing our own sins /weaknesses; by allowing money, power and position to blind us; by our inability to see the hand of God behind our sorrows and hardships; by our inability to see the needs and difficulties faced by others. Ultimately, our blindness is the blindness of faith, because of which we are not able to see the love of God even in adverse situations.
3. Like the Pharisees, those who are not open to God are incurable. We can become hardhearted in several ways such as refusal to admit our sins or worst still justifying them, holding on to our past grudges and refusing to forgive people. Only those who remain open to the truth about themselves and see how sin truly blinds them can receive the light of faith.
Finally, Let us examine ourselves on three matters by following the model of the blind man: (1) How obedient are we in following Christ? (2) how faithful are we to the mission for which we are sent by baptism (remember the meaning of ‘Siloam’)?; and (3) how boldly we bear witness to Christ and his values like the blind man who was willing to face excommunication from the synagogue for the sake of his faith. Like him, can we make a bold confession of faith: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see”.
Have a Spirit-filled week ahead!