of Lent (A)
A blind man sees the light
Our eyes open when we live with Jesus
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures
with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to
Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them
to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence
and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became
for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation
and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor
and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples
from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness
to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice
and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us
the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text of the Gospel of the fourth Sunday of Lent
invites us to meditate on the healing of a man born blind. It is a short
but lively text. It is a concrete example of the way the Fourth Gospel
reveals the deep hidden meaning of the events in Jesus’ life. The story
of the healing of the blind man helps us open our eyes to the picture
of Jesus that we each carry within ourselves. We often think of a Jesus
who looks like a glorious king, removed from the life of ordinary people!
In the Gospels, Jesus is presented as a Servant of the poor, friend
of sinners. The picture of the Messiah-King that the Pharisees had in
mind, kept us from recognising Jesus the Messiah-Servant. As we read
the Gospel, let us try to pay attention to two things: (i) the expert
and free way the blind man reacts to the provocations of the authorities,
and (ii) the way the blind man himself opens his eyes concerning Jesus.
b) A division of the text as a help to the reading:
John 9:1-5: Blindness before the evil that exists in
John 9:6-7: The sign of the “One sent by God” who will provoke various
John 9:8-13: The reaction of the neighbours
John 9:14-17: The reaction of the Pharisees
John 9:18-23: The reaction of the parents
John 9:24-34: The final judgement of the Pharisees
John 9:35-38: The final attitude of the man born blind
John 9:39-41: A closing reflection
As he went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His
disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that
he should have been born blind?' 3 'Neither he nor his parents sinned,'
Jesus answered, 'he was born blind so that the works of God might be
revealed in him. 4 'As long as day lasts we must carry out the work
of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can
work. 5 As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.'
6 Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle,
put this over the eyes of the blind man, 7 and said to him, 'Go and
wash in the Pool of Siloam' (the name means 'one who has been sent').
So he went off and washed and came back able to see.
8 His neighbours and the people who used to see him before (for he was
a beggar) said, 'Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?' 9 Some
said, 'Yes, it is the same one.' Others said, 'No, but he looks just
like him.' The man himself said, 'Yes, I am the one.' 10 So they said
to him, 'Then how is it that your eyes were opened?' 11 He answered,
'The man called Jesus made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said
to me, "Go off and wash at Siloam"; so I went, and when I
washed I gained my sight.' 12 They asked, 'Where is he?' He answered,
'I don't know.' 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been
14 It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the
man's eyes, 15 so when the Pharisees asked him how he had gained his
sight, he said, 'He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can
see.' 16 Then some of the Pharisees said, 'That man cannot be from God:
he does not keep the Sabbath.' Others said, 'How can a sinner produce
signs like this?' And there was division among them. 17 So they spoke
to the blind man again, 'What have you to say about him yourself, now
that he has opened your eyes?' The man answered, 'He is a prophet.'
18 However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind without
first sending for the parents of the man who had gained his sight and
19 asking them, 'Is this man really the son of yours who you say was
born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?' 20 His parents
answered, 'We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, 21 but
how he can see, we don't know, nor who opened his eyes. Ask him. He
is old enough: let him speak for himself.' 22 His parents spoke like
this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to ban from the
synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. 23 This
was why his parents said, 'He is old enough; ask him.'
24 So the Jews sent for the man again and said to him, 'Give glory to
God! We are satisfied that this man is a sinner.' 25 The man answered,
'Whether he is a sinner I don't know; all I know is that I was blind
and now I can see.' 26 They said to him, 'What did he do to you? How
did he open your eyes?' 27 He replied, 'I have told you once and you
wouldn't listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to
become his disciples yourselves?' 28 At this they hurled abuse at him,
'It is you who are his disciple, we are disciples of Moses: 29 we know
that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don't know where he
comes from.' 30 The man replied, 'That is just what is so amazing! You
don't know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes! 31 We know
that God doesn't listen to sinners, but God does listen to people who
are devout and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began it is unheard
of for anyone to open the eyes of someone born blind; 33 if this man
were not from God, he wouldn't have been able to do anything.' 34 They
retorted, 'Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and
through ever since you were born!' And they ejected him.
35 Jesus heard they had ejected him, and when he found him he said to
him, 'Do you believe in the Son of man?' 36 'Sir,' the man replied,
'tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.' 37 Jesus said, 'You
have seen him; he is speaking to you.' 38 The man said, 'Lord, I believe,'
and worshipped him.
39 Jesus said: It is for judgement that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become
blind. 40 Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him,
'So we are blind, are we?' 41 Jesus replied: If you were blind, you
would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We can see,' your guilt remains.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What part of this text touched me most? Why?
b) A popular saying goes: “None so blind as those who will not see!”
How does this apply to the conversation between the blind man and the
c) By what titles is Jesus hailed in the text? Who pronounces these?
What do they mean?
d) What title do I like best? Why? Or, what picture of Jesus do I carry
in my mind and my heart? Where does this picture come from?
e) How can I purify my eyes to see the true Jesus of the Gospels?
5. For those who wish to delve
deeper into the text
a) The context within which the Gospel of John was
As we meditate on the story of the healing of the blind
man, it is good to keep in mind the context of the Christian communities
in Asia Minor towards the end of the first century for whom the Gospel
of John was written and who identified with the blind man and his healing.
Because of a legalistic view of the Law of God, they were blind from
birth. But, as happened with the blind man, they too were able to see
the presence of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and were converted.
It was a painful process! In describing the steps and conflicts of the
healing of the blind man, the author of the Fourth Gospel recalls the
spiritual journey of the community, from the darkness of blindness to
the full light of faith enlightened by Jesus.
b) A commentary on the text:
John 9:1-5: Blindness before the evil that exists
in the world
When the disciples see the blind man, they ask: “Rabbì, who sinned,
this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?” In those
days, a physical defect or sickness was thought to be a punishment from
God. Associating physical defects with sin was the way the priests of
the Old Testament kept their power over people’s consciences. Jesus
helps his disciples to correct their ideas: “Neither he nor his parents
sinned…he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed
in him!” The works of God is the same as Sign of God.
Thus, that which in those days was a sign of God’s absence, is now a
sign of his brilliant presence in our midst. Jesus says: “As long as
the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the
night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the
world I am the light of the world.” The Day of
signs begins to manifest itself when Jesus, “on the third day”
(Jn 2:1), makes present the “first sign” in Cana (Jn 2:11). But the
day is about to end. The night is about to fall, because it is already
“the seventh day”, the Sabbath, and the healing of the blind man is
now the sixth sign (Jn 9:14). The Night is the death of
Jesus. The seventh sign will be the victory over death at the resurrection
of Lazarus (Jn 11). In John’s Gospel there are only seven signs, miracles,
that announce the great sign, namely the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
John 9:6-7. The sign of the “One sent by God” who
will provoke various reactions
Jesus spits on the ground, forms mud with his saliva, puts the mud
on the eyes of the blind man and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
The man goes and comes back healed. This is the sign! John comments
saying that Siloam means sent. Jesus is the One
sent by the Father who works the works of God, the signs of
the Father. The sign of this ‘sending’ is that the blind man begins
John 9:8-13: The first reaction: that of the neighbours
The blind man is well known. The neighbours have doubts: “Is this
he?” And they ask: “How do your eyes come to be open?” The man who was
blind testifies: “The Man called Jesus opened my eyes”. The basis
of our faith in Jesus is to accept that he is a human being like us.
The neighbours ask: “Where is he?” - “I don’t know!” They are not satisfied
with the answer of the blind man and, to clarify matters, they bring
the man before the Pharisees, the religious authorities.
John 9:14-17: The second reaction: that of the Pharisees
That day was a Sabbath and on the Sabbath it was forbidden to heal.
When asked by the Pharisees, the man tells everything once more. Some
Pharisees, blind in their observance of the law, say: “This man cannot
be from God, he does not keep the Sabbath!” They could not admit that
Jesus could be a sign of God because he healed the blind man on a Sabbath.
But other Pharisees, faced by the sign, answer: “How could a sinner
produce signs like this?” They were divided among themselves! So they
asked the blind man: “What have you to say about him yourself, now that
he has opened your eyes?” And he gives witness: “He is a Prophet!”
John 9:18-23: The third reaction: that of the parents
The Pharisees, now called the Jews, did not believe that
he was blind. They thought that it was a matter of deception. So they
called his parents and asked: “Is this man really your son who you say
was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?” Very carefully
the parents reply: “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind,
but we don’t know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes.
He is old enough: let him speak for himself!” The blindness of the Pharisees
before the evidence of the healing produces fear among the people. And
anyone who professed faith in Jesus Messiah was excluded from
the synagogue. The conversation with the parents of the blind man reveals
the truth, but the religious authorities will not accept it. Their blindness
is greater because of the witness given, now they will not accept the
law that says that the witness of two persons is valid (Jn 8:17).
John 9:24-34: The final judgement of the Pharisees
They call the blind man again and say: “Give glory to God! For our
part we know that this man is a sinner.” Here: “give glory to God”
meant: “Ask pardon for the lie you just pronounced!” The blind man
had said: “He is a prophet!” According to the Pharisees he should have
said: “He is a sinner!” But the blind man is intelligent. He replies:
“I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now
I can see!” There are no arguments against this fact! Again the Pharisees
ask: “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” The blind man
answers with a touch of irony: “I have told you once…. Do you want to
become his disciples too?” Then they insulted him and said: “You can
be his disciple, we know that God spoke to Moses, but for this man,
we don’t know where he comes from”. Again with a touch of irony the
blind man replies: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened
my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! …. If this man were
not from God, he couldn’t do a thing”. Faced with the blindness of the
Pharisees, the light of faith grows in the blind man. He does not accept
the logic of the Pharisees and confesses that Jesus comes from the
Father. This profession of faith costs him his expulsion from the
synagogue. The same was happening in the communities of the end of the
first century. Those who professed faith in Jesus had to break all family
and community ties. This happens today: those who decide to be faithful
to Jesus run the risk of being excluded.
John 9:35-38: The attitude of faith of the blind
man towards Jesus
Jesus does not abandon those who are persecuted for his sake. When
Jesus hears of the expulsion and meets the man again, he helps him to
take a further step by inviting him to take on his faith and asks: “Do
you believe in the Son of Man?” He replies: “Sir…tell
me who he is that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him: “You are
looking at him; he is speaking to you”. The blind man exclaims: “Lord,
I believe!” And he worships Jesus. The faith attitude of the blind man
before Jesus is one of absolute trust and total acceptance. He accepts
everything from Jesus. It is this faith that sustained the Christian
communities of Asia towards the end of the first century, and that sustains
John 9:39-41: A final reflection
The blind man who could not see, ends up seeing better than the
Pharisees. The communities of Asia Minor who were once blind, discover
the light. The Pharisees who thought that they saw well are more blind
than the man born blind. Bound by an ancient observance, they lie when
they say they can see. None more blind that those who will not see!
c) A broader view:
- The Names and Titles given to Jesus
Throughout the story of the healing of the blind man,
the Evangelist registers various titles, adjectives and names given
to Jesus by a host of people, the disciples, the Evangelist himself,
the blind man, the Pharisees and Jesus himself. This way of describing
the events in the life of Jesus was part of the catechesis of the time.
It was a way of helping people to clarify their own ideas concerning
Jesus and to identify themselves in his regard. Here are some of the
names, adjectives and titles. The list shows the growth of the blind
man in faith and how his vision becomes clear.
* Rabbì (master) (Jn. 9:1): the disciples
* Light of the world (Jn 9:5): Jesus
* The One sent (Jn 9:7): the Evangelist
* Man (Jn 9:11): the healed man
* Jesus: (Jn 9:11): the healed man
* Does not come from God (Jn 9:16): some Pharisees
* Prophet (Jn 9:17): the healed man
* Christ (Jn 9:22): the people
* Sinner (Jn 9:24): some Pharisees
* We do know where he comes from (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Religious (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Does the will of God (Jn 9:31): the healed man
* Son of man (Jn 9:35): Jesus
* Lord (Jn 9:36): the healed man
* Lord, I believe! (Jn 9:30): the healed man
- The Name: “I AM”
To reveal the deep meaning of the healing of the blind
man, the Fourth Gospel records the words of Jesus: “I am the light
of the world” (Jn 9:5). In several places, in answer to questions
people put to Jesus, the Gospel repeats this same statement “I AM”:
* I am the bread of life (Jn 6:34-48)
* I am the living bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51)
* I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5)
* I am the gate (Jn 10: 7.9)
* I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11,25)
* I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25)
* I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6)
* I am the vine (Jn 15:1)
* I am king (Jn 18:37)
* I am (Jn 8:24.27.58)
This self revelation of Jesus reaches its peak in his conversation with
the Jews, when Jesus says: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He” (Jn 8:27). The name I am
is the same as Yahweh, the name God took in Exodus, an expression
of his liberating presence between Jesus and the Father (Ex 3:15). The
repeated affirmation I AM reveals the deep identity between Jesus and
the Father. The face of God shines in Jesus of Nazareth: “To have seen
me is to have seen the Father!” (Jn 14:9)
6. Prayer: Psalm 117 (116)
A resume of the Bible in one prayer
Alleluia! Praise Yahweh,
all nations, extol him, all peoples,
for his faithful love is strong
and his constancy never-ending.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled
us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten
our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word
has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen
to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.