This post is part of a series on the scrutinies, which I began last week. You may want to read the first post in the series, “What are the scrutinies?” before reading this one.
Meditation for the Fourth Sunday of Lent: the Second Scrutiny
“As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.” (John 9:1)
Place yourself in the shoes of the blind man, for in today’s story, he is you. Jesus takes notice of you. Are you aware just how close he is to you now? What obstacles may be preventing you from seeing Jesus in your life? Humbly ask him to remove those obstacles that you may see him more clearly.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
It seems natural to ask who is at fault when people suffer. “What did they do wrong? Why do they deserve this?” The assumption behind that view is that they must have done something to deserve it. Sometimes we apply this way of thinking to ourselves: “What did I do wrong? Why do I deserve this?” If we allow ourselves to continue this way, our thoughts might turn out like this: “There must be something wrong with me.”
God does not see you that way. When God sees you, he sees his image and likeness. He sees his son or daughter. He sees you for who you truly are, infinitely lovable. Ask Jesus for the grace to see yourself the way he sees you – as lovable.
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
Couldn’t Jesus just say “Be healed!” After all, he heals lepers and raises the dead without using crude objects or putting his hands all over them. It is true that the God who created the universe, by uttering the words “Let there be light!” can use his creation anyway he wants to do whatever he chooses. Sometimes he performs miracles in our lives by a sheer act of his will, but more often he interacts with us through visible and tangible signs, because as physical creatures we relate to these things.
The act of making mud from dirt mixed with his own saliva is reminiscent of the creation of man, whom he formed from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils to give him the breath of life. Hence, this intimate interaction between Jesus and the blind man allegorically represents a new creation and the forming of a new man. The act of “smearing” the mud on his eyes is an anointing and the command to wash with water reminds us of baptism, reinforcing the idea of sacramental rebirth. The idea the Evangelist John brings out through this physical imagery is that of God’s power working through the sacraments, which the Elect will receive at baptism.
If you are preparing to receive the sacrament of baptism (and even if you’ve already been baptized), imagine as if your own baptism were Christ performing this very miracle, physically, on you, smearing his ointment on your eyes and cleansing you with cool, refreshing water. Feel the transforming power of his grace rushing through you as the mire washes away from your eyes. Now, envision the world anew, as though seeing it for the first time, a new creation. Ask God for the grace to see what the blind man saw and feel what he felt when he opened his eyes for the first time. You may want to close your eyes and visualize this moment – take as long as you wish!
When you’re ready, we’ll continue with the story of the healed man’s experience with his view of the world radically changed.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, “
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
And they said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I don’t know.”
The people who knew the man who was blind from birth are incredulous. They literally can’t believe it’s the same man they knew before. Naturally, they want to know how it happened. He answers, honestly, it was Jesus.
Observe that more than just a physical transformation has taken place. The man has become God’s witness. Everyone is drawn to him, wanting to know where they can find what he found. People are starting to think that whatever worked him, might actually work for them too – they want to find Jesus!
But where is he? Jesus is working behind the scenes. Though you may not see it, he’s at work in your life too. As situations in life unfold, sooner or later it becomes apparent how and where Jesus is at work.
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
The phrase, “They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees,” can be read in more than one way. One way to read it, that may not come across at first, is that “they brought the man who was once blind to the Pharisees,” but now he no longer is blind to them and their self-righteous ignorance. Having been cured, he clearly sees how they are incapable of looking beyond their petty observance of the law to see the power of God working in his life. Blind to God’s work, they have become secularized, so much so, that when they ask the man what he has to say, they immediately disregard his testimony that “He is a prophet,” because their minds were already made up in the first place, and he did not tell them what they wanted to hear – they act as though his words don’t matter.
Acting as though his words don’t matter is tantamount to treating him as though he doesn’t matter, which is the way he’s been treated by people all his life, disregarded, unimportant, useless to society. They might have caused him to doubt himself, once more. Instead, the man is completely unfazed, now that he has Christ in his life.
Now the Jews did not believe
that he had been blind and gained his sight
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?”
His parents answered and said,
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself.”
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
“He is of age; question him.”
Fear is a diabolical form of motivation. Shame on those who shame others to force them to act out of fear! Pity on those who are so manipulated by fear of what others might think, like the parents in this story, that they are driven to act out so insanely. Here we clearly see that fear-mongering is blatant coercion. Why else would a parent virtually disown their child rather than stand up for them and protect them? It’s totally irrational. What are the systems of fear in at play your life that need to be rooted out, completely?
As we will now see, the man who was blind has no fear, because Christ touched and transformed his life. No longer swayed by the opinions of others, he is not afraid to speak truth to power, whatever the consequences, because he knows the power of God who is always with him. When we have a strong relationship with God, he gives us the courage and peace of mind to handle difficult situations gracefully.
So a second time they called the man who had been blind
and said to him, “Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner.”
“If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
He answered them,
“I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
They ridiculed him and said,
“You are that man’s disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from.”
When the man does not tell them what they want to hear, they shut him down. Yet he remains resolute in his faith and will not be discouraged.
When you witness to God’s work in your life with conviction, some will find it attractive and be drawn to Christ; others will ridicule you and try to shut you down. It’s never a comfortable feeling to be brushed off or put down. But as St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Romans, if the spirit of Christ is in you then you belong to Christ, not to the world (Romans 8:9). When the world stands against you, be assured that Christ is with you.
The man answered and said to them,
“This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
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.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.
Shamed, demoralized, and excommunicated, he must have been crushed! We can understand his being discouraged at this point. He may even be tempted to return to his old way of thinking that “Something has got to be awfully wrong with me.” Having been an outcast all his life, and now deemed an official public outcast, rejected by society, he may even start to feel abandoned by God, by now. Wouldn’t you?
Would he have been better off as a blind beggar for the rest of his life?
It is now, in his darkest hour, that he sees the fullness of God’s gift revealed.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus does more than merely console him, he elevates him. Now we can see that Jesus permitted all the social pain and suffering so that through the dark moment of his weakness, the strength of his faith would shine more brilliantly. The low point in his story – which inevitably comes – suddenly becomes the climax at the moment he exercises his faith in God.
Jesus allowed his suffering to occur, to give him the opportunity to grow in faith and come out the other side stronger than before. As our Lord said at the beginning of the story, “It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
To conclude our Gospel contemplation for this Sunday’s Scrutinies here are some questions you may consider for deeper, personal reflection.
- Does the reality of Christ’s touching your life seem as real to you now as it did then?
- Does the memory of your encounter with Christ rekindle in you a glowing sense of faith?
- When put down, shut down, or ridiculed by others, can you turn to Jesus and ask him to increase your faith?
- Have you been blind to Jesus passing by in your life, in a moment of difficulty, big or small?
- Have you perhaps failed to see Jesus at work in the lives of others?
- Are you convinced that God loves you? Does that conviction give you strength in times of difficulty?
- How has your faith grown since you began your journey with him?
- Can you look back at different moments in your life and see Jesus working behind the scenes?
- Are you holding anything back on account of shame or fear of what others might think? Is fear or shame impeding you from doing what God really wants from you?
- Is there anyone in your life that you can reach out to and show the love of God?
- Are you actively witnessing to others of the great things God has done in your life?
- Are you spending enough time alone with God in prayer?
- Have you asked God to open your eyes so you may what see he wants you to see?
Do you have any questions for God? Don’t be afraid to ask him!
Finally, I’d like to share this clip from one of my all time favorites. “Jesus of Nazareth” is an epic classic and still my favorite movie of the life of Christ. If you have a little extra time, enjoy this scene where Jesus heals the man born blind. And if you have more time, break out the popcorn (or the jelly donuts) watch the whole movie before Easter — I strongly recommend it!