‘There are none so blind as those who will not see.’ Last week, we journeyed with a woman of Samaria from a superficial level of faith understanding to deeper insight into Jesus’ identity and mission. This week, we are invited on a faith journey with a man born blind and with several groups of participants in the drama. All have the opportunity of coming to faith. Not all accept the invitation. Ironically, the blind come to see, both physically and spiritually, while those who are gifted with physical sight remain in spiritual darkness.
In healing the man born blind, Jesus performs the sixth of seven powerful actions or ‘signs’ in John’s gospel that reveal God’s power at work in Jesus and in the lives of those who seek life. The ‘signs’ invite the reader/hearer/viewer to accept Jesus and his revelation of God and God’s purposes.
Time features significantly in the story. Jesus heals the blind beggar on the sabbath. The Jerusalem authorities have already raised objections about Jesus’ sabbath healing activity (John 5). Once again they object that he is failing to observe the Sabbath. They label him a sinner. Ironically, in the final authoritative analysis, it is they who ‘remain in their sins’.
This story reminds us of the need to check out our assumptions. It also reminds us to accept the fact that we can be wrong about things we have always believed. It invites us to be open to see differently or from a new perspective. Jesus’ disciples, the parents of a man born blind, his neighbours, the religious authorities all operate out of unchecked assumptions. They mostly come to the wrong conclusions. Only those willing to admit that they have it wrong have any chance of coming to faith.
From the disciples’ perspective, the man’s blindness is a punishment for sin. Not so, according to Jesus. For the religious authorities, Jesus is a sinner because he heals on the sabbath. Not so, says Jesus. Since the man is blind from birth, they assume he needs others to speak for him. Not so, say his parents, he can speak for himself.
He does speak for himself and quite eloquently, to the chagrin of the authorities. The one who was blind now sees. He presents them with the truth about Jesus, but they refuse to accept the word of an outcast. Their reaction is violent. An outcast all his life, the enlightened man is once again cast out by those who will not see. Jesus seeks him out and leads him to yet deeper levels of faith and understanding.
If we read the story once more and put ourselves in the place of the different characters, we may find a little bit of each of them in all of us.
Veronica Lawson RSM