Not as Man Sees does God See
Gospel Reflection for March 19, 2023, the fourth Sunday of Lent - John 9
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo′am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” 10 They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Silo′am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. 17 So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”
24 So for the 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.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (Jn 9, RSVCE)
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus continues to demonstrate that He is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, by fulfilling the signs which He once offered to St. John the Baptist – “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Lk 7:22) – but He does so not only by restoring the physical blindness of the beggar, but also by His sacramental, incarnational form of ministry, using the material world to signify and reveal spiritual mysteries. As in His many parables, Christ delivered His revelation not always explicitly but often implicitly, using symbolism, analogy and prophecy: “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand… But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” (Mt 13:13, 16) While Christ did at times explain the hidden meaning in His teachings and actions, their fullness is incomprehensible precisely because, in their very mystery, they reveal the infinite Mystery of God, and this divine abyss is the unfathomable joy of man’s desiring.
The healing of the blind beggar reveals two points which are central to the Gospel but which are often missed by Christians today: that “the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives”, (Heb 12:6) and that only the pure in heart… shall see God.” (Mt 5:8) The first is a refutation of the nefarious so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” the popular heresy – among both Protestants and Catholics – which is the heresy that perhaps violates the truth of Christ more than any other. Like the pagans, and like the disciples at the beginning of this Gospel reading, many assume that those who are afflicted with spiritual, physical or social ills do so as the result of personal sin or a lack of faith in God. However, while this can sometimes be the case, it is not necessarily so, and it can be dangerous to assign guilt for the afflictions of others without clear knowledge of the fact. Worse, the evil Prosperity Gospel can inspire a worldliness and prideful superiority that sees oneself as protected and gifted by God for one’s faith, without any requirement of suffering. Many Christians who drive their expensive cars and live in their luxury mansions will attend church services every weekend, believing that their wealth and status are signs of God’s favor and validation, leading them to make few sacrifices for others or repent of their sins in Confession. This is not from Christ but the Antichrist.
The second point reveals the nature of true sight. Unlike the Pharisees comfortable in their spiritual blindness, who say “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men,” (Lk 18:11) the beggar was blind to the world but open to the light of Christ, who knew His heart and so gave to him the gift of faith and salvation. Similarly, many today are comfortable in the seductions of the modern world, with its technology and prosperity, but rather than offering thanks to God for these gifts which He bestows in order that we may use them in charity for others, pouring ourselves out in sacrifice and becoming a slave like Christ, we ignore the grave evils flourishing in the world, particularly the genocide of the unborn, the desolation of marriage and family life and the mutilation of the body by gender ideology. We close our eyes to the needs of others, to those who follow the lies of the world which lead them on the road to eternal damnation, to those who live in the bitterness and despair of poverty or the hedonistic miasma of wealth. While our phones, our bank accounts and our public image become our idols, we lose sight of the true God, Jesus Christ, and the salvation which He offers through a life of humility and charity.
This Lent, may the example of the blind beggar become an inspiration to examine our consciences, humble ourselves before God and work for the salvation and healing of others, even if it is inconvenient, seeing others as Christ and offering all the dignity, mercy and saving truth of the Gospel.