FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (A) March 19, 2023

1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23;
Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

A neurologist commented on the story of the man born blind who was cured by Jesus. He said that when people born blind receive their sight after surgery, they can’t immediately act like sighted people. Even though they might know the feel of a telephone, they can’t identify it on sight. They also have to learn depth perception – they would walk into walls, because they can’t process what they see. At first they might think they could touch a lamppost that’s a block away. Or, they would knock over a glass of water next to them since it would be closer than they thought.

Some even have to use a cane again, which they used when there were blind, to learn what the things at the tip of their cane now look like. People who were born blind and then receive their sight, need someone to be their guide to help them understand what they see. It takes time for them to adapt to a new world. It’s a process.

The man in the gospel story today, who was cured of his blindness, goes through the process of a different sort. We are not told about the first steps he went through when he first received his physical sight. Instead, we learn of another process he went through. The process the gospel describes is a process each of us can identify with, for it narrates how the man grew in his spiritual sight – how he learned about Jesus and how he gained vision .

After his cure the blind man went back to the familiar world he had known of his family and those who knew him. But Jesus had entered his life and he was forever changed. There was no going back. Even though, he was repeatedly challenged, even threatened, because of what had happened to him. Not everyone understood what had happened to him, he was so changed. He had washed in the pool that Jesus had sent him to, the pool of Siloam.

There was no going back. This once blind man, who had been on the edge of society, now stands up to respected religious authorities. "One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." He cannot be shaken, or intimidated. He knows what has happened to him; he has first hand experience. He not only got his physical sight, but afterwards Jesus came back to him, as a guide, to help him understand what had happened to him.

The man’s name isn’t given in today’s story: not by accident. He is the representative for each woman and man here today. When we were washed in our own pool of Siloam, our baptismal font, Jesus gave each of us sight. Whatever might be the state of our physical sight, we now have a spiritual sight, a vision, that, like the man in the gospel story, has changed and shaped our lives.

What Jesus asks the man, after seeking him out, he also asks us: "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he sir that I may believe in him." "You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he." "I do believe, Lord."

All of us gathered here this morning are here because we "see Jesus" – we have been given sight and believe with the man that he is the Lord. But seeing Jesus, having the vision he gives us, isn’t always a cakewalk; isn’t always smooth sailing through life; isn’t always a warm fuzzy. Our baptism, that first gives us the ability to see in faith, doesn’t end by having our names registered in some parish’s baptismal registry."

Like the man we have to navigate the waters of the contrary opinions and hostilities we encounter because of our vision. We may even have to become defenders of Jesus against some pretty strong opinions – just as the man did after his cure. Once the former blind man professes his faith in Jesus everything will change for him. He will see himself and the world around him differently; with the eyes of a disciple. From now on he will no longer see God as punishing him for some supposed-sin he committed; but he will see that God, in Jesus, is reaching out and caring for him.

He will see differently. If he had an enemy’s list from past abuses he suffered, or of people who took advantage of him, he will now have to re-evaluate his stance towards them, even forgive them. He will have to reconsider labels he learned from his family about others. Those labeled as "outsiders, " now he will look at with the new sight God has given him. He will have to see those labeled as useless, the way he once was and welcome them into his life, the way Jesus brought him in. Now he will have to see and reach out to those in need the way, Jesus did for him. Even those labeled by his people as the Roman enemy, he will have to see them and be moved by their blindness, the way Jesus saw and was moved by his blindness.

Today’s story, about a blind man gaining sight, causes us to ask ourselves:

What do we see? What, or whom do we miss? How do we label people – as useful or useless; valuable in our world, or dispensable? Do we see the beauty of God’s creation around us as something to be cherished and preserved for our children and their grandchildren? Do we see our struggles and burdens as opportunities to experience God’s strength and guiding presence?

Finally, with the sight Jesus gives us in our faith, our vision of God is clear. We no longer see God as a distant creator leaving us on our own to work things out, waiting to see how we do. But we see the God whom Jesus reveals to us, who sees our need and comes over to help us.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings: