4th Sunday of Lent, Year – A
1Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5:8-19; John 9:1-41
Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who had solved many mysteries, and Dr. Watson, his companion, went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars”. Sherlock Holmes then said, “Well Watson, what does that tell you”?
Watson pondered for a minute and then replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you”? Sherlock Holmes responded, “Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent”.
Watson had missed the most obvious. He was clever enough to notice the complexities of the stars but he missed what was plain and simple. Today’s Gospel reading is about a whole lot of people who miss the point. In Jesus’ healing of a blind man, the Pharisees missed the most evident point that it was a real miracle by divine intervention.
This is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Traditionally, this day is known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the Latin word for the command “rejoice.” Today’s readings both remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as in soul, and instructs us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.
By describing the anointing of David as the second king of Israel, the first reading, from the book of Samuel, illustrates how blind we are in our judgments and how much we need God’s help. In the second reading, Paul reminds Christians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
The healing of the blind man, told so dramatically in today’s Gospel, brings out the mercy and kindness of Jesus, “the light of the world.” If I am going to ask you, how many blind men are in our gospel today. I am sure that your answer would be one because there is only one identified blind person. But I would rather say that it is more than one if we go deeper with our reflection. I think there are four of them.
Someone once said to Helen Keller, “What a pity you have no sight!” Helen Keller replied, “Yes, but what a pity so many have sight but cannot see!” Sadly, there has always been physical blindness in our world. But physical blindness is not the only type of blindness that affects people, nor is it the most damaging. A far more harmful blindness is the spiritual blindness that results from sin. This spiritual blindness is evident in the lives of people who are confused or lost, often having no moral guidance.
The first group of blinds is the apostles. They are blind because they asked Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Instead of asking the most important question: How can we help this blind man? The Jewish people believe that sickness and even more such a sickness would be a punishment for sin either pre-natal sin or sin of the embryo. Or the child born blind was punished for the sins of the parents. Jesus rejects both opinions. It is the same with us. We are surrounded with so many injustices, poverty and even exploitation and even suppression but we just say: “They are poor because they are lazy and inutile.”
The second group of blinds is his parents, relatives and neighbors. Even though they witnessed that it was Jesus who cured blind man but they refused to say it. It is because of their fear of being expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees. They are afraid to say that this man was cured by Jesus Himself whom this blind man considered as the prophet. They are like those Catholics who don’t have backbones. Their personal interests, cowardice and fear blind them.
The third group of blinds is the Pharisees. They refuse to acknowledge that Jesus had performed the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man. They suspended their belief because of their prejudices and biases against Him. Instead they call Jesus as a sinner because He violated the law of the Sabbath. So, they are blind to the truth already in their eyes.
The fourth blind is blind man himself who was cured by Jesus because of his faith and trust in Him. Though he was blind physically, he could see with his heart. The other three could see with their eyes but not with their hearts as fear, cowardice, prejudices, biases and their own selfish interests blinded them.
If we are these four types of blinds, we can have two different kinds of blindness: physical blindness as represented by the blind man himself and spiritual blindness as represented by the other three groups. Spiritual blindness could be that we could not see it with our own hearts. For instance, an old man in his 70s said: “If you are afraid to die, you are not free to live.” This could be like this.
Lenten season is a season of light that one can cure his blindness through this season. I don’t see any blind person here, but I am sure you and me are blind like the apostles, Pharisees, relatives, parents and neighbors of blind man who was cured. If we are, then, we need to recognize and ask the Lord: “Lord, I want to see.”
THE STORY is told about a sign written over a basket of apples in a nursery school canteen which read: “Do not take more than one. God is watching.” On the other counter, there was a box of chocolates with sign over it, written by a child, which read: “Take as many as you want. God is busy watching the apples!”
We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness. We all have blind-spots — in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind-spots. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness, namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. Let us pray with the Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay, “God our Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.” Amen.