4th Sunday of Lent Year A – 17
1Sam.16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph.5:8-14; Jn.9:1-41
A blind man is walking down the street with his guide dog one day. They come to a busy intersection and the dog, ignoring the high volume of traffic zooming by on the street, leads the blind man right out into the thick of the traffic.
This is followed by the screech of tires as panicked drivers try desperately not to run the pair down. Horns blaring around them, the blind man and the dog finally reach the safety of the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
The blind man pulls a cookie out of his coat pocket, which he offers to the dog. A passerby, having observed the near fatal incident, can’t control his amazement and says to the blind man, “Why on earth are you rewarding your dog with a cookie? He nearly got you killed!”
The blind man turns partially in his direction and replies, “To find out where his head is, so I can kick his rear end!”
But as for that blind man in the gospel, he didn’t even have a dog to lead him. He was blind, he was a beggar, there was nothing that people saw in him, and there was nothing he saw in himself. So, it was, until Jesus came along and then things changed.
Earlier on, the disciples had looked at the blind man and asked whose sin it was that caused the blindness – his sin or his parents’ sin?
And then after when the blind man was healed, the Pharisees looked at him and asked what kind of sinner it was that healed the blind man. It is strange that the disciples and the Pharisees and those who had sight could only see one thing – sin!
The disciples saw blindness as a punishment due to sin, and the Pharisees saw that man who was healed of his blindness as a sinner. As for the blind man who was healed, he had his sight restored, and he could see just as the rest who had sight could see.
But as much as he could now see like the rest, there was something he saw that made him different from the rest. When he was asked: What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes? His reply was: He is a prophet.
Not only he saw Jesus as a prophet, that former blind man became a surprise witness in the whole drama. He even confronted and refuted the Pharisees by saying: Now here is an astonishing thing.
He has opened my eyes and you don’t know where he comes from. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing. That was a stunning statement from a surprise witness who was once blind but now could see deeper and see more than the rest.
But this gospel passage is not just about another miracle of healing a blind man. Jesus proclaimed that He is the light of the world. His light is in all of us so that we too can see deeper and see more.
The light of Christ is not some kind of special talent that is given to only some or a few, and which can only be discovered through some kind of talent contest.
We have the light of Christ so that we can see deeper and clearer, and to choose what is from God and reject what is not from God. Indeed, we need the light of Christ to see what is from God and what is not from God because they can look so similar.
For example, HATE has four letters, but so does LOVE. ENEMIES have seven letters; so, does FRIENDS. LYING has five letters; so, does TRUTH. NEGATIVE has eight letters; so, does POSITIVE. UNDER has five letters; so, does ABOVE.
CRY has three letters; so, does JOY. ANGRY has five letters; so, does HAPPY. RIGHT has five letters; so, does WRONG. Jesus gives us His light so that we can see clearly and choose wisely. Let us choose what is from God, and reject whatever that is not.
We have all heard the phrase “Seeing is believing.” The idea comes, I suppose, from skeptical people who won’t believe anything is real or anything is true unless and until they see it for themselves.
In today’s Gospel account the phrase “Seeing is believing” is paradoxically both proved and disproved. It is proved by the blind man eventually seeing Jesus and acknowledging that indeed Jesus is “from God.” The blind man recognized Jesus for who He is.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, men who were sighted, did not or would not see Jesus for who He is. The blind man could see, the sighted Pharisees were blind. Seeing, they would not believe.
Let me turn your attention now to the fact that the blind man’s recognition of who Jesus really is came about gradually… through a process.
When first questioned, he told his neighbors that “the man called Jesus” made paste, put it on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the waters of Siloam. When asked where Jesus was he said he didn’t know.
When brought to the Pharisees who questioned him as to the man who healed him, the blind man said, “He is a prophet.” The Pharisees, as we know, refused to believe that Jesus was anything other than a sinner.
Finally, at the conclusion of the episode, Jesus searched him out and when He found the man he acknowledged that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and then worshipped Him, an act that one gives to God alone. Worshipping anyone or anything else other than God is blasphemy and idolatry.
In short, the formerly blind man acknowledged the divinity of Christ. So, for the blind man, truly, “seeing is believing.” The blind man’s progress in gaining spiritual insight is matched by the spiritual leaders’ step-by-step journey into darkness and blindness.
Even though Christ, the Light of the World, was standing before them their stubborn reliance only on themselves and their blind pride led them into darkness.
Once again, we are dealing in this Gospel account with St. John’s major themes: order out of chaos, light out of darkness, good out of evil, and life out of death. The question now presented itself to us here in this church is: Do we recognize what our real struggle is all about?
What about the presence of God in our lives? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him or do our many concerns blind us? We don’t have to go to the trouble to try and find God. He has come to search us out just as He did the blind man.
God comes to us on this very day and on this very Mass. The Light of the World has come and the darkness shall not overcome it.
There is only one darkness that can prevail, the darkness of our own lack of attention and our own lack of vision when it comes to His presence in our lives. It may be true that we do not willfully ignore God and are blind to His presence, but if “seeing is believing” how can we believe if we do not see?
Lent is time set aside when we try to see God in our lives. Lent is a time when we try to step away from all of our worldly concerns and give some time and attention to what’s going on in our souls.
To strengthen our faith and our belief we need, along with the blind man, ask: “Lord, that I might see” and then expect a miracle, the miracle of seeing the Light of the World in our darkened days.
Our blindness is not the blindness of the Pharisees. Ours is being too busy for time with God, too worried about the cares of this world.
“Seeing is believing.” Oh, Lord, let me see your light, let me recognize your presence in my life; open my eyes because I know who you are and I know what you can do. Oh, Lord, that I may see. Amen.