What an amazing chapter this is! Like the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, we see an ordinary, simple person beset by the trials of life, who is found by Jesus, healed and brought to faith in Him. Karen and I both loved this lesson. We hope you do too.
I remember when I was a child, how my sisters and I would blindfold one another and lead each other around, trying to understand what it must be like to be blind. I remember how often we would trip over small stones along our path, or feel disoriented as we walked blindfolded. Remembering this simple play acting has led me to think a long time about this particular story in the Gospel of John.
Those of you who have been around infants know that babies are not born with an ability to see perfectly. When a child is born, she sees only black and white and shades of grey. Color comes later. Most of the baby’s vision is blurred. A baby learns to focus by studying the faces of those closest to her. Eventually, a baby will notice bright moving objects, and at about two to four months, follow the object by moving her eyes instead of her head. A baby must learn to use both eyes together, and her brain must learn to ”translate” the information sent by the eyes into usable information, which helps the child interact with and understand the world.
The miracle of Jesus with the man born blind becomes even more spectacular than we may first think, as we reflect on this information. It was not just a matter of the man’s eyelids being closed, or the man having cataracts. No matter why the man’s eyes did not work, the man’s brain was not functionally connected to his eyes. I am astounded when I think about this. Jesus opened the man’s eyes and connected all those neural pathways, so that when the man washed the mud from his face, he looked around and understood what he was seeing. At least, that is how I interpret the miracle.
Who was the blind man? What was his life like before he met Jesus? Using our imaginations we can visualize a little about him. He was poor and unable to work – we know this because he had to beg. He lived with his parents, for he could not take care of himself. He had probably never been inside the Temple, as he would be considered a sinner and unclean. Though his religious education was likely provided by his parents, when speaking with the Pharisees, he was sure of who God was and how He acted. He knew that sometimes prophets were given the grace and power to heal others. He says that God does not listen to sinners, but He listens to those who do His Will. The man born blind was likely dirty to look at, often knocked about by the crowds which milled around the Temple, pushed out of the way by those who considered beggars a nuisance. The man born blind was totally dependent on the good will of others.
Did Jesus need to use mud to heal the man? No, of course not. As the Navarre Bible comments, “Jesus works through the medium of matter to produce effects which exceed anything matter can do. Like the Sacraments, Jesus confers on matter the power to spiritually regenerate man.”
Though the Pharisees question the blind man and others about him at length, this poor and simple man knows what has happened to him. He repeats his story over and over again – “I was blind, but now I see”. The man born blind knows that no one has ever cured someone like him. The man born blind will not deny the fact of his healing, even though the Pharisees banish him from the Temple. The man born blind will not deny the gift of God that has been given to him.
The man born blind has been found by Jesus – not once, but twice. His life will never be the same. He has been given freedom to be the man God created him to be. He has been given knowledge of the reality and love of the Son of God. The man born blind has made his choice – to believe in and worship the Son of God.
After the extended investigation the Pharisees, too, are left with a choice – to see Jesus as He truly is, or to continue to be blind to the Glory which has come into their midst. And what about me? Can I see myself in the man born blind or even the Pharisees? Are there times when I have tried to hide the truth about myself or others? Does this story shine light on my own spiritual journey? Who or what has God used to open my eyes to His incredible love? How can I allow the love of Christ to reach out and heal me? There was so much to be found and reflected on in this Gospel story.
“I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
Remember if you have any questions, call Karen or me. We welcome your calls. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.
May the study of this chapter bring you many blessings,