4TH SUNDAY OF LENT – A
In the classic book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the fox told the Little Prince a secret before they parted ways: “It is through the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” The liturgy this Sunday is about seeing: the First Reading is the story of the call of David. The prophet Samuel was reminded by God that “the Lord sees, not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks unto the heart.” St. Paul in the Second Reading admonished the Ephesians “once you are darkness but now you are light in the Lord so walk as children of light.”
The gospel is a wonderful drama of the cure of the man born blind with six scenes: 1) On a Sabbath Jesus cures the blind beggar using spittle mixed with mud 2) the reaction of the crowd 3) the beggar gives his testimony to his neighbors and the Pharisees 4) the testimony of the parents of the beggar 5) the beggar is called again by the Pharisees and is expelled 6) Jesus meets the beggar and confronts the Pharisees.
The background of the story was the expulsion of the Jewish Christians from the Jewish synagogues during the time of the writing of the Fourth Gospel. To encourage the early Christians during persecutions, John brought back to life the experience of the blind man who was expelled by the Pharisees but was met by Jesus. During the darkest hours of the Church, Jesus is the Light!
Jesus corrected the common false belief of the time that bad things happen to bad people and the blindness of the man was due to the sin of the parents. The cure of the blind man would show the compassion of God. Through this miracle Jesus showed that the goodness of God is at work in the midst of darkness and human impossibility. When Jesus used spittle mixed with mud to cure the blindness, he was re-creating humanity now represented by the blind man like a new Genesis by giving him first the gift of light. The dirt of man was once again sanctified by the mouth of God. Mixing the spittle with mud and rubbing it on the man’s eye during Sabbath was unacceptable to the Jews which heightened the escalating tension between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus’ act in the eyes of the Pharisees was profane, unlawful, sinful and therefore was not the work of God. The beggar testified to his neighbors that he was the blind man who used to sit and beg and now was cured by a man called Jesus. The Pharisees who could not believe that the cure was from a sinner having it done during the Sabbath called the beggar to testify. He presented the same testimony to the Pharisees and now proclaimed Jesus as a prophet. Still they could not believe, the Pharisees called the parents of the beggar to testify. Because of the fear of expulsion the parents gave a very cautious testimony. For the second time the beggar was interrogated by the Pharisees, he proclaimed that Jesus was a man from God. When the beggar was expelled by the Pharisees because of such bold proclamation, Jesus met him and in their encounter the beggar professed his faith: “Lord I believe.”
Aside from physical blindness which is the lack of visual perception due to physiological and neurological factors, there is legal blindness as well as hysterical, emotional and spiritual blindness that cripple many of us in the present time.
The story of the man born blind and his cure confronts our way of seeing. Let us ask ourselves: Are we able to see the works of God in the ordinariness or little wonders of the day? in the darkness of our problems and crises? in the goodness and compassion of people who touch our lives? The real tragedy in life is not to lose our physical sight but to lose hope in situations of human impossibility, to stop loving when we find no reason to love, and to stop believing in the goodness and wonders of life.
It is through the modern spittle of God mixed with the mud of our human experience that we encounter him re-creating us by walking with us so that we may continue to live as children of light in the midst of the darkness that engulfs us. It is in these encounters that we are profess “Yes Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”