Gospel: John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
The Gift of True Sight
Have you ever played a game with a blindfold? Or, have you ever been on a trust walk, where you are blindfolded and led by another person?
Playing games with a blindfold helps us appreciate the gift of sight. Sight is a double blessing in a culture whose media manipulates visual contents, its patterns, and its timing. A quickly edited, fast moving commercial on television proves the point; your eyes quickly "read" the message.
Through the cure of a person born blind, John's gospel presents sight in a metaphorical sense. Sometimes a person can look, but not see. Here, the blind man received not only the ability to use his eyes but the gift to see the truth.
1 As Jesus walked by, he saw a beggar who was born blind. 6 Jesus spat on the ground, mixed the spit and dirt together to make mud, and rubbed the mud into the man's eyes. 7 "Go wash your eyes in Siloam Pool," Jesus told him. The man left and washed the mud off. Now he could see!
8 Many people used to walk by the man as he begged. These people and the man's neighbors wondered, "Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?"
9 At this, there was an argument. "Yes, he's the man," some said. But others disagreed: "He just looks like the man."
Finally, the man answered, "I'm the beggar!"
13 Then, they brought the beggar to religious leaders called Pharisees. 14-16 When the leaders found out Jesus made mud and healed the man on the Sabbath, they questioned him. "How did you get your sight back?" the Pharisees demanded.
"This man came by and put mud on my eyes. I washed it off," the beggar replied. "Now I can see."
"Well, God commanded us not to do any work on the Sabbath. This man broke God's Law when he cured you," some of the Pharisees stated. "So, this man cannot come from God!" But, other leaders disagreed. "But how can a man who breaks God's Law do such things?" they said. So, an argument broke out among the Pharisees. 17 In the end, they asked the beggar, "What's your opinion of the man who healed you?"
"He's a prophet!" the man replied.
34 At this, the Pharisees got angry. "You've been evil ever since you were born! How dare you try to tell us what to think!" they shouted at the man. Then, they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard what happened to the beggar. When Jesus found the man, he asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36 "Point him out, so I can believe in him," the beggar responded.
37 "You've already seen him," Jesus said. "That person is talking to you right now."
38 "I trust you, Lord!" the man said. Then, he bowed and worshiped Jesus.
In John's Gospel, Jesus cured a blind man. In the ensuing controversy, the man defended Jesus but lost his place in the community. In the end, however, he found a new place before the Lord.
1 Passing by, HE saw a man blind from birth.
6 ...HE spat on the ground, made mud out of the spit (and dirt), and placed his mud on the (blind man's) eyes. 7 (HE) said to him, "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam," which translated "Being Sent." Then, (the blind man) went, washed, and came to see. 8 So, (his) neighbors and those (used to) seeing him (in his previous state), that he was a beggar, said, "Is this (man) not the (one) sitting and begging?" 9 Some said, "This is (the man)" Others said, "No. But he is like (the blind beggar)." That (man) said, "I am (he)."
13 They lead him, the (man) once blind, to the Pharisees. 14 Now, (it) was the Sabbath, on which day Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then, (once) again, the Pharisees asked him how he saw. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes, I washed (the mud off), and I saw." 16 So, some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath." [But] others said, "How is a sinful man able to do such signs?" There was a dispute among them. 17 So, they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about HIM because he opened your eyes?" He said, "HE is a prophet."
34 They answered and said to him, "You were born completely in sin and you teach us?" They threw him outside (the community). 35 JESUS heard that they threw him outside and finding him, said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36 That (man) answered and said, "Who is he, Sir, that I might believe in him?" 37 JESUS said to him, "You have seen him. And the (one) speaking with you is that (man)." 38 He said, "I believe, Lord!" And he worshiped HIM.
9:6 The missing phrase is literally "having said these (things)." The phrase referred what Jesus said before the cure (in 9:2-5).
9:7 "came to see" is literally "came to seeing."
9:8 "(in his previous state)" is literally a noun that is the object of "seeing." The noun acts as an adverb meaning "previously."
9:9 "(the blind beggar)" is the pronoun "him." The reference to the blind man was added for clarification.
9:15 "(once) again" This was second time the man answered the question "What happened to you?" This was not the second time the Pharisees posed the question to the blind man.
9:16 "dispute" is literally "schism."
9:34 "They threw him outside (the community)" meant excommunication. The blind man stood outside the local Jewish community.
9:36, 38 In 9:36, "Sir" is literally "Lord." The title could be polite address or one of faith. In the context of the dialogue, polite address is assumed in 9:36. Faith context is assumed in 9:38
After one controversy in the Temple, Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and stumbled upon a man born blind. Immediately, Jesus cured him with mud and a washing. [9:1,6-7] (The blind man washed in the Pool of Siloam or the "sent" pool. As part of an aqueduct system build over the centuries for Jerusalem, this pool was the "receiving tank" for the water. Hence, its name; the aqueduct "sent" water to the pool.)
The man returned to his neighborhood when another controversy erupted. The blind man's neighbors forced him to defend his cure. [9:8-9] According to 9:8, the man's neighbors saw the man beg on a daily basis. Most of the neighbors knew the man from birth, since culture and livelihood pressured people to maintain a residence from one generation to the next. And, culture in the time of Jesus was open; everyone made a point to know their neighbor's business. Why, then, did the blind man need to defend his cure?
In such a stable, static, open society, people used deception, secrecy, and lying to protect a sense of reputation. Such devices, however, led to a sense of disbelief. If one boasted to inflate a reputation, the response might be a cynical challenge. When the man demonstrated his cure (and his freedom from begging) to his neighbors, he was met with incredulity.
Because of the controversy, the neighbors brought the cured man before the Pharisees for a judgment. [9:14] They were to sit in judgment over one question: Was the beggar a fraud? However, many asked another question: Was the Healer a sinner? By answering this second question, they could answer the first question.
A group within the Pharisees began their attack with a point of the Law. [9:16] Since Jesus cured on the Sabbath, this group charged, he violated the Third Commandment. As a violator, he sinned. (As a sinner, he stood outside the Jewish community. So, Jesus and his disciple would have to be excommunicated; see 9:22 not covered in this study). The cured man could plainly see his reputation hinged on that of Jesus, so the cured man had no choice but to associate Jesus with God. Hence, he declared Jesus was a prophet. [9:17]
The hearing continued in 9:18-33. In the end, the man questioned the sight (i.e., wisdom) of those in judgment (9:30-33 not covered in this study). In other words, he questioned their authority to judge Jesus. The Pharisees rebuked the man, claiming he was born in sin, and, so, unfit to question their authority. [9:34] Whether they referred to the man's own sinfulness or the sinful condition of the world (what we call "Original Sin") is unclear.
"Since you were born in sin..." (that is, born with a blindness caused by sin). The Pharisees implicitly equated the man's blindness to his own immorality or that of his parents. (In 9:2-3, Jesus rejected this notion.) In doing so, they implicitly acknowledged Jesus' power to cure the blind man and to forgive sin. For, the logic goes, if one truly cured the illness (blindness), then he must have eliminated the cause of the illness (sin).
Since the Pharisees excommunicated him, the man now stood alone,. [9:34b] Without membership in the synagogue, he was no longer a Jew; he would be shunned by his friends and neighbors alike. For his defense of Jesus, all he had left was Jesus. So Jesus sought him out and asked him the question of faith: "Do you believe in the Son of Man (i.e., Messiah)?" The man's answered with a question: "Who is he, Lord, so I might trust...him." Jesus then seemed to say: "Open your eyes. The Messiah is talking to you now." With this revelation, the man professed his trust in Jesus and worshiped him. [9:35-38]
Catechism Themes: The Characteristics of Faith (CCC 153-165)
When Jesus cured the blind man, he gave him a choice to change, to chance to trust in God. Jesus invited the man to faith.
Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. (CCC 153). We cannot obtain faith by our own efforts or merit. A faith in God comes from God; he initiates the faith relationship and every step in that relationship.
But faith always remains a choice we make. When we choose to trust in God and believe in what he reveals to us, we exercise our freedom. Our minds and wills freely cooperate with God's grace. Faith is not and can never be an act coerced by God or others.
Faith and understanding are compatible because:
1) Faith is certain. We have complete trust God will help us through times of doubt.
2) Faith seeks understanding. In faith, we seek reasonable answers to life's problems and the troubles of the world. We also seek a deeper awareness of God acting in the world.
3) Faith and science are compatible. Since science and revelation have their source in the same God, scientific study carried out in an ethical manner cannot conflict with faith. Indeed, study can cause the same awe and humility in the scientist as reflection on creation causes in the believer.
It is impossible to have a relationship with God without faith. In the same vein, we cannot grow closer to God without perseverance; just as in human relationships, trust can never be lax. With perseverance, we have hope, for we are supported by others and we see the goal of faith. We can look to the witness of others for inspiration in times of trial. And, as we are drawn closer by God, we can see the goal of faith, to see God "face to face" "as he truly is" (CCC 163).
Have you seen God change someone for the better? What sort of changes came about? How was faith involved?
John's gospel presents us with a challenge. Are we willing to be changed for the sake of faith? Are we willing to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be?
The man born blind gained true sight, simply because he was willing to be changed. Like the man born blind, we, too, must have open eyes and an open heart, a willingness to let God change us.
How has God changed you in the past? What sort of change is God calling you to now?