Veronica Lawson RSM
Last week, we journeyed with the woman of Samaria from bewilderment to deep insight into Jesus’ identity and mission and to a strong personal faith commitment. This week, we are invited on a faith journey with a man born blind and with the varying groups of participants in the drama. All have the opportunity of coming to faith.. Ironically, the blind come to see, both physically and spiritually, while those who are gifted with physical sight remain in spiritual darkness.
In healing the man born blind, Jesus performs the sixth of eight powerful actions or “signs” in John’s gospel that reveal God’s power at work in Jesus and in the lives of those who seek life. The “signs” invite the reader/hearer/viewer to accept Jesus and his revelation of God and God’s purposes.
Time features significantly in the story. Jesus heals the blind beggar on the Sabbath. The Jerusalem authorities have already raised objections about Jesus’ Sabbath healing activity (John 5). Once again they object that he is failing to observe the Sabbath. They label him a sinner. Ironically, in the final authoritative analysis, it is they who “remain in their sins”.
This story reminds us of the need to check our assumptions and, if necessary, to revise our thinking and action. It also reminds us to accept the fact that we can be wrong about things we have always believed. It invites us to be open to seeing differently or from a new perspective. Jesus’ disciples, the parents of the man born blind, his neighbours, the religious authorities all operate out of unchecked assumptions. They mostly come to the wrong conclusions. Only those willing to admit that they have it wrong have any chance of coming to faith. In the present political climate in my country, admitting that one “got it wrong” seems to be anathema. And yet, from a gospel perspective, it is a sign of real strength.
In the common estimation, the man was blind, so he or his parents must have sinned. Not so, according to Jesus. From the perspective of the authorities, Jesus heals on the Sabbath and is therefore a sinner. Not so, from Jesus’ point of view. The man was born blind and so needs others to speak for him. Not so, say his parents, he can speak for himself. He does speak for himself and quite eloquently, to the chagrin of the religious authorities. He presents them with the truth about Jesus but they refuse to accept the word of an outcast. Their reaction is violent: they drive him out. But Jesus goes in search of him and leads him to yet deeper levels of faith and understanding. You may like to read the story once more and put yourself in the place of the different characters. There is a little bit of each character in every one of us.