A Reflection on Jn 9:1-41
By Fr. Ric Chinchilla, CJM
Before we start:
Lately, coronavirus has been in every headline through online and printed news. The coronavirus brings us before one of the crosses that human beings have to face throughout our lives: the cross of disease. A cross that can disrupt all stages of existence: personal, familial, social, and even the global stage, as is happening now. We all react differently depending on how close it is to each one of us: work, loneliness, revenue, family loss, stress, disconnection, and misunderstanding, etc.
The gospel this weekend provides hints of the Christian perspective of transformation; Christians as a work in progress.
Though the reading is lengthy (chapter 9 of the Gospel of John), let's aim for a few points of inspiration.
1.- In our reading (verse 1), Jesus sees a blind man; there is a qualification to it; he has been blind from birth. The disciples somehow know this detail, and immediately try to find a reason for his situation.
They ask Jesus: "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (verse 2); with this question, they transpire their basic knowledge: any infirmity is the result of sin, in the case of the blind man from birth, the religious leaders can even say: he sinned in his mother's womb (a callous point of view).
Jesus doesn't answer the question but starkly says stop speculating; don't look for a cause, instead discover in him, his way to salvation. God is always at work. Therefore, God has the last word; he still has to work in him.
We might witness uncalled suffering, and we might not be able to explain, but Jesus says: "This is so that the works of God might be made visible through him"
Therefore, whatever the emotional place where you find yourself today, is not the end of the journey, it is an opportunity for God to act. Hopefully, we will allow him.
2.- DEPENDING ON WHAT LIGHT YOU USE, THINGS MIGHT LOOK VERY DIFFERENT.
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Jesus is the lens through which circumstances acquire sudden clarity, a bigger perspective, and a purpose.
During the transfiguration (two Sundays ago), the light of day seemed dull in comparison to Jesus' light; the reading says: "his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light."
The disciples were able to see something extraordinary, the divine glory shining in Jesus, and also, they see Moses and Elijah with him as if all the ancient history of Israel perfectly makes sense altogether when the light of Jesus shines through.
We all have the gift of sight, but not everything is evident to the naked believer's eye. The light of Jesus lets us grasp the world with a divine touch, and the physical blindness in this gospel is not the end, it still has more to reveal.
Let us bring that to our lives: What's the light by which you judge the daily events in your life? What Godly paths do you discover? Or how much stress your perspective and judgment can bring?
3.- WHO AM I NOW? VS I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS !!
"He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva and smeared the clay on his eyes."
This clay on his eyes could make us remember the creation of Adam in the book of Genesis.
In our case, it is not the initial creation; the blind man is already a creation of God, but now with the clay on his eyes, Jesus is revealing that he is a work in progress.
His present blindness is not the end (it never was); Jesus will catapult him to take the next step.
The letter to the Ephesians 4:5-7 says: "There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all, and within all. The grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."
Therefore, you and I still have a long way to go; we are Godly work in progress.
4.- YOU ARE STILL BLIND AND HAVE CLAY ON YOUR EYES,
HOWEVER, GO ALONE AND LOOK FOR THE POOL OF SILOAM
"Go and Wash in the Pool of Siloam."
And a further note is added: "Siloam means: Sent."
So now this man has a mission and has been sent to fulfill it; Jesus did not take him; he has to go by himself (the grace is already in him). He washes, and he is able to regain his sight.
We have to be careful not call to him "the blind-man" anymore; now, he is "the man with a mission."
5.- I AM STILL ME, BUT DIFFERENT !
"Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is", "but others said, "No, he just looks like him."
Suddenly he is unrecognizable; he is still the same man, but now he can see.
What happened from the moment where Jesus touched his eyes until this present moment?
Well, Jesus sent him, and the so-called "blind man" moved on.
This small action has rendered him an ultimately growing disciple. He would have never done this before; he was predictable and stationary; now is progressing because he has believed. He has dramatically developed after his encounter with Jesus.
We witnessed the same situation with Saint Paul, his whole perspective of life got the right lens, and he marveled at the possibilities when Ananias prayed over him: "Things like scales fell off his eyes." (acts 9:18)
After that experience, he matured and grew; and was never the same person again.
Are you feeling stuck? Same place different challenges, we need to adapt to a growing self (to grow spiritually, you need a direction, establish a spiritual plan, enumerate the necessary steps to get there and get going).
6.- WHEN GOD KNOCKS AT YOUR DOOR AND YOU RESPOND: COME BACK SOME OTHER DAY, I AM BUSY PRAYING.
"This man is not from God because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said, "How can a sinful man do such signs?" (verse 16)
Here we have two opposing opinions; they see the same case: the blind man is healed, but their conclusions differ diametrically.
What's happening here? This is a repeat of point 2.
Which knowledge are they using to shed light on understanding this case?
The religious leaders, whose words are the practice guidelines on how religion works in Jerusalem, cannot fathom that God can work outside their control; Jesus is too unpredictable and doesn't follow them. Therefore, he cannot be right.
It is sad, but they feel that God has to comply with them and act only inside their parameters; their light of understanding is, in reality, "Darkness."
The second group has a light of shimmering hope; they understand that evil doesn't do good things. Therefore, the hand of God is here; they are not far from the kingdom of God.
7.- EVEN THOUGH YOU NEVER SAW ME, YOU DID WHAT I ASKED YOU.
In verse 37, Jesus said to the formerly blind man: "You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
This last point speaks very loudly. The former blind-man, in reality, never saw Jesus. Jesus applied the clay and sent him, never went with him, so the man never knew his likeness.
Now that he has the light of Christ and also, he has moved on exponentially (he was not afraid in front of the temple leaders and even testified boldly that Jesus must've been a prophet).
He is not the same man as before, and at this point, it is the time to put a face to his experience, what he believed with his heart; now, it is complete in the person of Jesus Christ; he has been born again.
The text goes like this:
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
He answered and said,
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus said to him,
"You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he."
He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
8.- HOW MUCH CLAY DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SEE YOU, LORD ?
Under what light are you living your daily joys, stress with family, obligations, fear of financial distress, and the things that only you consider in your heart, and only God knows.
Embracing reality with a touch of spirituality leaves us with a longing to be able to do more.
Reflecting on the word of God doesn't produce a "what to do manual."
To pray, to serve, to be instruments of peace, for ourselves and those around us will come in different shapes and forms as we reflect on this scripture.
One thing is sure we will have to rename the blind man, and we also will have to rename you.
With God's call for you in these extraordinary world circumstances. Who do you see in the mirror? And, who do you think Jesus is asking you to be?
Would you allow him to put some clay in your eyes?
We finish with the words of Mary to the Angel Gabriel: Lord, let it be done to me according to your words.