“Just because we have eyes does not mean we see.”
On this the fourth Sunday of Lent, we hear a poignant story about a man born blind who came to see and people who had eyes but could not see. But John did not compose this story as another simple account of a miraculous healing. It is the story of human redemption. It is your story and mine.
Here are my three practical implications.
What do we see?
The healing of the man born blind is one of those miracles in which Jesus takes the initiative. There are numerous healings in the gospels where people come and ask Jesus to heal them. That wasn’t the case here. Jesus’ saw the blind man and his disciples asked him the question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” What did the disciples see? They saw a blind man. What did society see? They saw a blind beggar. What did Jesus’ opponents see? They saw a sinner! What did Jesus see? Jesus saw a human person! Jesus saw God’s glory about to be manifest!
How society sees the most vulnerable person in society says a lot about society. How the Church sees the most vulnerable person in the world says a lot about the Church. How we see the most vulnerable person in our church, society, and world says a lot of about us. Someday, we will have to stand with the most vulnerable person in God’s presence. My hope is that when I stand with the most vulnerable people in God’s presence, I can honestly say that I saw him or her as Jesus sees them.
Who do we see?
At the beginning of story of the man born blind, the blind man sees nothing. He does not even know that the Savior of the world has cast his eyes upon him. He truly is blind. As the story progresses, from having his eyes opened, he gradually comes to see Jesus as the Messiah and makes a profession of faith. It was not an easy journey. He was opposed, threatened, and abandoned! He also saw Jesus being opposed, threatened, and plotted against. Yet, he comes to a faith conviction and confesses Jesus, saying, “I do believe, Lord.”
Just like last week’s story of the Samaritan woman, the story of the man born blind is a story of a faith-encounter. John’s purpose in writing the story is to inspire faith in his readers and ‘to see’ with eyes of faith. Reflect on your first encounter with Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was your First Holy Communion, or Confirmation, or a high school retreat, or some other event. How has your faith in Jesus developed, progressed, and grown since then? Who do we see? What is our faith confession?
How do we see?
There are different groups of people in the story of the man born blind. There were the disciples, there were the neighbors of the blind man, there were his parents, and finally, there were Jesus’ opponents. Each of these people saw Jesus from their own perspective. Finally, only the man healed of his blindness saw things the way they should be seen. Yes, he had regained his sight, but he was seeing from a very different place. His vision was clear. He saw in the way God wants us to see God and the world.
As we look at our world, our church, our society, we realize how complex and complicated reality has become. In such times we need a very clear vision. It is one thing to look at the world, the church, society, and Jesus with the eyes of the parents and the neighbors of the blind man, or the opponents, or even the disciples. It is quite another to develop a vision like the man who regained his sight. When he was first healed, he only saw Jesus with his physical eyes. By the end of the story he saw Jesus with a very different set of eyes. And that changed his entire perspective on life. Like the man born blind, these are times when we must look at the world, our church, and our loved ones with a very different set of eyes. Amidst the darkness, Jesus is our light. We must navigate through life like the man who was healed not only of his physical blindness but began to see with eyes of faith.
Let me end today’s homily with words from today’s second reading:
“Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:8-9).
Fr. Satish Joseph was ordained in India in 1994 and incardinated into the archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2008. He has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology from the University of Dayton. He is presently Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, OH. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries (www.itemissaest.org) and uses social media extensively for evangelization. He is also the founder of MercyPets (www.mercypets.org) — a charitable fund that invites pet-owners to donate a percent of their pet expenses to alleviate child hunger. MercyPets is active in four countries since its founding in December 2017. Apart from serving at the two parishes, he facilitates retreats, seminars and parish missions.