Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.
On this fourth Sunday of Lent, we contemplate Christ the light of the world. Last Sunday, the readings prepared us for the sacrament of baptism ideally administered on the paschal night; today, we are being prepared to welcome Christ the Light who is symbolized by the paschal candle on Holy Saturday.
Human beings relate to light ambivalently. When we are awake and busy, we want light; when we go to bed we prefer darkness. When we do something praiseworthy, we want to stand in the light for everybody to see; when we do something shameful, we call upon darkness to cover our shame. There are things about ourselves we want to publish on social media, but there are things about our lives that we would rather keep in the darkness of secrecy. At least we have a choice between darkness and light.
Not the man born blind whom Jesus encounters in today’s gospel. He couldn’t choose light or darkness, to see or not to see. He lived in the darkness of blindness all the time. He could hear sounds and voices. He could hear people marvel at the beauty of creation and the magnificence of the Temple, but he could not even imagine what beauty looked like (for he had no images to start with). He could hear the splattering sound of raindrops but had no idea what rain looked like. He could feel the warmth of the sun but had no idea how sunshine or blue skies looked like. His life was limited in many ways.
Then Jesus comes along and removes the veil that prevented the blind man from accessing the ‘holy of holies’ of the beauty of God’s creation! Some people have noticed that the words ‘veil’ and ‘evil’ have exactly the same letters arranged slightly differently! The veil of blindness portends the evil of darkness and death, prejudice and bigotry.
Of old, God created Adam out of clay and breathed into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). Jesus does something similar to the blind man: Jesus takes clay, ‘breathes’ saliva into it and smears the paste on the blind man’s eyes. In biblical thinking, saliva is breath in liquid form. The parallels between the creation of Adam and the healing of the blind man suggest that the healing of the blind man is in fact a new creation – a transformation from death to life. Now he can see the blessed one – Jesus, Light from Light, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the Temple more glorious than the Jerusalem temple. Jesus is the first person the blind man sees. He sees Jesus even before he sees his mother. Only then can he see himself aright. Only then can he recognise his mother and father, the people around him and the creation. The lesson is clear: to see the world aright, we have to see it in and through God.
The story of the election of David provides a powerful illustration of the importance of letting God heal our vision. Samuel is sent to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel’s king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel’s eyes fall on Eliab, but God tells Samuel not to “judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature”. God’s choice falls on an unlikely candidate: the youngest of Jesse’s sons. Indeed, “not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart” (1Samuel 16; first reading). God’s way of seeing is a far cry from our world’s obsession with external appearances driving the fashion industry, which risks turning human beings into speechless mannequins pandering to the fleeting tastes of insatiable patrons.
By accepting the person and the Good News of Jesus, we were freed from the veil of distorted vision, the veil that prevented us from seeing the glory of God in the temple of our lives and in creation. Confined to this darkness, we engaged in all manner of shameful acts. But now that, through baptism, we have received Christ the Light of the world, we are invited to “live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5; second reading). Exercising our baptismal prophetic function, we are called to expose “fruitless works of darkness”. We have to expose acts of corruption and abuse of human rights so that everything done in secret may be exposed by the light of the Gospel.
Today, let us humble ourselves before Jesus and implore him to touch the eyes of our faith, so that we may see as God wants us to see. Let us ask the Lord to tear down the different veils that prevent us from seeing God’s goodness in our own lives, in the lives of others and in the entire creation. Let us say to Jesus, “Lord Jesus, open the eyes of my faith so I can truly see you! Amen”.