Having faith in the dark times
19 March, 2023 4th Sunday Lent, Year A
Listen to reflection
At the end of his gospel, Saint John reminds us that he has had to be selective in what he’s told us, and that what he has recorded is there so that we might “believe that Jesus is the Christ”, and that by believing, we might have life through his name.
The story that John uses of the healing of a blind man is described in much more graphic detail than any accounts of similar cures in the gospels and is a perfect illustration of how John is seeking to ensure that we get the message in all its depth and complexity. The context is his recurring theme of Jesus as the light of the world. Blind people are in the dark and there are many people in this story who are in the dark.
To begin with, the disciples themselves are still burdened with the old notion that our infirmities must be the consequence of sin, either the blind man’s sins or those of his parents. Jesus dispels this idea immediately and invites us to open our eyes to a much bigger picture in which we will see “the works of God” displayed.
But Jesus is confronted with obstinacy on the part of the religious authorities and fear on the part of the man’s parents. Accordingly, each of them is rendered blind, unable to see the truth before their very eyes.
One of the fascinating aspects of this story is that Jesus does not demand an act of faith from the man before he cures him; he simply asks him to co-operate by washing the paste from his eyes. Now this man becomes the vehicle through whom John will teach us in whom we should put our faith. After all the interrogations and investigations are over, Jesus seeks the man out and asks him if he believes in “the Son of Man”?
Assured by the Lord that he can now see him, the blind man has no hesitation in saying: “Lord, I believe,” and then worships him. Later in the gospel, we see a comparable call to faith when Jesus confronts Martha after the death of her brother, Lazarus. “I am the resurrection … Do you believe this?”
She replies: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.”
The blind, like many others, were the outcasts at that time. Jesus had come to reach out to them and fulfil the message of the prophets: the outcasts would be cured and welcomed into the community at the expense of those who wielded power for their own ends. There are still many outcasts in our world today and it is the mission of the disciples of Jesus to speak out against the injustices that keep them imprisoned and to set them free so they can give glory to God.
Timothy J Buckley CSsR
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