Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Our gospel tells the story of the man born blind.  On one level, it is the story of a particular blind begger that Jesus encounters. We do not know his name. We are told the story of his encounter with Jesus who heals him of his blindness, restores his sight, leads him from darkness to light.  It also tells the story of various people’s reactions to the miracle.

The story of the man born blind can also be read as the story of us.  Each one of us is the man, or woman, born blind.  We too are invited into this encounter with Jesus, are called to journey from darkness to light.  Each one of us are invited to walk together with the blind bigger on his journey to the light of faith.  Are we not told by Jesus that, “He was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him.’’ Not just back then, God’s work is still a being revealed in him.

In my imagination, I entered into this story and tried to allow it to become my story. I invite you to do the same.

I was born blind, for many years I groped around in the darkness trying to make sense of things, struggling to find my way. Just like the man in our story, people gave me coins, or food, a cane to help me walk and not bump into things.  But I did bump into things, lots of things, good and bad, and sometimes, they bumped into me.  Some of the things I bumped into caused me pain, others gave me pleasure or were a source of delight.  At other times, I was a source of delight or pain for others who were also trying to find their way in the dark.  Some of those I met along the way were able to give me in-sight, but not sight.  More like a spark of light, a flash of colour.  But to restore the sight of a person born blind; this is unheard of, impossible.  Somehow, the labyrinthine ways of my wandering, the long and winding road, found me in proximity to the temple in Jerusalem.  That’s when Jesus came along.  I wasn’t really expecting him.  Anyway, how could I even recognize him, since I didn’t have eyes that could see?  But I heard him call me over.  At first, I was reluctant to leave behind the thin blanket that was keeping me warm, and the few little coins that had come my way.  But I was hungry, and thought he might have some food.  Did I not hear someone call him, ‘the Bread of Life’.  Then I heard Jesus say, “As long as I’m in the world, I Am the Light of the World.’’ What is this thing called light, will it help me not bump around in the dark?  How can I know it, how could I, a man born blind, possibly see it, and see with it, with the poverty of these eyes?  Then Jesus did something really strange, he spit into some dirt, mixed water and earth like at the dawn of creation, and rubbed it on my dead eyes.  At first, I was uncertain, confused, afraid.  Then he said, “Go, wash in the pool of those who are sent.’’ My eyes hurt, so I went and did what he told me.  Apparently, it is painful for a person born blind, to learn how to see.

The story of the man born blind teaches us about our own story, about our own encounter with Christ, and how we move from initial encounter, to growth in commitment, and finally to missionary discipleship.  When specifically, does the man born blind receive his sight?  When in response to what Jesus does, and obedient to the word of Jesus, he ’goes and washes in the pool of ‘Siloam’, the pool of those who are Sent.  Does this not represent for us the waters of our baptism?  When in response to the human touch of the hand of Christ, and in obedience to his word, we, or, with our parents on our behalf, came to be Baptized in the waters of those who are sent.  The waters that by their very nature send us out to give testimony, to bear witness, to the one who restores our sight.

The man born blind, having his sight restored, living in the light of day, was not an easy task for him, and it will not be for us either.  Sometimes what we see cannot be trusted.  Seeing isn’t believing.  Lots of people in our story don’t believe their eyes.  Even after the man born blind tells them; ‘I am he’, the same guy who was begging for alms over there.  Some of them say ‘He is not the same guy, only someone who looks like him’.  Even after his parents testified, ‘yes, this is our son, and yes, he was born blind’, there are still people that don’t want to believe in what their eyes are seeing.

So, ‘Seeing is not Believing’, but rather, ‘Believing is Seeing’.  The man born blind believes in Jesus and acts on his saving word.  And the light comes on.  As St. Paul says in our second reading, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light’’.  The man born blind in our story is transformed from being a timid beggar living in darkness, challenged by the incredulity, the doubt, of those who say they can see, to being a bold disciple of Jesus, eager to proclaim the good news of the one who has healed him in the living waters of those who are sent.  So where does that leave us? We who are also born blind. May our response to the gift of our Baptism be the same as the man born blind. “Lord, I believe…and he worshiped him’’.