The first (and last!) horror movie I ever watched was “Wait Until Dark.” I was ten. I will never forget the way Audrey Hepburn, blind and alone in her apartment, evened the score against the men trying to find her by breaking the light bulbs one by one … then her helpless panic when she heard the refrigerator door open and knew that in its light, she was lost. I had nightmares for weeks, imagining myself lost and blind and unable to hide.
Turning on the lights won’t help the blind. And as much as you might strain your eyes against the darkness — without light, no eyes are good enough to see.
This Sunday’s gospel (John 9:1-41) shows us both types of blindness. It’s an interesting story, much longer than the account of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10 or the one of the blind man who sees “men like trees, walking” before his sight is fully restored in Mark 8. While the point of those seems to be simply that Jesus heals, this astonishing miracle (whenever has someone received sight who was born blind?) comes across more as a vehicle for a debate. Is Jesus holy or a sinner? Is he of God, or not? What do we make of him?
The blind man’s neighbors have eyes, but aren’t sure of what they see. His parents see, but are afraid to admit it. The Pharisees see, but refuse to believe. They all remain in the dark, spiritually speaking. Only the blind man receives both sight and light and thus truly sees, and believes, and worships.
We are all blind beggars, without God. Everyone in this story is blind in some way at the start, but not all know it until Jesus comes along. The light of his presence exposes their true state. “I came into this world for judgment,” he tells the man at the end; “so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
This is where we stand now at the 4th Sunday of Lent. In previous weeks, we have seen Jesus confront the devil and we’ve seen him transfigured. We’ve seen him offer living water to the woman at the well. And now, as we turn the corner and head toward the cross, we’re faced with a choice. “The true light that enlightens every man” has come into the world (see John 1:9). As his light shines on us at Easter: how will we respond to what we see? Will we let him touch our eyes? Will we go to him who God has sent (Siloam means “Sent” – that’s pointed out for a reason!) to be cleansed of our sin?
It’s interesting to note that the blind man received sight only after he responded in faith. Jesus applied mud to his eyes, but the man had to find his way to Siloam and wash, before his eyes could see. And then he had to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, to gain his spiritual sight. Jesus does not force his healing on us.
What difference should this make for me?
The Church Fathers saw this miracle as symbolizing baptismal cleansing and regeneration. But we, the already-baptized, must also take care not to turn back toward the darkness. “Now that you share in God’s own nature,” we’re warned in Catechism No. 1691, “do not return to your former base condition by sinning …. Never forget you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the kingdom of God.”
The story of Jesus and the blind man helps us remember both the darkness we’ve been rescued from and the light to which we’ve been called. We have come to the 4th Sunday, Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “Rejoice!” — “to be light-hearted.” Half-way through the darkness of Lent, it reminds us of the light that has come into the world. On Sunday, the priests’ vestments will be rose—the color of dawn and promise. On Sunday, we will hear how Jesus brought light to the blind man. We will lift our hearts and remember that the Cross we are marching toward, with the Lord, leads to light and life and glory.
© 2017 Sarah Christmyer
Two years ago, the OT readings during Lent traced through the covenants God made with Israel. You might be interested in reading the post I wrote for Laetare Sunday, 2015.
Join me in a conversation about the Sunday readings of Lent: friend and message me on facebook and ask to join the group “40 Days in the Bible.”
Download my free reading plan and checklist and reflect on the Lenten Sunday readings throughout the following week. You’ll find instructions and the download here.
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