Homily for the fourth Sunday of Lent - Year A - Jn. 9:1-41
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, «Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?» Jesus answered, «It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.»
" As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, «Go, wash in the pool of Siloam» (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
" The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, «Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?» Some said, «It is he»; others said, «No, but he is like him.» He said, «I am the man.» They said to him, «Then how were your eyes opened?» He answered, «The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight.» They said to him, «Where is he?» He said, «I do not know.»
" They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, «He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.» Some of the Pharisees said, «This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.» But others said, «How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?» There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, «What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?» He said, «He is a prophet.»
" The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, «Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?» His parents answered, «We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.» His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, «He is of age, ask him.»
" So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, «Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.» He answered, «Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.» They said to him, «What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?» He answered them, «I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?»
" And they reviled him, saying, «You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.» The man answered, «Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.» They answered him, «You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?» And they cast him out.
" Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, «Do you believe in the Son of man?» He answered, «And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?» Jesus said to him, «You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.» He said, «Lord, I believe»; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, «For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.» Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, «Are we also blind?» Jesus said to them, «If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.» "
From time to time, I ask myself this question: why is it that today the sciences are so evolved and complex and that so many people want to acquire this scientific knowledge, while the state of religious knowledge is often absurdly low in many of our contemporaries? Human science and religion are not opposed to each other: they complete each other, and they must seek to complete each other. Not that human science will tell us who God is, or that religion will teach us how combustion engines or computers work... But the human sciences should provide religion with methodologies, while the latter should set up guardrails against scientific experimentation run amok.
We might think that we are far removed from the gospel of this fourth Sunday of Lent, dedicated to the miraculous healing of a man blind from birth. And yet, looking closer, we see that the theme that is woven throughout this gospel is that of knowledge, whether scientific or religious. If we take a look at the full version of this gospel from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which can be found above, we find eleven occurences of the expressions "to know" or "to not know", always in the present tense: "I do not know"; "We know that"; "we do not know"; "nor do we know"; "we know that"; "I do not know"; "one thing I know"; "We know that God"; "we do not know where"; "You do not know"; "We know that".
So why does Jesus perform such a miracle? Why does he give sight, not just to a man, but to a man who has never had sight (for this man has never seen, being blind from birth)? Simply because Jesus wants us to make us understand that he alone, because he is the Light of the world, can give true vision to man, the true vision that is the vision of faith! For faith is truly vision, an anticipated vision of the future Glory of Heaven, a vision reduced to a luminous point lost in the obscurity of this fleeting and transitory world...
Throughout this gospel of the man blind from birth, no one knows who Jesus is, apart from the disciples of the Lord. The man blind from birth, once healed, thinks that Jesus is a prophet, a prophet speaking in the name of God, and he even ventures to say so. Certain Pharisees ask themselves questions, but none of them seem convinced. In fact, everyone is afraid, afraid of being ejected from the synagogue, and above all afraid of this supernatural being who, because he is above nature, is unknown to us... Only the formerly blind man is not afraid: does he not go so far as to dare to invite the Pharisees to become disciples of Jesus?
He who has gained his sight is not afraid. Why? Because, in his body, he has already experienced, in a way, that vision of God that would then give him faith: by seeing through the eyes of the body, the formerly blind man already feels that sweet trust that the loving faith that joins us to the almighty Lord provides. Even if the formerly blind man does not know and does not yet believe that it was God who healed him, he cannot fail to experience in himself the simple fact of seeing, of exercising his sense of vision: this simple fact banishes all fear from him!
The man blind from birth saw and believed. The Apostle Thomas saw and believed. And Jesus says to us now: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!" (Jn. 20:29) For it is faith that gives vision, and not vision that gives faith. Already, like Mary, and with Her, we see, through faith, that point of Light, which grows little by little, until the Day of Eternity when Jesus will appear in the Light of Glory! Amen!