John 9:1-41
Blinded to the Light by Rev. Paul Saclia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.  We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.  Night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent –.  So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”  Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”  He said, “I am.”  So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”  He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went there and washed and was able to see.”  And they said to him, “Where is he?”  He said “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.  Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath.  So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.  He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”  So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.”  But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?”  And there was a division among them.  So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?”  He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.  They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?  How does ne now see?”  His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.  Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.”  Has parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.  For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a 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 replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know.  One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”  So they said to him, “What did he do to you?  How did he open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you want to become his disciples, too?”  They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”  The man answered and said them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.  It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”  They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?”  Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”  He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.  Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sins; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”

The man born blind had a certain advantage over the Pharisees.  Of course, in the natural order he was at a great disadvantage.  He suffered the disability of blindness, with all its attendant challenges and difficulties.  He had to endure the flawed theology that saw a one-for-one connection between blindness and sin.  If he was blind, it must be because of sin on his own part or that of his parents.  Thus upon seeing him, the disciples ask Our Lord, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn 9:2)  The Pharisees would scorn him saying, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" (Jn 9:34)

In the supernatural order, however, he had a great advantage.  Simply put, he knew he was blind.  He understood very well that he was in need of assistance.  He had no delusions of adequacy.  He would not presume to exalt himself over and above others.  Worse than being blind would be to think that you are not.  And he did not suffer that mistake.  His disability reminded him (painfully, to be sure) of his need for help.  Thus it became the portal, the avenue of God's grace and healing.  Had he denied his blindness, God's grace would have had no opening.  He knew his blindness and could thus recognize the Light of the World. (cf. Jn 9:5)

The blind man anticipates St. Paul's words: "When I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10)  It is the acknowledgement of weakness, of wounds and of disabilities (of all varieties) that opens us to the power of God's grace.  Without the acknowledgement, there is no openness.  Without the openness, God's grace cannot enter.  The recognition of our weakness allows God's strength - so much superior to our own - to enter.

The Pharisees, unlike the man born blind, could not see their weakness.  Their pride blinded them to their sin.  The man born blind knew he could not see ... and that enabled him to see.  The Pharisees thought that they could see ... and that blinded them to Jesus Christ.  The latter situation is the worse.  Blindness to the truth means to lose one's way.  Denial of such blindness is to lose one's compass.  And such was the fate of the Pharisees.  They did not see the truth ... but thought that they did.  So Our Lord rebukes them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains. (Jn 9:41)

Which is the greater flaw - to sin or to deny one's sin?  We all sin, but we do not all acknowledge our sins.  Those who labor under the burden of sin's pain have a keen awareness of their weakness and wounds ... and their need for a savior.  Only they will find Him.  The unrepentant, those who deny their sinfulness - who invent all sorts of excuses and rationalizations - they have n need of a savior.  And they will not find Him, or receive Him when He comes.  They have lost not only their way but also their compass.

We do not want to become like the Pharisees, blind to our own sins - blind, in effect, to our blindness.  We want to know our sins so that we can find forgiveness for them, so that those open wounds become portals of grace.  Thus a great Lenten practice is to ask God to convict us of our sins.  No, it is not an easy or comfortable thing to do.  But holiness never is.  God knows our sins better than we do.  Let us ask Him to reveal them to us, so that we can also find in them the opportunity to receive His grace and healing.

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