Testimony, par excellence- 4th Sunday of Lent – Year 1
John 9: 1-41
Today’s Gospel was intended for two audiences; Jesus’ audience, which by extension includes us, and the audience of John’s community. Just as there was a controversy in today’s gospel between the Pharisees in the story and Jesus, so also, the Christian community of John faced hostility. It was they who were expelled from the synagogues in the first century. This expulsion and its repercussions were ever present in the mind of the first century Christian, who until now, were still part of the synagogue service.
This expulsion from the synagogue is reflected twice in the narrative. The parents are afraid to testify to their son’s healing, lest they be expelled from the synagogue. Finally, the blind man is expelled himself, because he takes on the Jewish establishment in favour of Jesus. This talk of expulsion would ring a bell in John’s first century Christian community.
So what’s at the heart of the gospel of the fourth Sunday of Lent? To understand it better, we need to place this narrative in it’s larger context. St. John’s gospel does not have ‘miracles’ as much as he has ‘signs’ (semia), whose purpose is to point to a greater reality. These signs teach us Christology or a deeper understanding into person, nature, and role of Christ.
The gospel of John places this sign of the blind man’s healing in a larger setting. In Chapter 7:14, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem, albeit late, somewhere in the middle of the Jewish feast of the tabernacles. On the last day of the feast, in 7:37, when the water was poured on the altar as part of the ritual, He declares Himself to be the source of ‘living water’.
The very next day He is back at the temple and they bring Him a woman caught in adultery, and this ends with another one of the famous “I am statements” where He declares that “before Abraham was, I am”. At this, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him. The stage is set for confrontation.
Leaving the temple, He sees the blind man. Ironically, the disciples make the blind man the point of discussion, and not a point of compassion. Sadly, while the blind man lived among them, his neighbours knew little about him or of him (Verses 8 and 9). The disciples wanted to know whose sin it was that caused his blindness-his or his parents? Behind this question was the Jewish mind-set, that any illness was caused due to sin; the fault being that of the parents or what was considered, pre-natal sin.
In Chapter 8:12 and now in 9:5, Jesus declares Himself to be ‘the light of the world’. This is the point of the Gospel of today. The gospel consists of 41 verses in which Jesus will use the words ‘blindness’ and ‘sight’ 24 times. In restoring the blind man’s sight, Jesus tackles the blindness of the Pharisees, caused by the sin of arrogance. The blind man grows in sight and insight; he calls Jesus a man, then a prophet, that He is from God and finally, the Son of Man.
So a blind man sees what the Pharisees failed to see. He can see clearly that Jesus ‘must be from God’, unlike the Pharisees who see Jesus as a sinner who breaks the Sabbath. This gospel then calls out to the twenty first century believer, to arrive like the blind man, to a ‘deeper understanding of Jesus and worship Him’.
While Nicodemus wanted “to know”, the Pharisees wanted “to see” (“give us a sign” they said). It is the blind man who “believed”. Lent is an invitation to ‘believe and worship the Lord.’ It is the Lord who seeks us at Lent. He saw the blind man first, and it is He who goes looking for him when He hears of the blind man’s expulsion from the synagogue. The response to the Lord’s seeking was entirely the blind man’s. He’ once was blind but now can see’.
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit
Fr Warner D’Souza may be contacted on whatsap on +91- 9820242151.
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