FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
“The man went and washed, and came back able to see.” The words from John’s gospel are as always simple and straightforward but again they describe a profound reality. Like every preacher or commentator, I am inclined to say about the gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Lent, that it needs no words of mine to explore its riches. Yet, like every preacher and commentator, the temptation is to go on and on commentating on it. Really, the whole story of the Incarnation is contained and symbolized in this passage, and we would do well to read it again and again and to ponder over and pray about each phrase of the passage.
Each of the readings of this Sunday complements one another. If we were to focus on the first reading from the First Book of Samuel, about the anointing of David, we might pause at the phrase, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” In the gospel the focus is also on the human inability to really see, unless the Lord washes our eyes and gives us true vision; a vision that enables us to see the way God sees. Also notice the same emphasis in the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, “… you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” The emphasis here seems to be, not that we can’t see, or that we live in darkness, but more startlingly, that we “were darkness” before our baptism, before our conversion to God, but we are now “light of the Lord.”
In meditating on John’s gospel we need to remind ourselves of the way that John deals with a topic or event. For example, when Mark wants to deal with a blind man seeing, he does it in the “blink of an eye.” But if we recall last week’s account of the woman at the well, we recall that John takes his time in telling and developing a story. He also places more emphasis on what follows the miracle, on the consequences of the coming to another kind of sight. The miracle is a stage-setter, a sign of something deeper going on here. The blind man’s recovery unfolds, he becomes enlightened in stages. Also, in John, Jesus often is the one to take the initiative. In the other gospels, people ask to be cured! In John, God is revealed as the one who sees our need before we even ask for help, or before we are even aware of our need.
John’s gospel reminds us of what it is to be Christian and what it is to live in a world that is often in opposition to Christian values. At one time we sat in darkness, and did not even know we were blind. We thought we were “seeing” and made decisions crucial to our lives, based on that “seeing.” God, who works even on the Sabbath, saw our situation, and before we even thought of asking for help, came to heal us. He touched our eyes. And now, with a new vision, we do not fit-in comfortably in the world. We see this with the blind man who was cured. When he returned to his community with his new vision, he was the cause of division and conflict. The blind man was forever changed. He had washed in the pool. The encounter with Jesus had changed his life. John was writing his gospel at a time when the followers of Jesus were being excluded from the synagogues and from their communities because of “seeing” Jesus. The leaders of the synagogues, the ones who claimed to be able to “see”, were blind to what God was doing in their midst. As we watch the story of the blind man, we see what it meant for the Christians of the time when John wrote his gospel. We also see how it applies to us today. The times and events are different. But it is the same God who helps us to see. In our time, the world is equally opposed to that vision.
The name of the pool, “Siloam,” means “sent.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus is often referred to as the “Sent One.” He is also referred to as ‘Light”. Bathing in the pool of Siloam is a reference to Baptism, and the pool refers to Jesus. Bathing in Jesus was John’s way of thinking about baptism. And the one who is baptized in Jesus is also one who is sent out to bring the light of Jesus, and the vision of Jesus, to a world that is blind and to a world that is in darkness.
# Clipart: Courtesy of – ‘Hermano Leon Clipart’ (Hemanoleon Clipart).