Today we celebrate Laetare Sunday, Laetare meaning Rejoice; We look ahead in joyful hope to what awaits – the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel, the healing of the man born blind invites us to focus on the physical and spiritual aspects of sight and light. Jesus and his followers come upon a man blind from birth, and he is asked, what sin caused the man to be this way? Jesus does not answer directly, but instead gives the question an entirely different dimension—through this man’s disability, God’s power will be made manifest. Jesus then heals the man. For the blind man, it is a moment of enlightenment that takes him out of his darkness, sorrow, pain, or whatever it happens to be, and lifts him up so that he can walk freely and become a full person and love and care and reach out. What is important here is not just the restoration of sight but the reshaping of the man as his disciple. The man born blind gradually comes to a greater understanding about who Jesus is and what it means to be his disciple, while the Pharisees (those who should see) are the ones who remain blind.
The importance of having not just eyesight but spiritual vision and true enlightenment is underscored in the first reading, when Samuel is cautioned not to see as people see, but as God sees. Light is also a key image in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, when he remarks “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” Paul 5:8: following which he exhorts them to live as “children of the light.” The most important part of light is, it gives us the ability to see. Studies have shown that about eighty percent of everything we learn, all of our memories come through our eyes. What we grasp, what we understand and what we know to be real is very often rooted in what we can see. To be unable to see suggests that our ability to understand is at least incomplete if not flawed. To see fully – at least from a physiological perspective demands light. Light does more than dispel shadows; it also adds colour. A life of blindness, can have a profound impact on mental health, frequently leading to depression, anxiety, fear and. social isolation.
When Jesus enters the scene and meets the man born blind, he shows in a powerful and dramatic way what it means when he announces that he is the “Light of the World.” In giving this man his sight, Jesus does more than restore one of his senses; he also gives him the ability to understand more fully, and literally to have a vision of the world around him. Giving him vision also gives him the power to discern colour and new complexities revealed through sight. In scattering the darkness that has overwhelmed this man from birth, Jesus also potentially dispels his fear of the unknown and isolation and makes it possible for him to have his dignity restored, not that his dignity was under question in the eyes of God, but like the prophet Samuel in the first reading, too often we do not see as God sees. In the context of first century Palestine, to restore his sight was to give him the means for the first time in his life, to become part of a society now enabled to recognize his worth as a human being, so that he might no longer be treated as or feel like an outcast.
Bringing light, Jesus brings clarity, understanding and truth. God’s first recorded words ”Let there be Light” at the opening of the book of Genesis find their ultimate meaning in Jesus Christ. As the lens of the eye helps focus light and sharpen what we are able to see. In a similar way, when we perceive life through the Christ-lens we see the world differently. There are times we are all blind to God’s will as it was with Samuel in the first reading. Spiritual blindness is a dwelling in darkness. Let us open our eyes and respond to Paul’s invitation – “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Eph:5;14. The Light of the World, brings light to a man born blind. If we are prepared to accept it, we are that man born blind, for all of us were born blind and in darkness. It was our baptism alone, and the faith it gave us, that has rendered us able to see, and to come more fully into the light.
May the Lord continue to enhance our spiritual eyesight, so that we can see more clearly our iniquities of bias and judgmental attitudes in order to transform ourselves and walk with others towards eternal life. Today, as we sit at the Pool of Siloam in this Eucharistic celebration, with hearts of repentance, let our prayer be like the prayer of the blind man in Lk 18:41; “Lord, that I may see again,” and live in Christ the light of our salvation.
Mairead Morrissey, OP