The doctor with whom I spend the most time is by far and away the dentist. But running a close second is the ophthalmologist or eye doctor. I have had two cataract surgeries and take eye drops for a pre-glaucoma condition. The thought of ever losing my eyesight is harrowing. I read a great deal and for that the eyes are absolutely necessary. Even up to eighty years ago, conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts would have rendered a person blind because no cure had been discovered. You and I are very fortunate to live in an age when medical intervention for these conditions exists – something our ancestors could only have dreamed about.
Today’s lengthy Gospel excerpt from St. John narrates the cure of a man “blind from birth”. Handicaps such as this were thought to be the result of sinfulness on the part of the victim or his ancestors. Jesus teaches otherwise. Jesus has told His disciples that He is the light of the world and then He transforms that metaphor into a physical reality by giving sight to the blind man. To effect the change He uses mud and saliva that were often used in ancient cures. It is important to note that the blind man had not asked to be cured but Jesus’ compassion impels Him to intervene on the man’s behalf.
The cure provides Jesus with the opportunity to speak of another sort of blindness – spiritual blindness. Jesus had healed on the Sabbath and for many Pharisees this action broke the commandment of abstaining from all work on the Lord’s Day. They fail to see that Jesus is performing a work of God on God’s Day! Rather they are hung up on their very strict interpretation of the Law.
That lack of spiritual vision and true enlightenment is on display in the first reading taken from the Old Testament book of Samuel. Samuel had already anointed Saul as the first king of a united Israel but that had not turned out so well. Now God calls him to anoint Saul’s successor from among the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. True to form Samuel examines all the older sons of Jesse. Several of them are tall and robust, but “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” It is the youngest, a shepherd boy, who is chosen. That boy would be Israel’s greatest king, David! The Lord has warned Samuel: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”. This outlines the later faults of the Pharisees. They fail to look into the heart but are content with physical observance. The Lord said to Samuel “Do not judge from his appearance or lofty stature.”
In first century Palestine, the restoration of his sight enabled this man to become a full member of a society in which his worth as human being is now recognized so that he might no longer be treated as or feel like an outcast. In addition, his spiritual growth can be observed in his references to Jesus when questioned by the Pharisees. His responses are very similar to those of the Samaritan woman in last week’s Sunday Gospel. First, “this man, named Jesus”; then “he is Prophet” and finally “I do believe, Lord”.
This miracle affirms Christ’s power to transform those who are wounded, broken or living in darkness. It is a metaphor for the spiritual light Jesus brings. In the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, during the first creation account, God speaks: “Let there be light.” That sentence finds complete fulfillment in Jesus the Christ. The world in its truest dimensions is seen through the lens of Christ. We must see the world differently. We must see it as flowing from the hands of a loving Creator, a Creator willing to do virtually anything to have us share His life. Jesus is sent into this world as “a light in the darkness” to manifest our true destiny and the proper way in which to live our lives as daughters and sons of a loving Father. By being identified with Jesus at Baptism it is our task to make that light shine now through our own words and actions.
Monsignor John A. McGuirl