Spiritual Blindness

Scripture Reading

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 he 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.”
His 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 to 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 to 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,
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 sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
(John 9:1-41)

Scripture Study

9:2 Rabbi, who sinned …?: Sickness was thought to be a direct consequence of sin (Job 31:3; Ps 107:17). Responsibility for physical ailments was imputed either to one’s parents (Tob 3:3) or to the earliest period of one’s life, since certain rabbis taught that infants could sin before birth (9:34). Jesus does not deny the principle that sickness is brought on by sin, but that a personal link can be established in every case.

9:3 the works of God: The man’s blindness was part of the providential plan of God (11:4). Giving physical sight to the blind is a sign that Jesus gives us spiritual sight to see earth in light of heaven, time in light of eternity, and our lives in light of our destiny.

9:5 I am the light: Jesus is the source of all truth, faith, and life (1:9; 14:6; 18:37). See note on Jn 8:12.

9:6 made clay of the spittle: The use of common materials to serve a holy purpose anticipates Jesus’ institution of the seven sacraments. See note on Mk 6:56.

9:7 Go, wash: Recalls the miracle of Elisha in 2 Kings 5:10–14. ● Elisha commanded Naaman the Syrian to “go and wash” in the Jordan River to be restored to health. the pool of Siloam: A rock-hewn reservoir in the southern district of ancient Jerusalem. The pool was built by King Hezekiah to serve as a water supply for the city (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron 32:30). ● The miracle anticipates the administration of Baptism, where catechumens are washed (9:7) in water, anointed (9:6) with oil, and enlightened with grace and truth (9:5; Eph 1:18; Heb 6:4; CCC 1216).

9:11 The man called Jesus: The perception of Jesus deepens as the story unfolds: here he is a “man”; by verse 9:17 he is a “prophet”; by 9:33 he is “from God”; and by 9:38 he is the “Lord” worthy of worship. The narrative challenges our minds to make the same conclusion and our hearts to make the same response.

9:14 sabbath day: Instead of rejoicing with the man cured of blindness, the Pharisees haggle over the supposed illegality of the miracle on the sacred day of rest.

9:19 Is this your son …?: The testimony of the man’s parents would be the most credible of all since they would have known him from birth (9:20).

9:22 put out of the synagogue: i.e., excommunicated from the fellowship and worship of the Jews (Ezra 10:8). This was a frightful prospect for many Jewish Christians in the early Church (12:42; 16:2).

9:24 Give God the praise: An oath formula that binds a witness to speak the truth (Josh 7:19).

9:32 Never … opened the eyes: Even Tobit, whose eyesight was temporarily lost and later restored, was not blind from birth (Tob 2:9–10; 11:7–15; 14:1–2).

9:33 he could do nothing: Mirrors the logic of Nicodemus in 3:2.

9:35 the Son of man: The heavenly figure from Dan 7:13. See topical essay: Jesus, the Son of Man at Lk 17.

9:39 may see … become blind: To the humble and childlike, Jesus reveals the Father and his will, but to the wise and understanding, he withholds the light necessary to see the truth (Mt 11:25–27; 13:13–16). The Pharisees fall in the latter category because, while they claim to see clearly, they are blind to their deepest spiritual needs (9:41).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel is the story of the man born blind, which is a microcosm of the spiritual life. “As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” Jesus responds by doing something a little weird: he makes a mud paste and rubs it on the blind man’s eyes. And then Jesus tells the man to wash in the pool of Siloam.

When the man comes back able to see, his neighbors are confused. Some say it’s the same guy, and others say it just looks like him. This is wonderful. Once you’ve put on the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re changed in every aspect of your life to the point where you may seem odd and different to others.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. It then takes a dramatic turn. The Pharisees interrogate the healed man. It becomes clear that Jesus healed him on a Sabbath day and so they condemn Jesus. They throw the formerly blind man out, but Jesus looks for him. He asks the man: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus wants us to put every ounce of our trust in him—and our vision will deepen. This in many ways is the heart of the matter: de-center your ego and re-center it on Christ. And now that you see, believe!

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.