1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7,
Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
John 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
Our five senses can and do trick our brains into thinking something is one reality when it is actually another. Your taste can tell you it is a hamburger when in fact it has no meat at all. Your touching fingers may convey to your mind that this is wool, but in fact, it is a synthetic. We can become blinded by what we see so as to fail in seeing what a person or thing might really be.
Today's readings are invitations to a Lenten looking at and within what is apparent. The First reading is a story which results from the Lord’s rejecting Saul as King of Israel. Saul had proved unfaithful and had become attracted to and attached to regal appearances. Samuel grieves this rejection, but is told by the Lord to go to a certain place and to a certain family to claim a new leader. Jesse’s sons are strong and eligible, but Samuel is not moved by God to choose any of them. He asks the father if there are any more sons. The youngest, the most unlikely is chosen by the Lord. God is not blinded by appearances. David struck a good appearance too, but God knew him for what he was then and what he would be.
The Gospel is quite an involved story. John alone writes of this event and for his own portrayal of the person and mission of Jesus. There is a man who has been blind since birth and the Apostles want to know why this has happened. Physical disabilities were thought to be a result of God’s being effected by sin and so inflicts punishment as a sign of displeasure. Jesus replies that sin is not involved at all, but so that He, Jesus, might be made visible. The scene is set then for the dramatic dialogue between the “seeing Pharisees” and the “once-blinded man.” The Pharisees visually sense this man as one who can see, but their fears and bias prevent the curing to be real. The curing takes place on the Sabbath which is often the case in the Gospels to heighten the dramatic tension between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Sabbath is the one-day of religious and cultural power for the Pharisees. They are blinded by what they see. They go to the man’s parents to convince themselves that this man is not their son who was blind. They in turn deflect the questioners to their asking the son. There is much unlistening as well as unseeing.
The Pharisees finally throw the man out of the synagogue. They have asked him a second time how it all happened and the man retorts cleverly that they perhaps are asking for evidence that they too might become His followers. They have seen and have heard, but cannot perceive.
The ending of course, is the double punch line. Jesus encounters
the “now-seeing” man and invites him to an act of faith. Obviously,
seeing is not believing, but being healed of blindness is a sign which
leads to faith as a way of seeing. The man, thrown out of his Jewish
tradition, now throws himself down in worship of the ancient and One God,
now made manifest through the “Son of Man.”
These readings, and especially the Gospel, are not about the sense of sight. Rather we are encouraged to the Lenten conversion of faithfully claiming Jesus as the One Who has been sent to reveal God to us and us to ourselves. Human spittle and biblical clay are employed by Jesus. The man is told to go the pool whose name is “Sent.” The clay of creation bespeaks of God’s sending Jesus to continue the redemptive creation of humankind. For John, Jesus is the “One Sent,” the pool of healing salvation.
When one is blind, physically, one does not really know what he or she looks like. Others may tell that person, or he or she may touch the face, but hearing or feeling is not close to seeing. The sight which Jesus came to give us all has to do with how we appear to God and so how we are to appear to ourselves. Jesus came to tell us of a splendor, “which beauty which is past change, praise Him.”
The conversion continues as we are healed as well to see the beauty of Christ’s redemptive creation in the persons of all God’s family. We are invited to visit the pool of Christ so as to not be blinded by color, age, deformity, and even the faces of those who have injured us and so blinded us to our own personal beauty. His view of us is to become our own and that beauty cannot be changed.
As we are not blinded by the bread and wine of the Eucharist, we
are invited not to look beyond, but within where Christ is more than meets
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