Daily Reflection
March 2nd, 2008

Larry Gillick, S.J.

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.


There are these two words which often can be mistakenly used: annoy and aggravate. The latter can sound more forceful and intense, while the former seems mild.

Aggravate means to annoy something in us that has already been annoyed. We aggravate a previous injury. Annoying is a rather recent stone in our shoe or bump on the head. To be aggravated is to be in a state of our being reinjured.

As we move along our Eucharistic journey these days we will bump into situations or relationships which can be annoying and or aggravating. These are days of Lent and so we can, with more awareness, pray with those experiences which can make life, well, annoying. We can pray for patience, acceptance, trust and endurance. We have prayed with our reception of the Eucharist, by that same grace we can receive more gracefully the bumps, stones, insults and rejections which just may be the very Lenten penance we did not ask for.


In our First Reading we hear of a Rite of Election of a new king for Israel. What happened to the old king, Saul? The chapter right before this one from which our reading is taken tells the whole story. Samuel is told by the Lord to deliver Saul his “walking papers”. Saul was given a mission of wiping out an enemy and he kind of did it. Saul took “war booty” for himself and this was not in his marching orders. So Samuel delivers the news and of course, Saul argues about it to no purpose. Samuel then gets the word from the Lord to take some anointing-oil and go to the house of Jesse of Bethlehem to select one of his sons to be the new king.

There is a bit of a fashion show. Jesse presents first his son, Eliab, but Samuel hears the Lord saying, “Not him.” Samuel is warned not to judge by outward appearances, because God does not judge the easier, external, way, but more deeply, what is in the heart. Seven sons fail the “Israeli Idol” contest.

Samuel asks about whether there are any other sons. So we hear how God judges, calls and blesses the most unlikely. God seems to have a different way of seeing.

Seeing is the theme of today’s Gospel as well. This is such a symbolic story so characteristic of John’s writing. The tension is between and among various groups. There is “clay” and the pool of cleansing by the name of “Sent”. The curing takes place on the Sabbath which brings the Pharisees on to the stage. The man’s parents are challenged about whether this man is their son. There is the “temple” and the newly-sighted getting thrown out. The major symbol of course is the man’s receiving his sight through washing the clay from his eyes. Obviously, the last lines tie down the whole theme.

The “clay” represents the strictly human, (the word comes from the Latin meaning earth or dirt), and the “pool’s water” represents Christ, (the One who is Sent). As last-week’s Gospel, so this whole story is about the necessity of being baptized into Christ. It results in our being able to see what Christ is doing as “Light-Bringer” to this earth.

The Pharisees remain blind by seeing only according to their former ways. The man, (representing all of us), who was blind now sees Jesus, worships him and through Baptism, will follow Him.

Our Lenten liturgies and religious practices of this season are all intended to lead us to the “pool” of the Sent-One. Baptism is the beginning of God’s bringing us all into a Light by which we can see who we really are and just how are we to live in response to this laboring God.

The Pharisees were blinded by their seeing Jesus as a threat to their security. The man was unblinded by Jesus seeing him and inviting him to see himself, others, life and all because he washed himself in faith and so into his being a follower. In John’s Gospel, to see Jesus in faith is to see and hear more clearly who we really are.

It is often thought that if a person is blind then the sense of hearing improves. The truth is that the hearing stays the same, listening improves. Listening or attentiveness is a reliance on a different sense that there is something there and you know it, but in a sense, see it.

Faith is a sense that goes beyond seeing. Relying on seeing can be harmful to our being believers then. We can become so depended, demandingly so, that if we do not see it, well, hmmm, it might not really be. Taking things on hear-say, on the word of another, that can be a dangerous step. When affirming something we say easily, “O, I see.” The man sees Jesus, but that does not take away the necessity of his having to trust this same Jesus through the darkness of his life’s journey.

The man saw a caring interruption of his life. He relied on his hearing Jesus’ saying that He was the Light of the World. This Word, this Light was a real person asking for a real personal relationship in which the Light would accompany him. This Light illumines the man and the world around him. In that Light he comes to know who he really is, not a “blind man”, but a man who washed away his natural human blindness to the presence of God and could leave the security of his traditional religious past to trust this Person of the Light.

“All that came to be had life in Him and that life was the light for all. A light that shines in the dark, a light that the darkness could not overpower.” John 1, 4-5

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