This week’s gospel is a tale of two journeys: one a gradual movement towards the light, and the other a spiral into increasing darkness. The rhythm of the storytelling is masterful. The ebb and flow of the drama serves to establish the direction of the major players, either towards or away from Jesus. The scene is set two chapters earlier, when Jesus describes himself as “the water of life” and “the light of the world”. By the end of this story, those with eyes to see will acknowledge the truth of both claims.
This event begins with a theological question. In first century Judaism, disability and disease were regarded as signs of the terrible judgement of God. In the disciples’ thinking, someone’s sin is to blame for this man’s blindness. They are more interested in the technicalities of this proposition than the state of the man’s health or his future prospects. Moving quickly beyond their short-sightedness, Jesus simply replies that this situation is no one’s “fault”. Rather this man, understood as “cursed”, is to become a sign of God’s goodness.
Jesus makes a mud paste, a traditional practice for treating eye diseases, and tells the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The author’s note on the meaning of the name of the reservoir provides a double meaning. Not only has the blind man been sent by Jesus to wash, but also Jesus has been sent into the world to be “living water”. The man responds without hesitation to Jesus’ word; he goes, he washes and he comes back healed. Unconditional response to the Word has previously led to other miracles in John’s gospel, highlighting both the expectations and possibilities for those who choose to follow Jesus. The Pharisees, on the other hand, descend into blindness. Whenever the scriptures speak of “seeing”, what is at stake is not “eye-sight” but “insight”. Lent is our annual eye test when we are invited to notice, through the eyes of faith, the invisible at the heart of the visible.
|Mar 29, 2017||4 Sunday of Lent 26.03.2017||Listen||Download|