The Gospel for March 26th 2017: “The Man Born Blind”
Reflection: Is Knowledge Power?
The gospel of “The Man Born Blind” is a long narrative with several significant turns. Let’s review some of those key moments in attempt to understand what this gospel is saying to us in our lives today.
First Jesus and disciples pass the blind man on the street prompting His followers to ask Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (2). Jesus answers, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (3). This suggests we need not search for blame or reason in the sufferings and afflictions of this life; rather, we must see them as opportunities to serve God.
But his answer does not end there. Jesus continues by saying, “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” (4-5). Jesus follows this answer by healing the man. Despite His poetic language, this statement is defined by Jesus’ action. I think Jesus means He is here with the blind man at this moment and will heal him now rather than later. If we consider all the saving that needs to be done in Jesus’ mission, this is an important point for us. Instead of abstractly concerning ourselves with the salvation of the world, we should simply act by helping those right in front of us. As my parish priest has said in one his homilies, “Do what is right there.” If we strive to serve God by helping those who cross our paths each day—whether friend or foe, family member or stranger–God’s will is being done.
The next part of the narrative I will call the great debate. Once the man is healed, we see the community struggle with the meaning of this unprecedented event. Some question if it is even the same man. They take the man to the Pharisees who wonder if this miracle comes from God because Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath. They investigate further by asking his parents if they man was actually born blind. Clearly, they suspect Jesus is either a charlatan or an agent of Satan (13-19).
After the parents claim not to understand the nature of the healing and tell the Pharisees to ask their son, the Pharisees confront the blind man with their suspicions. They command him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner” (24). The arrogance of the Pharisees becomes the real blindness in this narrative. Despite their education in the holy scriptures, they cannot see the holiness of Jesus’ miracle because it threatens their own status as holy men. As the former blind man defends Jesus, the reasoning of the proud Pharisees presses on into the realm of the absurd. Notice how they speak at act toward this poor man whose life-long suffering has been ended by Jesus. The Pharisees rail at 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?” (32-34)
Their final act would be utterly comic if it was not also so sad. “Then they threw him out” (34).
The Pharisees reject Jesus and His miracle. They let knowledge replace faith in their lives, which is the ultimate blindness; for they could not see the true light of the world. As I write this, it is Saturday, the feast of the Annunciation where Mary accepts the angel Gabriel’s message that she has been chosen to mother the incarnate savior. Her faithful openness to the unfathomable mystery of God’s love is in stark contrast to the cynical arrogance of the Pharisees. To me, this is a cautionary tale. We are surrounded by information that passes itself off as knowledge. If we allow the acquisition of knowledge to become a prideful pursuit that closes our hearts to the presence of God’s love around us, we risk missing the coming of our savior, Jesus.
Easter is coming. Let us open our hearts to mystery of God’s love.