Skip to content

Visions from The Catacombs: Week Before March 30, 2014



John 9:1-41
9As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.
39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
What I am Learning:

In the first century light and darkness were both physical realities. These physical realities came not only from the sun, moon, stars or lanterns, but from within the human heart. When one’s heart is full of light, one both sees and emits light. This light is from God. This light blesses other people.

When one’s heart is full of darkness, one both sees and emits darkness. This darkness is not from God. This darkness, that is emitted from the heart, can curse other people. This is called the “evil eye.”

Many therefore assumed, then, that when one is blind that one’s heart is full of darkness and that person and even their family should be shunned.

The disciples ask Jesus who sinned to cause this blindness. This is a common question for human beings: what did this person do to deserve some illness or some accident.  Human beings are all too ready to assign blame, either in ourselves or in others for the bad things that happen.

Jesus won’t have it. He says that neither the man nor his parents sinned to cause the family the shame of his blindness. Rather, Jesus says, God will be glorified (think lots of light when you think of the word “glory”) in this man’s life.

So Jesus heals the man and he now can see. The community is not only willing to give him alms, but now is willing to talk with him. Jesus has healed his eyes (and therefore his heart) but has also reunited him with the community.

This is the real healing in this text.

But Jesus does this healing on the Sabbath.

This produces a serious issue for the Pharisees, for whom obeying the 613 laws was most important. Respecting the Sabbath was a key one of these 613!

What this rather long story reveals, is that those who are super-religious can also have hearts that are filled with darkness.

What we are talking about here, and in the story about Nicodemus, is a kind of holy imagination: A capacity to perceive how the love of God is moving in the world.

Such a holy imagination is a gift from God, it requires a kind of conversion, probably a daily conversion from
•    Fear to trust
•    Hate to love
•    Competition to cooperation
•    Judgmentalism to mercy
•    Scarcity to abundance
•    Despair about the future to hope for the future

The Spirit continues to birth us anew, to gift us with the holy imagination of God’s way of mutuality. This is why liturgical Christians put a Christ Candle or a Pascal Candle near the Baptismal font. This is why we give a new candle to a person who is newly baptized and say “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.”

The Pharisees with working eyes, full of judgment of this blind man and Jesus who brought him healing, were blind to the light of God in the world.

May Jesus continue to en-lighten our hearts and minds with this holy imagination, this vision of God’s reign, and seeing may we rejoice in the light.