I Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41
In the late 1700s, the manager of a large hotel in Baltimore refused lodging to a man dressed like a farmer. He turned the farmer away because he thought this fellow’s shabby appearance would discredit the reputation of his distinguished hotel. The farmer picked up his bag and left without saying a further word to anyone. Later that evening, the innkeeper discovered that he had turned away none other than the Vice President of the United States – Thomas Jefferson! Immediately, the manager sent a note of apology to the famed patriot, asking him to come back and be his guest in the hotel. Jefferson replied by instructing the messenger as follows, “Tell him I have already reserved a room. I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no room for a common American farmer, then he has no room for the vice-president of the United States of America.”
Dear Friends! Welcome to the 4th week of Lent! Sight is a wonderful gift, but what we see with our mind and heart is even of greater value. God helps us to see clearly. We have examples of that inner vision in all of today’s readings.
In the world, people are valued not for what they are but for what they seem to be. But God chose David as king in our 1st reading, in spite of his shabby appearance, because he was a man according to his own heart.
Let me remind you of a story I told you sometimes back. One day a sage asked a question to his disciples, “How can one know that a night ends and a day is dawning?” One of the disciples replied, “One can know it when one is able to discern a horse from a cow from after.” The said, “No, it is not.” Another disciple replied, “One can know it when one sees a tree from faraway and can tell whether it is a pine tree or a fig tree.” The sage said, “No, it is not.” Then the disciples asked the sage. “Master, how can you know that a night ends and a day is dawning? “He answered: “When you see passerby and recognize in their faces your brother’s and sister’s face, you can know that a night ends and a day is dawning. Otherwise, even if the sun rises high in the sky, the world is still in the night.”
In our second reading today Paul reminds Christians of their new responsibility as children of light: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
It takes time to be able to see. Blindness does not let go of us all at once. It takes patience and repeated efforts to open ourselves to the light. This is the major theme of today’s gospel. In the first few verses of the gospel a man who has been blind from birth is healed by Jesus. But the major point of the gospel is that although this man has received physical sight, he still cannot see. Although he now for the first time he can recognize color and movement and people’s faces, he is not yet able to recognize who it is that healed him and how his healing leads to salvation.
This is why the major part of the gospel happens after the healing. As this man who was once blind interacts with other people, he gradually begins to see what has happened to him. He talks first to his neighbors, then to the Pharisees, then to Jesus himself. Step by step he sees more and more. At first he does not know who it is that healed him. Then he recognizes Jesus as a prophet. Finally he comes to worship Jesus as his Lord. Step by step, the man who once only has physical sight comes to see Jesus as his Savior. Now of course, anywhere along in this process, the man born blind could have stopped. He could have said what I see right now is enough. I need to see nothing more. If he would have stopped, his life would have been simpler and certainly less combative. But if he would have stopped the process, he would always remain partially blind, never able to open himself fully to the light.
The message of the gospel is rather clear. We can see, yet in each one of us there still remains a certain blindness. That blindness is something that Jesus wants to remove. He wants to take it from us, so that we can fully embrace the light. The only question is whether we will open ourselves to accept the light or stubbornly cling to the partial light that we already have.
We all have blind-spots — in our marriages, our parenting, our work habits, and our personalities. We are often blind to see and appreciate the presence of God within us as his Holy Spirit and His presence in others. Even practicing Christians can be blind to the poverty, injustice and pain around them. Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blindness. We need to ask him to remove from us the root causes of our blindness: namely, self-centeredness, greed, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits and hardness of heart. Let us pray with the Scottish Bible scholar William Barclay, “God our Father, help us see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly.”