Fourth Sunday of Lent Year C (Scrutiny readings) 2013:
Today we celebrate the second rite of scrutiny. There is a marvelous continuity between the gospel readings chosen for these three weeks. Last week we heard the story of the woman at the well. Central to that story was the notion of thirst. The woman came to that well thirsty for water. Jesus came to that well thirsting for that woman’s faith. In the interaction between that woman and Jesus, he also was able to show her that she had a deeper longing, a thirst that can only be satisfied by God. My friends, Christ is thirsting also for us. That is why he came to earth, and we are all thirsting for him.
But, today’s gospel highlights an obstacle, a difficulty in finding that water for which we all thirst. Today’s gospel focuses on blindness. This story about the historical encounter between Jesus and a blind man tells us much more than simply about one of Jesus’ miracles. Rather, this miracle sheds light onto the very mystery of faith. We are that blind man. We are born into blindness. Because of Original Sin, we are unable to see God, to perceive him in this world. As men and women, made in God’s image and likeness, we have never lost our innate capacity for God, we have never lost our innate desire for God; yet, when our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden they lost their vision, they were no longer able to see God.
So, we are all thirsting for Christ. We long to find him, and yet we are blind. What a miserable state of existence. But, God had mercy on us and looked upon us in our lowliness. For, in the fullness of time he sent his only begotten son to be the light of the World. Our passage today can only be understood in light of the beginning of St. John’s gospel. There he says: John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; and later The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. Jesus Christ is the Word through whom all things were made, and the true light, which came into the world. Christ is not only the font of water for which we thirst, he is also the light that can cast away our darkness.
How does he do this in the reading? We notice that he heals the blind man, but does it with some pretty ordinary means: he makes clay and then the man washes in water. Very simply, very humbly, Jesus works an amazing sign. He doesn’t heal the blind man with a flash of lightning, nor with a violent earthquake or tremendous thunderclap, rather simply and humbly through ordinary signs and means. This is why I see this healing in the gospel is a clear type for the sacraments. In the sacraments God works amazing signs, but he does it by humble means. We should see in the healing of this blind man a representation of baptism. When we were baptized, and when these catechumen are baptized, there is washing and the healing of blindness. Even today, Christ continues to work great signs through simple and humble ways.
But, I think this passage has another important insight. Notice that while the man is instantly able to see, he doesn’t yet clearly perceive Christ. He seems to grow and change through the course of the story. I think this is a good reminder for each of us. That while our eyes may have been opened to faith in baptism, that is only the beginning of the story. We all grow, we all change, we all need to deepen our understanding, our vision of Christ. But, just as that healing came through that simple, humble sign, so will our growth. The sacraments, especially confession and Eucharist, are the principle means willed by our Savior for us to grow in faith. As we celebrate this Holy Eucharist, we pray for our catechumen, that God will heal their blindness and give them faith, but let us also pray for all the baptized, that through this Eucharist we will grow in our faith and come to see in Christ the true light which enlightens everyone.