Lent 4 (A) 26th March 2017
"'Lord, I believe,' said the man, and worshipped him."
The readings of the Lenten liturgy belong to the baptismal catechesis programme and are an important aid for us to understand the nature and depth of our own faith. The three Sunday gospel accounts come from St John: the Samaritan woman, the man born blind and the resurrection of Lazarus.
Today's gospel, describing how the man born blind came to sight, is the masterpiece of Johannine dramatic narrative, so carefully crafted that not a single word is wasted. "The light of the world" motif and the reference to the pool of Siloam are linked with the feast of Tabernacles, explaining why Jesus is still in Jerusalem. The man born blind is more than an individual. St Augustine says, "This blind man stands for the human race." He is the spokesperson for a particular kind of faith-encounter with Jesus, one you and I might well find familiar.
The Samaritan woman exemplified the obstacles encountered in coming to believe in Jesus on the first encounter. The blind man, having washed in the waters of Siloam (meaning "the one sent", i.e. John's designation of Jesus), exemplifies one who is enlightened on the first encounter, but comes to see who Jesus really is only later, after undergoing trials and being cast out of the synagogue. This is undoubtedly a message for Johannine Christians, who have had a similar experience, encouraging them that through their trials they have been given an opportunity to come to a much more profound faith than when they first encountered Christ. How many Christians have come to a deeper faith through rejection and persecution.
The intensifying series of questions to which the man born blind is subjected, the increasing hostility and blindness of his interrogators who eject him from the synagogue, the blind man's growing perceptiveness about Jesus under interrogation, and his parents' apprehensive attempt to avoid taking a stand for or against Jesus - all these are developed masterfully into a drama that illustrates how, with the coming of Jesus, those who claim to see have become blind and those who are blind come to sight. "Enlightenment" was an early Christian term for baptismal conversion and in primitive catacomb art the healing of the blind man was a symbol of baptism.
No homily can ever do justice to the word of God. All I can suggest is that we spend the rest of the week studying this gospel passage and, in the man born blind, rediscover the depths of our own faith in Jesus, the Son of Man. Only a personal encounter with Christ can open our eyes and bring us healing. Amen.