During the World Sight Day of October 12, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a presentation that indicated about 253 million people in the world as having visual impairments, out of which 36 million are confirmed blind. Blindness is an impairment that anyone with the functional facilities of sight would inadequately imagine.
Tommy Edison from the United States America was born blind despite the impairment, Tommy had grown to become phenomenal with his unusual activities as a Youtuber, radio presenter, and amazingly, a film critic with incredible film reviews. Tommy’s life and work show that blindness is not a hindrance to one’s achievements in life; in fact, being born blind is different from becoming blind to the purpose of life, and all the gifts of God.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, which traditionally goes by the designation “Laetare Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday.” It may seem weird to hear about the invitation to rejoice when the Lenten journey is still on-going; in other words, we are still in the woods! However, we can understand this invitation as it relates to the Entrance Antiphon and Readings today.
In the First Reading (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7,10-13a), we learn about the anointing of David as king of Israel after God’s rejection of Saul following his acts of disobedience. The Second Reading (Eph. 5:8-14) tells us about the light of Christ that would dispel the darkness in our lives, and the Gospel tells us about the events surrounding our Lord’s healing of the man born blind.
When one looks closely at the Readings, one will discover that we do not have the usual Lenten themes like fasting, sin, temptation, repentance, and reconciliation. Instead, we confront joyful events like anointing and divine deliverance. Even the responsorial psalm recalls the 23rd psalm that assures us of God’s shepherding love over us his sheep. This Sunday tells us about the things God will do for us when we have done what He had asked us to do.
Focusing on the Gospel Reading today, we learn about a man that was born blind. Notice that the blind man’s condition turned out to be a subject of analysis for the disciples of Jesus Christ. Majorly, they asked who was responsible for his blindness, the man, or his parents. Like the disciples, we often think that every ailment is an effect of some prior evil deed. Our Lord clarifies that the man’s condition was neither his fault nor those of the parents but that the works of God might be made visible through his impairment. We need to see more than with the human eyes to understand how one’s disability can display the works of God.
Next, our Lord goes on to cure the man, and he does so in a very different way. Spiting on the ground, he makes a paste with the saliva, which he smeared on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. We do not know how he could have made it to the Pool Siloam from that point. It is, however, possible that someone may have offered to take him to the pool, and that tells us that we need one another in our journey from blindness to sight.
Confronting the Real Blindness
The Neighbors and other people who knew the man as a blind beggar were shocked to see him moving with full physical sight. Often God blesses us to amaze people around us. The cured man’s neighbors could not contain his new status as they report his healing to the Pharisees because it was on a sabbath day, and the Pharisees put him on the spot to answer series questions about his healing and who healed him. They even invited his parents to testify that he was born blind.
Notice that the desire to verify the healing and the personality of Jesus Christ prevented the man’s neighbors and the Pharisees to acknowledge God for bringing such a cure to a man born blind. Notice also the man’s conviction and witnessing to Jesus Christ amid the quizzing. He declared that Jesus Christ is a prophet (John 9:17), a righteous man (John 9:30-33), and meeting Jesus again after his eviction from the temple area he declared his faith in Jesus Christ, called him Lord and worshipped him (John 9:38).
An insightful look at the Gospel narrative shows that the man who was considered blind from birth had a profound spiritual sight. In contrast, the Pharisees and his uncharitable neighbors who had physical sight were spiritually blind. The oracle of the Prophet Jeremiah denounced such people as foolish who have eyes but cannot see and ears that do not hear (Jer. 5:21). It takes one with a spiritual sight to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and to worship him. It takes one with a spiritual sight to stand firm and defend the works of Jesus as coming from God.
Moving Forward: “Lord Open our Eyes!”
During the time of the prophet Elisha the Arameans came to attack him because he would always reveal the warfare plan of their king to the king of Israel. Waking up one morning, Elisha’s servant saw a vast number of armed soldiers surrounding them, and he was overwhelmed. But Elisha assured him that those with them outnumber the warring soldiers.
While still not believing, Elisha prayed, “O Lord open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). When his eyes opened, he saw fiery chariots and horses. When the Arameans advanced, Elisha prayed, and they became blind and confused to the extent that they were led by the hand into Samaria and into the hands of the king of Israel who fed them and sent them back to their king as Elisha directed after restoring their sight.
If the only thing we see is flesh, then there is a need for us to pray for spiritual sight earnestly. We need to have our eyes open spiritually, especially at this point in our human history, when we are going through severe health turbulence with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. There is no doubt that God is speaking to humanity with the current situation, and one would doubt if people are seeing what is happening from the spiritual point of view.
We could also recall what happened during the reign of king Belshazzar in Babylon. He was hosting a banquet for a thousand of his nobles, and when he became drunk, he ordered the vessels his father Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and used them to drink wine. Suddenly a human hand appeared on the wall and wrote “Mene, Tekel, and Peres.” When none of his wise men could interpret the writing, his mother suggested Daniel, who had the spiritual sight to see, and he explained that writing indicated the end of the reign of Belshazzar, and that same night he died (Daniel 5:1-28).
As we continue the Lenten journey, may we focus on the Lord, who has the power to deliver us from the blindness of our day and age caused by our over-dependence on materialism and excessive focus on worldly pleasure. May we become increasingly conscious and intentional about having our spiritual eyes open to see what God wants us to see to that we can live our lives in obedience to Him.
God bless you and stay safe in Christ, Jesus, our Lord. Amen.