First reading 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 22(23)
Second reading Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel John 9:1-41
In the first reading today, we are shown the election and anointing of David as the new King of Israel. The prophet Samuel sees Eliab, the eldest of Jesse’s sons, and thinks to himself, “surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him.” Even the prophet, whose business it is to see with far seeing eyes comes up here short-sighted. God admonishes him, “take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” It is the runt of the litter, the youngest and most unexpected child of Jesse that the Lord had chosen– “a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and peasant bearing.” The boy David had beautiful eyes while the prophet had eyes that were blinded to interior reality.
In the Gospel today the theme of blindness continues. Jesus and his disciples come across a man who has never seen in his life, who was born with eyes that do not work. Jesus performs an act of creation, or rather re-creation, on this man. Just as in the beginning the Lord God took up the mud of the earth and breathed life into it to fashion Adam, the first man, the Lord Jesus once again takes up the mud of the earth. To do so, he spits on the ground. Imagine that! Jesus is not prim and proper. He’s from the bush– a Galilean! He just slags on the ground in public. Then, creating a mud “paste”, he anoints the man’s eyes with it, refashioning him into a new man who can see. But this is not the end of his healing, and neither is the man born blind the only blind man in today’s Gospel.
We hear a lengthy tussle with the Judean leaders who have a far more grave problem with their sight. For their eyes work just fine, and as faithful disciples of Moses they are clever and religious enough to perceive deeper realities. Yet they refuse to see. They do not want to see. This is a far worse condition than having eyes that cannot see. For the power to see is in their hands, but they reject the gift of God. Meanwhile, something profound is happening in this tussle. While the blind man has received his sight, his confrontation with those who refuse to see leads him to an even greater sight. He bears witness to Jesus, and in bearing witness the reality of who Jesus is becomes clearer: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.” Initially the blind man had said “I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.” But now, in the course of argument, it has become clear to him that Jesus is from God. And after “teaching” this to the religious leaders, the former blind man is driven away, where he then meets Jesus a second time.
Having now faith the size of a mustard seed as Jesus’ true identity has begun to be revealed to him, Jesus then reveals himself more fully: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” – “Sir”, the man replied, “tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “you are looking at him; he is speaking to you.” Then, we are told, the man exclaimed, “Lord, I believe” – and he worshipped him! This is amazing. The formerly blind man now has faith in Jesus, proper faith, such that we throws himself down on the ground and worships him. At last, this man’s healing is complete, when not only have his eyes been refashioned from the soil of the earth, but he lies in the soil of the earth in the posture of worship. This is a stark and striking contrast to those Judean leaders who, in their pride, flat out refuse to accept Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, each of us is born blind. None of us are born with the grace of faith in Jesus. This is something he himself bestows on us when we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. Only the Lord can open our eyes. And indeed, each of us has had his or her eyes opened through our Baptism when we washed not in the pool of Siloam but in the font of regeneration. The question is, do we want Jesus? One of the horrifying aspects of the modern world is that so many people are exactly like the Judean leaders: intelligent enough to understand but absolutely refusing to engage with the Truth. So many people close their ears, even physically, to the Truth when it is being spoken. So many walk away as soon as you bear witness to Jesus. So many shout down those who speak the Gospel. This blindness is far worse than having no eyes. We should prefer to have our eyes plucked out than to give up our absolute faith in Jesus! This is a blindness of the heart the hardens it to such an extent that we are rendered incapable of salvation.
Dear friends, this talk of sight and blindness, faith and rejection, is far more relevant to us than we realise. For what is heaven? Heaven is not some green pasture in the sky that you get admitted into. Heaven is, according to the Bible and to two-thousand years of Church teaching, the vision of God. It is when we shall see God face to face, gazing into the eternal depths of the one who is, and in gazing, be transformed totally into that which we see. Brothers and sisters, the sight which the Gospel talks about is not optional if we want eternal life. For if we don’t begin to see by faith in this world, we shall never see, and shall never be capable of the vision of God in eternity. Lord, tell me who you are so that I may believe! Let us now, like the former blind man, get down and worship the same Lord, who comes to us this morning in the blessed Eucharist.
P.S., to my readers I apologise for the very belated release of this homily preached last weekend. Better late than never!