Sight. Smell. Taste. Touch. Hearing. These are the five human senses and the principal ways we have of experiencing the world. Let me ask you this. If for some reason you were to lose all these senses but one, which one would you keep?
For me, it would be “sight” probably because I do a lot of reading and enjoy viewing nature throughout the year. The gospel for the fourth Sunday of Lent (John 9:1-41) reaffirmed the importance of sight.
In the gospel we have the story of the man born blind cured by Jesus. It appears that one of the principal theological themes in the gospel is that of “darkness” versus “light.” This theme appears to be symbolized in the encounter between the blind man and Jesus’ healing him. To understand the theme we must look at two things.
First of all, the context. As the blind man approaches, Jesus makes clay and places it on the eyes of the blind man. Then the man is told to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, where the man is miraculously cured.
Then the Pharisees complain about Jesus because he worked this miracle on the Sabbath, a religious “no-no.” This, according to the Pharisees, makes Jesus a “bad” man.
However, the former blind man spoke the truth, which is that he was blind but now he could see. So, for him Jesus was a “good” man thus supporting the idea that God was on Jesus’ side. God was always on the good side. Then Jesus asked him if he believed in him (Jesus) and the man said “yes.” That answer strengthened the bond that existed between the cured man and Jesus.
Secondly, what can we learn from the above context? Basically, it is the “darkness” versus “light” theme played out in real life. Darkness is both physical and spiritual. Physical in the case of the man born blind and spiritual in the sense that the Pharisees were placing greater strength on the law of the Sabbath rather than on Jesus’ cure of the blind man.
In the early part of the Gospel, Jesus says: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world , I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5) Jesus states from the beginning that he is the “light” who will oppose “darkness” in all its forms.
Jesus, as “light,” opposes “darkness.” He cures physical darkness by healing the blind man. But he is unable to cure spiritual darkness (sin) unless the sinner repents. The Pharisees show no sign of repentance. This seems to me to be the reason why Jesus asked the cured man if he believed in him (Jesus).
In addition, we note that Jesus performed his miracle with the use of water. The blind man was told to go wash in the pool of Siloam at which time the miracle occurred. Another example of the healing power of water is the story of Jesus and a Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:5-30). For us, Baptism becomes a source of healing water. Through Baptism we are bound to Jesus in a special way and are obligated to be responsible for each other by virtue of our good example.
I would suggest that some specific lessons we can learn regarding this “light” versus “darkness” theme are the following. First, be conscious of our spiritual darkness (sin) and seek light (forgiveness) when necessary (sacrament of Reconciliation).
Second, greater awareness of our Baptism (living water) by utilizing external elements, such as holy water (blessing ourselves when entering/exiting church). The Easter Vigil presents us with concrete illustrations: The blessing of the Easter Candle (light out of darkness) and the blessing of water (to be used for Baptism).
The world in which we live is full of spiritual “darkness.” The best way of bringing “light” would be by our example, mentally nourished by the blessings of water (for Baptism) and light (the Easter candle) on Holy Saturday.