4th Sunday of Lent 2020 (Year A)

15 March 2020

1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Today’s Gospel tells us of the blind man whose eyes are opened by Jesus. The opening of the man’s eyes symbolises the opening of the disciples’ eyes to faith. The phrase ‘opening of eyes’ appears 7 times in the story like a refrain in a TV advert. This story keeps emphasising that the man was blind from birth. To heal him meant the beginning of a completely new life, a life where he can see. The blind man is also a beggar. The prevailing thinking of that time was that his blindness was a punishment because of his own sin or the sin of his parents, as the disciples show in their question to Jesus. So others would look down upon him. He would be avoided. In the society of his time he would be an outsider.

Jesus sees him, takes pity on him and opens his eyes. It is Jesus who takes the initiative even before the man could ask. We probably cannot imagine what this meant to him. By healing him of his blindness Jesus frees him on a number of levels. He is physically healed. He is no longer an outsider in society, he is part of it. He has received a new dignity. Jesus raises him up. Above all his eyes are opened spiritually also because as the story progresses he accepts Jesus as the Son of God.

To heal him Jesus uses mud and saliva, which may surprise us. People believed that saliva could heal. We know now that saliva is a kind of antibiotic. That is why dogs and other animals lick their wounds. But more importantly by using mud Jesus helps us to remember that God used mud to create Adam, the first man. So here too is a new creation. Jesus is making a new man. Jesus tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam which is symbolic of baptism, when in faith we believe we become children of God.

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic how Jesus healed the man would see him locked up! The paragraphs above are taken from a sermon of the late Fr James Kirstein. But do his words find an echo in our situation today? Is the opening of the blind man’s eyes a metaphor for us today – COVID-19 might be an opportunity for me to seek to see clearly! I could ask myself: how do I see the world? how do I see my place in this world? what do I see as important in my life? Do I see clearly or through a prism of other people’s opinions and media messages?

COVID-19 is not a punishment sent by God; we know how it started. But God can write straight with crooked lines… so why not take this time of enforced ‘social distancing’ to take time to reflect on life, its meaning, how I live it, how I interact with others.

Lord God, open my eyes to the true meaning of life. Heal me of everything that blocks me from accepting you fully as our loving God and from letting go of all that does not lead to true peace and seeing all as our brothers and sisters too. Amen’