Toward the beginning of this week’s gospel text, Jesus states what His mission is: “We have to do the works of the One Who sent me.” Being sent by the Father, Jesus must do the Father’s works.
The works of God are principally three: creation, redemption and sanctification. Each of these is displayed in our gospel passage about the man born blind.
It certainly was possible for Jesus to cure the man’s blindness without touching him at all. A word would have been enough. Yet, Christ’s act of making clay with His saliva and then smearing that clay on the man’s eyes recalls that moment in the book of Genesis when God formed the first man out of the clay of the earth (Gn 2:7). In other words, Christ’s healing of the blind man is a kind of re-creation.
Once his eyes have been smeared with clay, the blind man goes to wash in the pool of Siloam and comes back “able to see.” The washing liberates him from the night of blindness; that is, he has been redeemed by the Light of the World a redemption that allows this man to participate in and benefit from the power of divine light. The washing itself recalls baptism that moment when we receive the light of faith and of grace as we are washed clean in the sacramental waters of the baptismal font.
The Apostle John informs us that the man came back able to see, but he has not yet actually seen Christ. When he is asked where Jesus is, the man replies, “I do not know.” It is only later, after the man has been thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees, that Jesus takes the initiative to go and find him. Having been re-created and redeemed, all that is left is for this man to be sanctified. Sanctification consists in “seeing” Jesus. And seeing Jesus requires our interior communion with Christ, a personal relationship of love with Him and being touched by the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the inner meaning of Christ’s words and actions. Upon seeing Jesus, the formerly blind, but now sanctified, man receives the gift not only of physical sight, but also the gift and sight of faith: “'I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped Him.”
Early on in this gospel episode, Jesus insists that the man was born blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Before his encounter with Jesus, everything was “invisible” to the blind man. His condition was one of physical and spiritual darkness. Now, after his healing encounter, and through his re-creation, redemption and sanctification, the man who once was blind is able to manifest in himself the very saving power of God.
Each of us is, in a way, like the blind man in the Gospel: sometimes, we deliberately close our eyes to the Light of Christ; other times, we simply are unable to see as we should. This Lent, the healing of the blind man that the Gospel records should remind us all that when we reject the blinding rebellion of the devil and submit obediently to Christ’s re-creating, redeeming and sanctifying power, we will become lights ourselves: That is, we become those in whom the Father’s works gloriously appear. That is the true joy of this Laetare Sunday.
Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)