Faith, Fellowship and Fun

John 9:1   As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

John 9:13   They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

John 9:18   The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

John 9:24   So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

John 9:35   Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
It is Jesus’ recognition of the man’s need that leads to a recovery of sight both physical and spiritual. Both are important in the story, because it is the man’s first experience of healing, an experience he cannot deny, which opens him to the second healing of faith. He stands by his experience, no matter what the pressure.
Thought for the day
How we respond to pressure can vary very much from person to person. In John’s Gospel, there are two related stories of people being healed, one in chapter 5 and the other in chapter 9, today’s reading. The man at the pool eventually betrays Jesus. The man born blind resists pressure and even grows on the strength of it. Part of his energy comes from his experience— no matter what others may say about Jesus, he himself once was blind and now he sees! His courageous attachment to what he knows from his personal encounter with Jesus leads eventually to a full act of faith.
Faithful God, you call us to be faithful even in times of trial. Teach us to em- brace the challenge of faith today, that we may have the courage to grow and give courage to others by our witness.

A long story like the one we have today provides many different points of entry for prayer. Read the story and stay with what resonates with you. Some possible points of entry are:
  1. The blind man was healed. Can you recall occasions when some blindness of yours was taken away and you could see in a new way? What was that experience like for you.
  2. The Pharisees claimed to be the ones who could see, who knew where God was to be found, when in fact they were blind. It was the man born blind who showed himself open to see the hand of God at work in what happened. There can be some of each in us. What has helped you to be open to seeing the hand of God at work in your life? Who have been the Jesus people who have led you to this point?
  3. The Pharisees seem to have had a collective blindness that blocked them from seeing what God was doing in Jesus. Perhaps in today’s world you can see examples of collective blindness when people want to avoid an awkward truth, e.g. about the damage being done to our planet by human activity.
  4. There are many characters in the story: Jesus, the blind beggar, the disciples, the neighbours, the blind man’s parents, and the Pharisees. Put yourself in the position of each one and see what you learn from identifying with them.
In the first part of the story we see that the disciples are not really interested in helping the man born blind, they are more concerned with solving the riddle of whose fault it is that he is blind in the first place. Is it divine retribution? Jesus is clear that no one is to blame.
One really interesting thing to notice in the story is how the man’s vision increases as the story unfolds. It’s not only his physical sight that returns, but spiritually he begins to
see more and more clearly. In contrast to this clarity the opposite is happening for the religious leaders.
Recall a moment when you gained a greater clarity, greater ‘seeing’ or awareness. What insights did you receive? What grace was revealed to you?
Jesus is the role model responding to the blind man with compassion, healing and love. He is the light which guides to greater awareness. What situations in your own life are in need to a similar response? Speak to the Lord about them now.
This story tell us much about how the evangelist saw the work of Jesus. As with the Samaritan woman someone who is considered an outcast takes their place among the community of believers. The story also relies heavily on symbolism; this time blindness and sight are contrasted with darkness and light. The images are used to make us think about what it means to come to faith, We are presented with the difference between the blind man who gradually comes to acknowledge who Jesus is and the Pharisees who become progressively more hard hearted and are shown to be the only really blind people in the story.
The openness of the man born blind, his growing conviction about Jesus and the fact that he suffers for it are all pointers to what is needed in the person who wants to believe. The fact that he is anointed and washed are symbols of baptism and the new life it offers, but Jesus’ opponents cannot see this and are unable to move beyond a purely legalistic interpretation of the Law of Moses that would forbid what Jesus has done.
It is probably also true to say that the blind man’s parents represent those who have some insight into the truth but are afraid to move forward because of the challenges it will pose.

SEAN GOAN - Let the Reader Understand
Jesus works on the eyes of the poor blind man with mud and saliva to pour into him his life. The cure is not automatic. The blind man too has to collaborate. He does what Jesus tells him to do: he washes his eyes, cleans them and begins to see. When the people ask him who cured him he does not know what to answer. It was a man called Jesus. He cannot say any more. Neither does he know where he is. He only knows that thanks to this man he can now live life in a completely new way. This is what’s important.
The Pharisees get furious and expel him from the religious community. The reaction of Jesus is touching. When he learns that they have thrown the man out, he goes to look for him. That’s the way Jesus is. We must never forget the one who comes to seek out men and women who feel they have been thrown out of religion. Jesus does not abandon those who seek and love him even though they have been excluded from their religious community.
It is a brief exchange: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man is willing to believe. In his heart he is a believer, but he doesn’t know anything more. “Who is he, sir?”the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said “You have seen him; in fact he is the one speaking with you.” According to the evangelist this event took place in Jerusalem about the year 30 and continues to take place among us in the twenty-first century.

JOSÉ A PAGOLA - Following in the Footsteps of Jesus
John has woven three stories into one, each interacting with the others and shedding light on them like the different colours in a painting. In your meditation follow up one story at a time, the one that happens to touch you right now. The story of the man born blind who gradually comes to the point where he worships Jesus (verse 38). It is the long, often painful, journey of a person who is called to see life in a new way and as a result makes a new commitment. You will notice (and recognize from your own experience) how he sees more and more clearly at every stage that this is a call from God which he can trust. He also experiences more and more opposition and rejection, until the moment when he is lost, the same moment when he is found by Jesus.
The story of the
Pharisees (called "the Jews" in the last part of the passage) make an opposite journey, becoming more and more blind. Trace the stages of their journey: coming to the pathetic climax in verse 40. Recognize from your experience, and with great humility, how religious people can become complacent that they know God's will, and in the process become more and more intolerant and violent towards those who oppose them. Notice at every stage the contrast between them and the man born blind.
The story of
Jesus is the leader who has "come into this world" to accompany the humble on their journey to sight and, on the other hand, to expose the blindness of the arrogant. Discover in him the ideal for all in authority, and also for the church in its relationship with the wider community. His own humble trust in the Father and his compassion are beautifully expressed in verses 1 to 5, his clarity of purpose in verses 39 to 41. Who does he remind you of?.

MICHEL DE VERTEUIL - Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels
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