Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-38
“A man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, said to me, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” – John 9.11
In John’s gospel Jesus often jumps into people’s lives. Last Sunday he sat down beside a Samaritan woman and asked for a drink. In the course of their conversation she recognizes Jesus is the messiah, leaves her water jar behind, and becomes an evangelist to the other Samaritans in her village. This Sunday Jesus is just walking along and sees a man blind from birth. Without the blind man’s asking, Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, and puts the mud on the man’s eyes.
Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t give the man sight on the spot but sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash. The pool and washing suggest the story has two levels–an encounter with Jesus in history and an encounter with Jesus in Baptism. For the community that gives us John’s gospel near the end of the first century, the story reflects the experience of people like the villagers in last Sunday’s gospel who believe on the strength of the Samaritan women’s word.
In Sunday’s gospel the man born blind is the talk of the neighborhood. After putting mud on the man’s eyes Jesus doesn’t appear in the story until the end. Meanwhile, everybody weighs in. First, the neighbors ask, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” The seeing man explains that he went to the Poor of Siloam, washed and received his sight.
The neighbors take the man with new eyes to the local teachers, who insist Jesus can’t be from God because he breaks the law and heals on the Sabbath. What does the man say about Jesus? “He is a prophet.”
The teachers take the man who now sees to his parents to verify that he was born blind. They affirm he was born blind but about Jesus their son has to speak for himself. “One thing I know,” the son says, “I was blind and now I see.” The teachers continue to argue Jesus is a sinner who can’t be from God. The man insists, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
In speaking out for Jesus, the local teachers put him out of the synagogue. The man with seeing eyes meets Jesus in a final scene and affirms his faith. Jesus asks if he believes in him. The man says, “Lord, I believe.”
The story shows coming to faith as a journey and process. Those in our RCIA parish programs make the same journey to those words, “Lord, I believe.”
For all of us, faith is fundamentally a relationship, a setting of the heart, a seeing that is anchored in our experience of the holy in our lives. This faith calls us to recognize the bonds and sustaining support we are to one another every day and especially in the days of distance the coronavirus epidemic demands.
What and who are you seeing with new eyes from wherever you are sheltering in place? How can our digital world help you support those you love at a distance?