A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 15)
4th Sunday of Lent, Year A – March 6, 2005
“The Blind Was Able To See”
I Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a // Eph 5:8-14 // Jn 9:1-41
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
Jacqui Kess-Gardner narrates a touching story of how she received light and insight into God’s plan (cf. “These Are the Children We Hold Dear”, GUIDEPOSTS, May 1997, p. 28-31). When Jermaine, her second baby was born, one eye was sealed shut and the other was a milky mass. He had no bridge to his nose and his face looked crushed. Anger at God surged through her. She could not stand anyone staring at her baby and avoided going out of the house. What hurt Jacqui the most was not getting any smiles from Jermaine, which is common in blind infants who can not mimic a smile because they do not see anyone smiling at them. She felt it was another slight from God. Her younger sister, Keetie pleaded with her insistently: “Jacqui, you’ve got to pray to God to forgive you. You’ve got to come back to him. He has a plan.” She resisted. One day when Jermaine was six months old and strapped to her back, she found herself crying as Keetie pleaded with her once more on the phone. She put down the spoon she was using to stir the spaghetti sauce and repeated the words Keetie was praying: “Lord, forgive me. I have been angry at you. I’m sorry. Help me trust in your wisdom. I know you have some plan in this. Help me see it.”
Two months later God’s plan was revealed. Jacqui recounts: “Jamaal had been practicing the piano in the family room, playing ‘Lightly Row’ again and again. (By then I had taken to leaving Jermaine strapped to his high chair next to the piano while his brother played.) He had just finished, and came downstairs to the bedroom where my husband James and I were sitting. Suddenly a familiar plink plunk-plunk, plink plunk-plunk floated down the stairs. I looked at James; James looked at me. It couldn’t be Jamaal. He was jumping on the bed in front of us. We stared at each other for a second, then tore upstairs. At the piano, his head thrown back, a first-ever smile splitting his face, Jermaine was playing ‘Lighty Row.’ The right keys, the right rhythm. It was extraordinary.”
Jacqui thanked Jesus and she knew that Jermaine had found the incredible gift of God. At two and a half, the marvelous blind boy was playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. When he was four he performed with Stevie Wonder. At age five, he played for Nancy Reagan at the White House. He appeared on national television and received invitations to perform from far and wide. The dream of this blind boy who has brought so much light, inspiration and joy to others is to start a music school for the blind. The proud mother happily affirms: “God had a plan for our son. He did indeed.”
Jacqui’s paschal experience from a situation of spiritual darkness to light gives us a glimpse of the fascinating spiritual journey of the Man Born Blind presented in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 9:1-41). The evangelist John presents the intriguing figure of this courageous and intelligent young man as journeying from blindness to sight; from ignorance about Jesus to recognition of his messianic identity; from an object of divine healing to a true sacrificial witness for Jesus, the Light of the world; and from an inchoative insight about his healer to a faith-filled worship of Christ, the font of Light.
Aelred Rosser comments on the story of the healing of the Man Born Blind: “Perhaps the most exciting development in the story is that the beggar, blind from birth, became an ambassador for Jesus, insisting that Jesus must be from God or he could not have performed such wonders. For this brave act of apostleship the blind man is excommunicated. But Jesus seeks him out and takes his belief one step further into ultimate sight: faith in the Son of God.”
Indeed, the faith of the Man Born Blind was not complete until his second encounter with Jesus (cf. Jn 9:35-38). The latter sought out him who had been driven away abusively by the Jewish authorities. When Jesus, the font of Light, found the Man Born Blind, who had courageously stood for the light of truth and resisted the coercive darkness of falsehood and oppressive legalism of the Pharisees, he said to him: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The Man Born Blind, responding more intensely to the grace of radiant truth, answered: “Who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus then pronounced the climactic revelation: “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” The Man Born Blind responded with deep faith and profound worship: I do believe Lord.” This beautiful episode of encounter of the Man Born Blind with Jesus the font of light is a saving event that mirrors our own progressing faith journey as Christian disciples: from the darkness of sin to the light of grace; from a glimmer of messianic recognition to the more radiant and limpid light of faith; from spiritual intuition to the mature stance of oblation and worship; from an object of healing and mercy to a sacrificial witness on behalf of Christ, the giver of life-giving light.
At the end of this dramatic Johannine episode, the Man Born Blind has given the true interpretation of Jesus’ deed and the significance of the messianic sign of healing. Before the hostile Jewish authorities and Pharisees who refused to see the messianic implication of the miraculous healing, but were bent on impeaching Jesus’ integrity, the Man Born Blind had resolutely avowed that Jesus must be a prophet (Jn 9:17b), God’s committed worshiper and disciple (Jn 9:31), and one sent and strengthened by God (Jn 9:33). In effect, the Man Born blind was playing on behalf of Jesus a role similar to that of John the Baptist (cf. Jn 3:31-36) in bearing witness to him and supporting his claims.
Indeed, the Son of Man who would be lifted up on the saving Cross was already drawing to himself those in need of healing and redemption. Jesus’ compassionate act of healing of the Man Born Blind is a vital proof of Jesus’ claim: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12; cf. also Jn 9:5). It also confirms that the real blindness is spiritual blindness (cf. Jn 9:41). Moreover, it evokes the reality that Jesus is the “Siloam” – the “envoy” or the “one sent” and the pool of regenerating waters from which the one baptized or immersed is enlightened. Above all, Jesus’ meeting with the Man Born Blind cast out from the Jerusalem Temple was an enactment of the reassuring promise involving the “Siloam” – the one “sent” by the Father: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I shall not turn away; because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 6:37-38).
In his catecheses addressed to Christians recently baptized, St. Ambrose underlines the paschal and personal implication of the pool of Siloam: “No man is without sin. Consequently, anyone who takes refuge in baptism acknowledges that he is but human. Christ, then, put mud on you, that is, he gave you a reverential fear, prudence, and a consciousness of your own weakness, and he said to you: ‘Go to Siloam.’ What is “Siloam”? It means (says the evangelist) “Sent.” In other words, then: Go to the fountain where they preach the Cross of Christ the Lord; go to the fountain in which Christ has paid the ransom for the sins of all. You went, you washed, you came to the altar; you began to see what you had not seen before. In short, your eyes were opened in the fountain of the Lord and by the preaching of the Lord’s Passion. You seemed previously to be blind of heart; now you began to see light.” Indeed, those who are immersed into Christ, the Siloam, and into the life-giving blood bath of his passion are not only regenerated, but also “enlightened”.
Against the backdrop of the Johannine Gospel of the healing of the Man Born Blind, who was washed in the regenerating pool of Christ, the true Siloam, the “elect” catechumens who are undergoing the second rite of Scrutiny and the entire baptized community are called to meditate on the nature of the Sacrament of Baptism as a bath of enlightenment. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1216: “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this catechetical instruction are enlightened in their understanding. Having received in Baptism the Word, the true light that enlightens every man, the person baptized has been enlightened, he becomes a son of light, indeed, he becomes light himself.”
Finally, Aelred Rosser delineates the challenge of our Christian baptismal vocation as children of light: “The consequences of becoming children of light are quite profound. Now you are sunlight, dwelling in the Land. That Land is the promised land into which Christ leads us through baptism. It is a land filled with new meaning and new brightness for those with eyes to see it. But it is a land whose promise is not yet fully realized. In the meantime, there is danger of compromise that could snuff out the light, keep it hidden, or force it behind a cloud of fear. We are desperately in need of Christ the Light but are often desperately fearful of the consequences of being illumined.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. In what way are we the Man Born Blind? What are the aspects of blindness in us that seek the healing light of Christ? In what way are we the recipient of Christ’s healing act of making the blind see the “light”?
B. In painful experiences and adverse trials as baptized Christians, what is our concrete response to Jesus’ interrogation of love and claim to faith: “Do you believe in the Son of Man” (Jn 9:36)? Are we willing to make a total act of worship and cry out: “I do believe, Lord” (Jn 9:38)?
C. How do we accompany with faith and love the “elect” catechumens who are preparing for the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, the bath of enlightenment? Have we truly lived and appreciated the beauty and the challenge of being baptized Christians, with our lofty vocation as children of Light and as the light of Christ in today’s world?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Adapted from the Rite of Scrutiny)
Leader: Father of mercy,
you helped the Man Born Blind to believe in your Son
and through that faith to reach the light of your Kingdom.
Free the “elect” catechumens preparing for baptism
and all baptized Christians
from the falsehood that surrounds and blinds them.
Let truth be the foundation of our lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Leader: Lord Jesus,
you are the true light that enlightens all people.
By the Spirit of truth,
free all who struggle under the yoke of the father of lies.
Arouse the good will of all the baptized
and the “elect” catechumens whom you have chosen for the sacraments.
Grant them the joy of your light
like the Man Born Blind whose sight you once restored.
Inspire them to become fearless witnesses to the faith,
for you are Lord forever and ever.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“He went and washed, and came back able to see.” (Jn 9:7b)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray that we may be receptive to God’s gift of the light of faith and truly live the meaning of baptism as the sacrament of enlightenment. Participate in Operation Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program. Give some of your time to visit the website: www.catholicrelief.org to learn more about the work that the Catholic Relief Services is doing on our behalf around the world. The works of mercy in the fourth week of Lent are aimed at helping the poor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pray for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo who hope to improve the health of their children. Give the money you saved by fasting and eating simply to Operation Rice Bowl on behalf of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may truly be united with Christ, the font of living water and the light of the world, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 15): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323