Christ Healing the Blind (c. 1570), El Greco
Children learn this idea as they age, but we adults have to relearn it at times as well. Maybe the major we always planned study for turns out to not be our cup of tea after all. Maybe the relationship that we thought was merely that between friends is actually something deeper and romantic. Maybe the dream job that we’ve sought for so long turns out to be less glamorous or more stressful than we had thought. Life is full of surprises, and often what we anticipate and expect is not what turns out to be.
The same is true our spiritual lives. “Not as man sees does God see,” we heard in our first reading. Or in the similar words of Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Our readings for today show this clearly. In the Gospel today, Jesus acts contrary to the expectations of those around him by taking notice of the blind man and healing him. People of the first century, if they had noticed him at all, would have assumed that his affliction was due to his own sinfulness, as the Pharisees state. But Jesus stops, stoops down, and changes the blind man’s entire life in an instant.
His encounter with Jesus gives him something much greater than just the physical ability to see. Did you notice how Jesus healed the blind man? He made clay and put it on his eyes. Just as God formed Adam from the clay in Eden so too does Jesus’s healing recreate the man, so to speak, giving him not just physical sight but also the spiritual vision by which he sees the world entirely anew. Just like the woman at the well in last week’s Gospel, he is changed by this encounter with Jesus. His neighbors even debate about whether it’s really him or someone who looks like him; more importantly, he now is able to testify about Jesus to the Pharisees, who have physical sight but who are blind to the power of God before them.
The story of the blind man is, in many ways, symbolic of the story of every Christian. You and I were born in blindness, lacking spiritual vision and discordant with the way that God desires us to be. But at our baptism, we encountered the healing power of Christ, restoring us to God’s friendship and giving us the gift of faith by which we can see the world anew. Our journey through Lent is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the power of what we have been given, of the dignity of the gift we have received. Christ has healed our blindness and brought light to our darkness; now he calls us also to be bearers of light in his name so that others also may come to see.
That’s the message of St. Paul in his letter to the Christians of Ephesus. He reminds us that having been called out of darkness, we are now “children of light”. Jesus is the Light of the World, and those who have seen his light – indeed, those who have been given new sight by him – are called to also be light for others. We can’t go back to darkness, to being spiritually blind. Rather, when others look at us, when they look at how we live, they should see in us He who is the Light of the World.
Friends, we are reminded often that things aren’t always what they seem. The same is true for God – he acts in ways that are unexpected, always reaching out to us to surprise us again with a love that heals and restores. Jesus brings us new vision, a way of seeing things anew with spiritual sight, a light by which we leave behind darkness. Let’s deepen our faith again in these last few weeks of Lent, so that others can see in us the way that we have been changed by meeting Jesus, and all of us can together say, like the blind man, “I do believe, Lord.”