17 March 2010

Healed by Divine Grace and Light

In today’s Gospel from the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Saint John 9:1-38), Jesus heals a man who has been blind from birth and is sent to the Pool of Siloam.

When Jesus healed the paralytic He told him: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ (cf. Saint Mark 2:1-12). Because of this the disciples must have concluded that his infirmity was sent to him in punishment for his previous sins. Therefore, when they saw the blind man, they asked Jesus: ‘Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind’? Jesus explained that ‘neither has this man sinned nor his parents’. A belief that affliction was punishment for sins committed was quite common in Christ’s day. When Jesus explains that the blind man did not sin, this of course is not to be understood to mean that the blind man was not a sinner. For both he and his parents were sinners; but the meaning is that his blindness was not inflicted as punishment for any sin that he or his parents had committed, but as we see by Christ's healing, this man's blindness was given for the manifestation of the glory of God.

Jesus says: ‘I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day’. This is not really a reference to the time of day; He's actually referring to the time lived in this life as a mortal. This is a marvellous example of how Scripture gives us the True Reality as opposed to the perceived reality we tend to live out. Perceived reality might, for example, ignore someone in need because our precious schedule dictates that we have to be someplace else or there simply isn’t enough time in the day for an inconvenience while at the same time trying to get all these other things done. But Jesus says, no, ‘I must work the works of Him that sent Me’. Not, ‘I should’ but ‘I must’; and if you’re curious about the ancient text, the Greek translates as ‘it is binding’. That's pretty strong language!

Jesus follows this up with, ‘The night is coming, when no man can work’, meaning that in death we can no longer do the works of the Lord in mortal life; but only be rewarded for our labours in this life.

Jesus used clay and saliva to heal the blind man not because clay and saliva were necessary to make the miracle work but instead to make the miracle more visible. The Church follows this example when administering the sacraments. Jesus is present in all the sacraments even though we can’t see Him or the works He performs in them. For this reason, the Church, for visibility, administers the sacraments in religious ceremonies. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts forth a very comforting reminder that in the sacraments Christ continues to touch us in order to heal us (cf. CCC 1504).

The Pool of Siloam was at the foot of the walls of Jerusalem where its waters were collected in a reservoir for the benefit of the city. The word ‘Siloam’, which means ‘Sent’, was a figure of Christ, Who was sent by His eternal Father into the world to enlighten God’s people. The Pool of Siloam is a representation of the Sacrament of Baptism, by which we are sanctified. Its waters signify divine grace and light which is given to us through Jesus Christ, Who was sent by the Father.

When the blind man was questioned about Who Jesus was, the man replied by saying, ‘He is a prophet’. The title of ‘prophet’ was given to anyone who seemed to possess one or more extraordinary gifts. The blind man honoured Jesus when he thought Him to be a prophet; but when it was revealed to him that Jesus was the Son of God, the man worshipped Jesus. Worship is an act reserved for God alone. The Catechism teaches: ‘If any one is a worshipper of God and does His will, God listens to him. Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the Name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed His will alone’ (CCC 2827).

Those questioning the blind man proclaimed, ‘We know that God does not hear sinners’. We are all sinners, and so, this statement does not mean that God doesn’t listen to our prayers; it pretty much is singling out those who have no intention of repenting.

The Pharisees said, ‘This Man is not of God, Who keeps not the Sabbath’. This seems to be a popular complaint about Jesus throughout the Gospels. In Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus answers this complaint with a question: ‘Is it lawful to do good on Sabbath days, or to do evil: to save life or to destroy it’? After this question the complainers were silent (cf. Saint Mark 3:4).

Being reduced to silence by Jesus demonstrates the evil that can come from mere words. When God silences man, he will either take a step back for a moment and consider the splendour of God, but decide to keep living by his own destructive will; or, when man takes that step backwards, he will surrender himself to the Lord and over time be led to a greater interior silence.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!