Fourth Sunday of Lent: The Gift of Sight

The Agony in the Garden, Sandro Botticelli

The Agony in the Garden, Sandro Botticelli

1 SM 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; PS 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; EPF 5:8-14; JN 9:1-41

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” This Sunday’s readings are about seeing truly and seeing falsely. It is this transformation of sight that determines how we relate to Jesus on the Cross, to God our Father, and to our neighbor.

The first reading tells of when Samuel first met David. First he looks at all the other sons of Jesse. But he warns, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart.”

On second glance(!) the reading is richer than it first appears. David is “a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance.” Now, it is true that in the reading, “the LORD said” this was the one, implying Samuel has some kind of knowledge beyond appearance. But it is beautiful to consider(!) that there is also a kind of different seeing.

The Hebrew in the first case is something like, “do not look at the look of him,” but in the second is something like, “he was beautiful in the eye, and good to look at.” As we saw with Adam and Eve, there are different kinds of “looking.” Samuel looks deeper and sees something that a casual glance did not reveal. The Lord gives him that way of seeing, to see as God sees.

***

The reading from Ephesians is about light. It says that “light produces every kind of goodness,” while the “deeds of darkness” are “fruitless” and “shameful even to mention.”

Here too the theme is true seeing. The moral life – and more deeply, the spiritual life, and the life of love – is not primarily about “blindly” following rules. It’s a matter of seeing the truth. It’s a matter of seeing the fruitlessness of foolish ways, seeing that these things do not get us what we want, don’t make for true happiness. It’s a matter of seeing the ways that really do lead to God.

“You were once in darkness.” Much of our life we stumble in blindness, not even noticing the stupidity of our harmful choices. But Paul calls to us, “Awake, o sleeper . . . and Christ will give you light.” He will help us to wake up and see the way of “righteousness and truth,” “what is pleasing to the Lord” – what brings us to true fulfillment.

***

And so we see that a lot is going on in the Gospel reading, where Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man.

The reading is long and amazing and full of allusions. Just briefly: the man calls Jesus “a prophet” – the Greek word for prophet means one who makes things visible. He tells the Pharisees, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.” The Greek word for “amazing” is “something worth looking at.”

More deeply, this story is full of knowing and unknowing. Jesus says he does the miracle “that the works of God might be made visible.” He is “the light of the world,” and must work “while it is day.” The blind Pharisees say this is not the blind man, “he just looks like him.” They ask where Jesus is and the man says, “I do not know.” They do not know the true meaning of the sabbath, and so accuse Jesus of breaking it. The man says, “If he is a sinner, I do not know.” They say, “We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”

Finally the man stands before Jesus and Jesus says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man replies, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him.” And Jesus says, “You have seen him.”

***

It is all about seeing and not seeing, knowing and not knowing. The problem is not that we make judgments, but that we make judgments in ignorance. We tend to take a quick look at a situation and think we know all there is to know. But as with David, sometimes to truly know requires looking much more closely.

Jesus is the light of the world, and the giver of sight. We contemplate his Cross to learn to see differently, to learn to see goodness and joy where at first we thought there was only ugliness. And more deeply, we cling to him so that by his grace he might open our eyes, so we can see truly.

***

Where is God calling you to look deeper into the meaning of your life?

eric.m.johnston

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.