Lectionary Text: John 9: 1-14, (15-38) 39-41
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes…Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Our Gospel text for this the fourth Sunday of Lent is the account of the healing of the man blind from birth in the Pool of Siloam (or the Pool of Shelah or the waters of Shiloah). We tend to read this story as a great miracle or healing story where, once again, Jesus comes out as the glorious hero. But what would happen if you flipped the thinking a little bit? Did the man become able to see because Jesus healed him, pulling him out of his disability, his “sin”, and into “righteousness”? Or was the man able to see because he was in darkness and had nowhere else to look but toward the light? Maybe rather than a healing story, this is a story that calls us to look into our own blindness, our own way that we miss seeing God. 19th century artist Paul Gauguin once said that “I shut my eyes in order to see.” It is harder to see light on light. There is no definition, no contrast. It is harder to discern which light is the one that will allow us to see. Light cannot light light. I mean, really, when was the last time you went outside and gazed at the stars at noon? Do you think the stars disappear during the day? Do you think that when the sun goes down, a myriad of stars begin to peek through the ozone layer for our enjoyment? No, they are there all the time, just waiting for us to peer from the darkness and finally glimpse their light. It is when we are in the darkness that the light is illuminating, seemingly consuming the darkness, if only for a time.
But read the first chapter of Genesis. The light did not expel the darkness; it pushed it away, replacing it with light. The darkness and the light were separated not because one was bad and one was good but because it is in the darkness that we see the light. That is why the man born blind from birth in our story could so easily gain his sight. Jesus knew that. The man lived in darkness. Light was all he could see. But those who lived in the light of their own spiritual perfectionism–it was they that were blinded by the light, unable to see, unable to distinguish the light of the their own making from the light of God.
Lent is as much about looking into our own darkness as it is looking into the light. Think about it…all that is created begins in darkness–the darkness of the great void that existed before we were, the darkness of the womb that held us for a time, and the darkness that encompassed that Friday afternoon when the world was once again plunged into darkness so that it could be created once again. If the darkness was completely bad, not “of God”, so to speak, why in the world would God leave it in Creation at all? There is nothing “evil” about darkness. In fact, I would submit the real possibility that there is a lot more evil going on in broad daylight nowadays, out where we can see it, whether or not we choose to pay attention!
Darkness is a real part of life–the darkness of sin, the darkness of depression, the darkness of poverty and economic hardships, the darkness of substance abuse, the darkness of failure, the darkness of living a life that has not turned out the way we thought it would, the darkness of ______________ (just fill in the blank). We all begin in darkness. But it is from the darkness that we can peer into the light, groggy-eyed and body-bent, and see beyond the shadows, beyond the flickering lights of the world, to the illuminating Light of Christ that shows us the Way of Life, the Way of God, the way to see as God sees, the Way to Love, the Way of Grace. It is from the darkness that we can see what we’ve never seen before. Helen Keller said that “I believe that life is given us so we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is the colour and fragrance of a flower…I believe that in the life to come I shall have the senses I have not had here, and that my home there will be beautiful with colour, music, and speech of flowers and faces I love. Without this faith there would be little meaning in my life. I should be “a mere pillar of darkness in the dark.”
So, in this Lenten season, close your eyes…and open them that you might finally see!
Grace and Peace,