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The Eyes of the Heart Are Healed to See the True Light

 Fourth Sunday of Lent – LAETARE SUNDAY – Year A – March 26, 2017

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Roman Rite
1Sm 16,1B 6-7 10-13A; Ps 23; Eph5.8 to 14; Jn 9, 1-41
Ambrosian Rite
Ex 34.27 to 35.1; Ps 35; 2 Cor 3.7 to 18; Jn 9, 1-38b
Sunday of the Blind Man
1) Light for the eyes of the soul.
While last Sunday, through the Gospel of the Samaritan woman, Jesus promised also to us the gift of living water (Jn 4, 10.11), this fourth Sunday of Lent, called «Laetare» (= Rejoice) Sunday, presents Christ «light of world” who heals a» born blind man»(Jn 9, 1-41).
Who is a man born blind? It is a person who does not know the beauty of creation and creatures. It is one who lives without the power or the knowledge to put a face to the people next to him. It is one who lives without seeing the rainbow in the sky, the colors of the fields, the grandeur of the mountains, the sweetness of the fields, the colors of the flowers and of the trees.
This blind man is, above all, one who does not know the joy of being able to look with love in the eyes of a dear one. It is a great sadness to have eyes and not see, relying only on what the ear and touch let perceive, and to be forced to walk the streets with a stick in the hands guessing where the obstacles are.
However, there is a much worse blindness, the one of the man who has no faith, who does not know Jesus, the only Truth that enlightens the world and who gives meaning to the events, room to the intelligence, deep to love, taste to everything that we are and do, including suffering. This man is really blind: what does he know of the Light, or rather with what light does he walk and judge things and facts?
Providentially, Christ heals the eyes of the body and of the soul with the touch of his fingers. This is a fact that makes us remember what happened to us the day of our Baptism when our eyes were caressed and blessed by the priest so that they could be open to the Light that is Christ. This light of Christ is given to us to live as children of light after the healing of the eyes of our heart, that «being ill” were making our soul blind.
Let’s imagine the scene, especially when Jesus takes a fist of soil and mixes it with his saliva. He makes mud and smears it on the eyes of the blind man. This gesture alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of the soil shaped and animated by the breath of God (see Gen 2.7). «Adam» means «earthy, kneaded earth» (Adam derives from the Hebrew word adamah which means soil) and the human body is indeed composed by elements of the earth. Healing the man, Jesus brings about a new creation. To give sight, in a sense, is equivalent to give life. Not by chance it is said that when a woman gives birth, she brings a child to light. To come to light is to enjoy the colors of the world, the freedom to move around without fear, to run in and to jump for joy. However, the deeper meaning of this miracle of light is that not only the body’s eyes can see, but also those of the soul. Then, we can look into the depths of the mystery of Christ, see his truth and his love and exclaim: «Lord, I believe» (Jn 9, 38), prostrating ourselves before Him in a gesture of worship, as did the man born blind as soon as he was healed. From that moment for this man a journey of faith has begun.
2) Walk in the light.
The Church today proposes to us the journey to which Jesus had invited the healed man.
It is a journey of growth in the knowledge of the Mystery of Christ, and in the experience of Him, who is light and leads us to the fullness of vision, even in the midst of the obstacles and the gray areas of life.
The greatest grace that the blind man – who represent each of us- receives from Christ, is not to see, but to know Him, to see Him as the «light of the world» (Jn 9, 5). The miracle is that Christ makes not only see the sunlight, but also the light of truth.
In the miracle of the blind man, we see that conversion is allowing our eyes to be open to a reality as it really is and not as we see it when we look without the eyes of faith.
Let’ s make our own the invitation of St. Bonaventure to a journey of the mind toward God: «Open your eyes, tend your spiritual ear, open your lips and make your heart available so that you may in all creatures see, hear , praise, love, worship, glorify, and honor your God «(Itinerarium mentis in Deum, I, 15).
It is a path that we can accomplish by following the exhortation of Saint Paul « Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention  the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: «Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.» (Eph 5: 8 14 – Second Reading of this Sunday).
It is a journey in which we are called to be witnesses of the light and love that come from faith. “Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith… gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. «(Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 39).
To experience love, and in this way to let the light of God in the world, I would like to invite each and every one of us to this.
As taught by Pope Francis: “Our lives are sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened himself to the light, who opened himself to God, who opened himself to his grace. Sometimes unfortunately they are similar to that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord!…  The lengthy account opens with a blind man who begins to see and it closes with the alleged seers who remain blind in soul. In the end the blind man who was healed attains to faith, and this is the greatest grace that Jesus grants him: not only to see, but also to know Him, to see in Him “the light of the world”  «(Angelus, March 30, 2014).
3) Virginity for the Light
With his eyes closed but with good reason: the command of Christ, the blind man went to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes smeared with mud. When the eyes became cloudless, he saw, believed and gave the news. His recovery was bodily and spiritually. For this reason, he saw not only people and things, but the truth of God and man. He saw that God is for man, that God is love that God gives everything, God gives himself, God gives freedom, and that freedom is love and service.
This miracle invites us to ask the Lord to heal the eyes of our soul, then to be converted to Him, to contemplate Him and to follow Him.
The consecrated virgins in the world are an example of this conversion made constant journey through a consecration that implies a complete offer of their lives to Christ. God «continually purifies and renews them to let them appear before him holy and immaculate, adorned as a bride for the wedding. In the mystery of the Church, virgin and mother, by thy Holy Spirit, you inspire the variety of gifts and charisms for the building of your kingdom. You speak, O Father, to the heart of your daughters and draw them with bonds of love so that, waiting ardent and vigilant, they may fill their lamps and go out to meet Christ, King of glory «(Preface of the Mass of the rite of consecration of Virgin).
Patristic Reading
Saint John Chrysostom (344/354407)
«And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?»
[1.] “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” Being full of love for man, and caring for our salvation, and desiring to stop the mouths of the foolish, He omitteth nothing of His own part, though there be none to give heed. And the Prophet knowing this saith, “That Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou art judged.” (Ps 51,4). Wherefore here, when they would not receive His sublime sayings, but said that He had a devil, and attempted to kill Him, He went forth from the Temple, and healed the blind, mitigating their rage by His absence, and by working the miracle softening their hardness and cruelty, and establishing His assertions. And He worketh a miracle which was no common one, but one which took place then for the first time. “Since the world began,” saith he who was healed, “was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” (Jn 9,32). Some have, perhaps, opened the eyes of the blind, but of one born blind never. And that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this; it was He who saw the blind man, not the blind man who came to Him; and so earnestly did He look upon him, that even His disciples perceived it. From this, at least, they came to question Him; for when they saw Him earnestly regarding the man, they asked Him, saying, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents?” A mistaken question, for how could he sin before he was born? and how, if his parents had sinned, would he have been punished? Whence then came they to put this question? Before, when He healed the paralytic, He said, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more.” (c. 5,14). They therefore, having understood that he was palsied on account of sin, said,“ Well, that other was palsied because of his sins; but concerning. this man, what wouldest Thou say? hath he sinned? It is not possible to say so, for he is blind from his birth. Have his parents sinned? Neither can one say this, for the child suffers not punishment for the father.” As therefore when we see a child evil entreated, we exclaim, “What can one say of this? what has the child done?”not as asking a question, but as being perplexed, so the disciples spake here, not so much asking for information, as being in perplexity. What then saith Christ?
Jn 9,3. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.”
This He saith not as acquitting them of sins, for He saith not simply, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” but addeth, “that he should have been born blind1 —but that the Son of God should be glorified in him.” “For both this man hath sinned and his parents, but his blindness proceedeth not from that.” And this He said, not signifying that though this man indeed was not in such case, yet that others had been made blind from such a cause, the sins of their parents, since it cannot be that when one sinneth another should be punished. For if we allow this, we must also allow that he sinned before his birth. As therefore when He declared, “neither hath this man sinned,” He said not that it is possible to sin from one’s very birth, and be punished for it; so when He said, “nor his parents,” He said not that one may be punished for his parents’ sake. This supposition He removeth by the mouth of Ezekiel; “As I live saith the Lord, this proverb shall not be, that is used, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Ez 18,3 Ez 18,2). And Moses saith, “The father shall not die for the child, neither shall the child die for the father.” (Dt 24,16). And of a certain king2 Scripture saith, that for this very reason he did not this thing,3 observing the law of Moses. But if any one argue, “How then is it said, ‘Who visiteth the sins of the parents upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’?” (Dt 5,9); we should make this answer, that the assertion is not universal, but that it is spoken with reference to certain who came out of Egypt. And its meaning is of this kind; “Since these who have come out of Egypt, after signs and wonders, have become worse than their forefathers who saw none of these things, they shall suffer,” It saith, “the same that those others suffered, since they have dared the same crimes.” And that it was spoken of those men, any one who will give attention to the passage will more certainly know. Wherefore then was he born blind?
“That the glory4 of God should be made manifest,”5 He saith.
Lo, here again is another difficulty, if without this man’s punishment, it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown. Certainly it is not said that it was impossible, for it was possible, but, “that it might be manifested even in this man.” “What,” saith some one, “did he suffer wrong for the glory of God?” What wrong, tell me? For what if God had never willed to produce him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And He who had brought this man from not being into being, had also power to leave him as he was.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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