This Sunday’s Gospel is about the healing of a blind beggar. The story has its humorous moments in some of the cheeky comments made by the beggar. The educated, elite and powerful Pharisees interrogate him to find out who dared heal him on a Sabbath, a sinful violation of the prohibition against work. They ask the beggar what he thinks about this sinner Jesus who healed him, and the beggar bravely says, “He is a prophet.” When they question the beggar again, he even taunts them: “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” No wonder they threw him out of the temple!
This is the second of three stories from the Gospel of John that we hear during three Sundays in Lent. John is always writing on two levels — the literal story of what happened, and the metaphorical level — how something in the story points toward our discipleship life in the risen Christ. The beggar’s physical blindness in this Gospel is a metaphor for the perspectival blindness that leads to spiritual blindness. The (blind) Pharisees perceive the man’s parents as possibly sinful (in Jesus’ day, disabilities were blamed on sinfulness of the person or the person’s family); and they perceive Jesus as a lawbreaking sinner. So they could not believe the beggar was healed.
John the Evangelist uses this account to pose to us the question some pharisees ask at the end of the passage: “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Well, of course yes, we are. We never just take in (see) things as they are. We actually perceive everything through the conscious or unconscious lenses we all have. I can tell this whenever I find my “hackles” rising while someone strongly disagrees with me — they are seeing things differently from me, and my perspective makes it difficult to hear their truth. Strong likes and dislikes of people are another clue to my own biases or perspectives. As a result, I can fail to see the wisdom, gifts and potential of some people. Or I avoid associating with people whose perspective is quite different from mine. Right now in both our Church and nation, people have distanced themselves from one another to group together into various “camps,” which social media makes easier to do. So today’s Gospel is very contemporary. It asks me: Where do I block out the light that is trying to come into my darkness?
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia