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Spirituality of the Readings
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Year A
March 22, 2020
John Foley, SJ

Who sinned, that
this man was born blind? …
“It is so that the works of God
might be made visible through him.”
(Jn 9:8)

Eye Witness

Jesus makes clay on the Sabbath, with his own spittle (what an earthy detail!). He sends the man who was born blind to wash in the “Pool of Siloam.”

The man comes back, now able to see, but Jesus had moved on. Where is he? The man admits, “I do not know.”

Neighbors wonder if sighted person could be that blind fellow who used to sit and beg? No, it cannot be him. But it looks like him. And so on.

Unbelieving Pharisees join in.

They quote the law,

“Thou shall keep the Sabbath holy.”

“This fellow tried to work a miracle on the Sabbath day
and therefore he is a sinner and cannot be from God.”

 “Therefore he could not possibly work a miracle.”

 “If the man can now see, then he was never blind in the first place!”

An easy conclusion.
Let us admit that we cannot see. Then pray to have our eyes opened.

They summon this man’s parents, who say honestly that, in fact, their son had actually been blind from birth! Someone must have cured him! But the rulers are resolved not to recognize Jesus as a miracle worker. They bring the man back and ask a cynical question, as if they were believers: “How did he open your eyes?”

The man replied,

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? (Gospel)

A tart and humorous reply. The Pharisees are of course outraged and they start to insult the formerly blind man. They have not listened and are themselves blinded by what might happen if they admit the truth—like losing their seat of power and influence.*

In our Gospel account, the truth was simple:

Jesus gave depth of sight to a man born blind.

Our lesson? That the works of God were made visible through this blind man. Jesus says that is the purpose of the blindness in the first place.

The man who was blind puts it this way:

“I do believe, Lord.”

It is not just his physical eyesight that was at stake. His heart had been healed.

You can see why this reading is cited during Lent. Easter will present us with the greatest healing in history, and we need to prepare for it. Jesus himself will suffer from the blindness of the world and will die. By his death the world will be healed from its hatred and fear, its suffering and evil, cured by an event that is as quiet as blindness. He will descend into the unseeing darkness of death and by doing this he will prove that love is stronger than death.

Who can see or understand such an event? Not you or me if we are like the story’s Pharisees. We will be distracted by our need for whatever is driving us at the moment: need to control others, to be in charge. What if they had seen this blind man through unclouded eyes? With wonder and awe? Couldn’t they have beheld the miracle?

Well, so can we.

Let us be like the blind man. Let us admit that we cannot see. Then pray to have our eyes opened.

Maybe we will glimpse God’s answer to blindness and suffering and sin!

John Foley, SJ
 * Please note: This story is not to be taken as a condemnation of Jews or the officials. All of us are Jews (as was Jesus) and all of us sin.

Father Foley can be reached at:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go