4th Lent [A] 2008

Fr. Charles Irvin

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-24; John 9:1-41

We have all heard the phrase “Seeing is believing.” The idea comes, I suppose, from skeptical people who won’t believe anything is real or anything is true unless and until they see it for themselves.

In today’s Gospel account the phrase “Seeing is believing” is paradoxically both proved and disproved. It is proved by the blind man eventually seeing Jesus and acknowledging that indeed Jesus is “from God.” The blind man recognized Jesus for who He is. The Pharisees, on the other hand, men who were sighted, did not or would not see Jesus for who He is. The blind man could see, the sighted Pharisees were blind. Seeing, they would not believe.

In this Gospel account Jesus gives us some additional clues as to who He really is. You will recall that in the Book of Genesis we find God creating us from “the slime of the earth.” Here we find slimy mud formed from Jesus’ saliva bringing light into the blind man’s darkness. Bringing light into the darkness, we recall, was God’s first act of creation along with fashioning us from the slime of the earth.

A second clue as to who Jesus really is can be found in the fact that Jesus didn’t use water to form the mud. If He had used water some might say that the miraculous power that gave the man sight came from water. No. Jesus used His own saliva to demonstrate that the miraculous power giving sight to the man born blind came from Him and from Him alone.

Let me turn your attention now to the fact that the blind man’s recognition of who Jesus really is came about gradually… through a process. When first questioned he told his neighbors that “the man called Jesus” made paste, put it on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the waters of Siloam. When asked where Jesus was he said he didn’t know.

When brought to the Pharisees who questioned him as to the man who healed him the blind man said,“He is a prophet.” The Pharisees, as we know, refused to believe that Jesus was anything other than a sinner.

Finally, at the conclusion of the episode, Jesus searched him out and when He found the man he acknowledged that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and then worshipped Him, an act that one gives to God alone. Worshipping anyone or anything else other than God is blasphemy and idolatry. In short, the formerly blind man acknowledged the divinity of Christ. So for the blind man, truly, “seeing is believing.”

The Pharisees give us the skeptical side of the phrase. Sighted though they were, they were in fact blind and living in darkness apart from God.

At first they suspended judgment about Jesus. Doubting the blind man’s testimony they sent for his parents and questioned them. They gave their testimony but it didn’t help the Pharisees to see things at all. Their doubt only increased. They declared Jesus to be a sinner and sent for the blind man to testify once again. Quite forthrightly he told them that he had already given his testimony. He then bluntly asked the Pharisees why they wouldn’t listen. He went on to declare: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes and you turn around and say you don’t know where He comes from!”

The blind man’s progress in gaining spiritual insight is matched by the spiritual leaders’ step-by-step journey into darkness and blindness. Even though Christ, the Light of the World, was standing before them their stubborn reliance only on themselves and their blind pride led them into darkness.

Once again we are dealing in this Gospel account with St. John’s major themes: order out of chaos, light out of darkness, good out of evil, and life out of death.

The question now presented itself to us here in America in 2008 is: Do we recognize what our real struggle is all about? Sure situation in Iraq vexes us, the war against Islamic terrorists continues, the economy is faltering, drugs and pornography beset us, and the cost of living has gone through the roof. But what about the presence of God in our lives?

Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him or do our many concerns blind us?

We don’t have to go to the trouble to try and find God. He has come to search us out just as He did the blind man who had miraculously been given sight. The basic movement is the coming of God to us. From the time God entered the Garden of Eden in search of Adam and Eve, to the time when He was born among us in a manger in Bethlehem, to the time He came upon us all in Pentecost, to this very day and this very Mass, God comes to us. The Light of the World has come and the darkness shall not overcome it.

There is only one darkness that can prevail, the darkness of our own lack of attention and our own lack of vision when it comes to His presence in our lives. It may be true that we do not willfully ignore God and are blind to His presence, but if “seeing is believing” how can we believe if we do not see?

Lent is time set aside when we try to see God in our lives. Lent is a time when we try to step away from all of our worldly concerns and give some time and attention to what’s going on in our souls. To strengthen our faith and our belief we need, along with the blind man, ask: “Lord, that I might see” and then expect a miracle, the miracle of seeing the Light of the World in our darkened days.

Our blindness is not the blindness of the Pharisees. Ours is being too busy for time with God, too worried about the cares of this world.

“Seeing is believing.” Oh, Lord, let me see your light, let me recognize your presence in my life; open my eyes because I know who you are and I know what you can do. 

 Oh, Lord, that I may see.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”