3/19/23 Homily: True Sight
Updated: Apr 7
Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
In our gospel today, we hear of a man who was blind from birth. Throughout his whole life, he was in the world, but unable to experience it its full beauty—at least, not to the degree that others experienced it.
He had never seen the beauty of a sunrise, even though he may have felt its warmth. He’d never seen the beauty of a rose, though he may have smelt its perfume. He’d never seen the beauty of a child’s smile, though he may have touched his face. The blind man had eyes, but he could not see. That aspect of human life was not accessible to him.
His blindness had even affected the way that he related with others. He had been forced to beg to survive. He was unable to stand and walk freely with others at their level. He literally couldn’t see them, eye to eye. From a certain view, no pun intended, in that ancient world, his humanity and dignity were compromised.
But as our Lord Jesus Christ says in our gospel passage today, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind”. Jesus healed the blind man, and it changed his entire life.
He was able to stand at his full height and walk without fear; able to look others in the eye. He could speak to others, no longer as a beggar, but at the same level, face to face. It’s no accident that our Lord made clay with his saliva and put it on the man’s eyes. Our Lord can heal simply as a matter of willing it. But he chose to make clay.
It reminds us that we were all once made from clay and the breath of God. Here, God re-creates one of his sons, and activates a once dormant dignity. In a very real way, Jesus restored the humanity of the blind man; a humanity that included a network of relationships with other persons. And we see how this network unfolds.
The encounter with Jesus Christ caused drama between the man who could see and the other people of the city. Many people wondered how the man had been able to regain his sight. The man who could see told the Pharisees that Jesus was a prophet who did mighty signs. His encounter with Christ had changed his heart. But it also separated him from those who hated Jesus, or who were afraid of the Pharisees. As we heard, the man was eventually thrown out of the synagogue, after he had testified simply and courageously about his encounter with Jesus.
Our own lives are much like that of the man who had been born blind. Like the blind man, there is an aspect of human life and beauty that is not accessible to us, because of our fallen nature and because of sin in our life. We can be blind to so many things: the natural beauty of the world, the beauty of God’s merciful love and forgiveness; God’s judgment and justice. We can be blind with regard to others. We might fail to see their humanity, or speak to them face to face, or even look them in the eye. Like the blind man in our gospel, we might be stuck in place and isolated, feeding off the scraps we might beg from others in some way.
But through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ heals our blindness. He opens our eyes to see his beauty—in the world and in others, so that we can see the true humanity in others, and see the image of God in them. And we can love accordingly, with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
As with the blind man, our encounter with Christ can cause a drama in some of our relationships. The blind man gave witness to Jesus, and was thrown out of the synagogue. Likewise, our own network of relationships might suffer something similar. Christ can be a source of division in every age.
We can be encouraged by the fact that, in our gospel, our Lord once again sought out the man who had been blind. Jesus revealed himself openly to him, and the man who had been healed by God was able to look upon God, and see him face to face, and worship him.
Similarly, we can be confident that if you and I likewise testify in behalf of Jesus, it is certain that he will never abandon us. He will reveal himself fully to you and me. We will be able to see God face to face, and worship him freely. That will be our eternal reward, which we already experience now, under the appearance of bread and wine.
God created us so that we could one day look upon him, face to face. Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Let us look upon him today and, after the example of the man healed of blindness, confess our faith, “I do believe Lord,” and let us worship him.
Healing of the Blind Man, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, c. 1871, painting, Museum of Natural History [Public Domain]