Gospel Reflection for March 22, 2020, Fourth Sunday of Lent

“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’”

This is the testimony of a beggar, a man born blind, who was healed by Jesus during a confrontation over the nature of sin and restoration between Jesus and scholars of the Law. This man was going about his business – the only business for which he was qualified – sitting by the side of the road and begging. He did not ask to be healed. He even seems even to be oblivious to the conversation even though they were speaking about him. Yet, he is in the place where the Lord wanted him to be. This man becomes an important sign to the disciples and the authorities of Jewish law, as to the nature of sin and forgiveness.

Jesus has made his way to Jerusalem while the threats against him are growing. Jesus is asked a question by his own disciples on the interpretation of a central belief in Judaism regarding the nature of sin and the exercise of God’s judgment. Sitting near the Pool of Siloam, at the very south end of the city near the approach from Jericho, was this blind man. The legal scholars pondered whose sin it might have been that caused his blindness. Jesus, while skirting the precise answer that would either affirm their beliefs or bring charges of heresy against him, takes the conversation to another level entirely.

Jesus answered the question through the restoration of the man’s sight. Making mud he smeared it on the man’s eyes and then sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash himself clean. In doing so, the man regains his sight and becomes the unwitting foil in the tension between Jesus and the Jewish officials.

Harkening again back to creation, Jesus reveals his mission, and points us to the meaning of the Paschal events about to occur. Jesus in smearing mud on the man’s eyes effected a re-creation of the man, symbolically destroying the old and washing away his sins. Jesus took a man viewed a sign of the consequence of sin and made him a sign of the consequence of the effects of Jesus’ Paschal Sacrifice.

His was not a restoration of what had been lost to him – he was born blind. Now he sees. Now he is able to share in the life of the Temple and become a member of the community. Still there are those, like the Pharisees, who prefer to see this man wallow in his sins. They refuse to accept the possibility of the healing action of God in his life. That they had judged him a sinner becomes the sole definition of who he was.

We are not judged that way by God, even if we feel that we have been so judged by others and, perhaps, even by the Church.  Samuel learned this as he saw each of the sons of Jesse come before him only to be rejected as king while it was the last one, David, who though young and not yet mature, was the one chosen. God sees within and not on external appearance. The Man-born-blind sees more profoundly than those around him whose sight is certain but miss the work of God that is before them. Jesus had seen within him.

Although he could not see Jesus, and did not know who he was, he is open and has faith that what this stranger did to him would be life changing. In inviting this man to wash in the pool, Jesus symbolically calls this man to Baptism. Thought to be wallowing in sin, Jesus restored him to the community and made him whole through the cleansing waters of the Pool of Siloam. It is a sign of the total restoration of what the Father intended in creation. Once his eyes were opened – and he knew not how – he was led to an attitude of faith, faith in the Son of Man.

Baptism removes from us the blindness of sin and calls us to be washed in the cleansing waters of the font. Let us all rejoice that our sins are forgiven through baptism and the Sacrament of Confession. Like the man-born-blind we see with eyes of faith and not the eyes of judgment.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.