The disciples, as many people still do today, thought that misfortune was a punishment sent from God for sins committed. “What did I do to deserve this?” is still a question asked of the priest by an afflicted parishioner during a hospital visit. Would that it were that easy! If evil persons always suffered and good people always prospered, correct conduct would be much easier to encourage. The young man in this coming Sunday’s Gospel, blind since birth, was not being punished for some ancestral fault. Rather, he was to become an occasion for God’s glory and for Jesus to reveal to the world the true nature of his earthly ministry. Immediately before this healing miracle, the Master had declared publicly, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn.8:12). Jesus uttered these words clearly in frustration since the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees had been in conflict with his preaching and his message during the entire chapters 7 & 8 of St. John’s Gospel account. Chapter 9 was now going to clarify dramatically and graphically the purpose and nature of Jesus’ mission from the Father.
Consider some observations from these two contentious previous chapters. Jesus was actually afraid to go to Jerusalem “because the Jews were trying to kill him.” Some listeners remarked, “he misleads the crowd.” They held him in distain: “How does he know scripture without having studied?” They got quite serious in their antipathy: “So they tried to arrest him.” And again, “The chief priests and the Pharisees sent guards to arrest him.” They insulted him, “You testify on your own behalf, so your testimony cannot be verified.” They insulted him again, “you are a Samaritan and are possessed?” They added to their contempt, “So they picked up stones to throw at him.”
Jesus counters all this harassment with the bold statement that he is indeed “the light of the world” (Jn.8:12). And now Jesus will offer visible evidence that he has come to reveal eternal truths to the human family. “Then Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind’ (Jn.9:40).” Throughout the entirety of chapter 9, the religious authorities, the disabled young man and his hapless parents argue over the reality of a miraculous cure that has taken place before their very eyes. The evidence is there, the young man protests: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” The parents almost introduce a measure of comedy, “Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” The religious leaders are driven to clear exasperation: “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” A frustrated and aggravated Jesus concludes the street-corner discussion by curtly advising the authorities, “You are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains” (Jn 9:41).
Underlying all the drama of chapter nine is the reality of Divine Revelation. Christianity is not merely a series of wise sayings and profound insights. God’s written word, the Bible, and his lived word, Tradition, are not simply agents of good advice. The truths of the Creed, the insights of the Commandments, the mysteries of the sacraments, and the structures of the Church contain and reveal profound realities not naturally available to even the most profound human thinker. The nature of the Trinity, the Father’s work of creation, the mission of his Son Christ, the task of the Spirit, the evil of sin, the role of suffering, the gift of redemption, the prospect of eternal life — these are Revealed Truths which, if understood and heeded, lead to righteousness. As St. Paul rejoices in this Sunday’s first reading: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
The first step in accepting the glorious totality of Divine Revelation begins with an honest and humble act of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Recall Jesus’ final dialogue with the cured young man: “When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.” Each man or woman today is accorded the same challenge: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Everyone is given this same dare. Do you believe in Jesus? Do you accept Jesus as a Savior? Do you appreciate Jesus’ redeeming death and resurrection? Do you recognize that Jesus continues to work through his Church? Do you understand that your eternal destiny is determined by your acceptance of Jesus? Indeed, Jesus is the “Light of the World.”
Indeed, to follow him is not to “walk in darkness.” Indeed, to know him is really “to see.”
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