The Man Born Blind |
The story of the blind man's epiphany mirrors what Traditional Catholics have discovered for many were blind to what the Faith truly taught and now, through the grace of God, they see.
Father James F. Wathen
"We find ourselves in the same situation as the man born blind. We freely admit that we only know of our religion what the bishops and priests have taught us. But we find that what they taught us is unacceptable to them anymore, and they do not want to hear it."
The Gospel of the Mass of Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent tells of the cure and spiritual enlightenment of a man born blind. The theme of the whole chapter is the words of Christ, "I am the light of the world." When He calls Himself this, He is telling us that He is Divine Truth come into the world, and also, the light that He provides menís minds by the Holy Ghost. His revelation is the faith of our holy religion, whose central doctrine is Himself. It embodies the total mystery of the supernatural order which is the triune nature of God, the purpose of creation, the Redemption, and the Church, His Mystical Body. It is the complete revelation made by God to man.
Though the revealed word is incomprehensible and unfathomable, it cannot be added to, for, like God Himself, it is all-encompassing. When we say that it is incomprehensible, we mean that we cannot understand it completely, so that we must believe it on the word of the Revealer. When we say that it is unfathomable, we mean that, though we may have a rudimentary understanding of it as children, it admits of infinite degrees of inquiring, so that, even in Heaven, our understanding of it can never be total, as its Source is infinite. One should not read the account of the healing of the man born blind merely, but read the rest of the chapter also (which is the Gospel of the Mass of the Saturday of the same week), in order to receive the full teaching of Christ.
It helps to remember that one congenitally blind is not like someone who has had sight and lost it. The former has a decided advantage over the latter, because he has learned to manage from the beginning without the advantage (or disadvantage) of having any visual recollection of anything. He has had to learn to live, to do everything, without an understanding of what it means to see.
John 9:1 And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.
On this occasion, the blind man does not seek a cure; the Lord Jesus finds him in the temple and approaches him.
9:2-3 And His disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?
9:3. Jesus answered: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Here is a mystery which should humble us. Jesus says that this man was born blind so that he might receive his sight on this day, and so that through this miracle, he might find faith. And we might learn what Christ, Divine Truth, is to us.
9:4-5. "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Christís "day" is His time on earth; His "night" will be His death and His departure to Heaven, when His revelation will have been completed. Our "day" is our lifetime. When the "night" of our death comes, our fate will be sealed, as we will have made all the choices allowed us.
9:6. When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,
It is through the use of this "clay" that Christ begins the process of the manís healing, bodily and spiritual. The Spittle from the Mouth of Christ is a part of His Body and carries His power. He makes a clay paste and puts it on the manís eyes. No doubt he looked odd to those who saw him on his way to the pool of Siloe, but, as a blind man, who has never seen anyone, he has no self-consciousness of his appearance; and one the way to gaining sight, he has no other thought but that. Also, he is used to finding his way without being able to see, or remembering what he once saw.
In the anointing and the washing, which were unnecessary for his cure, as he could have done the same thing by a simple act of His will, our Lord first of all provides certain evidence to the man that it is He Who has cured him. The clay on the eyes and the washing will also be evidence for the Pharisees, who will investigate the miracle. In His use of such things as the clay and the waters of Siloe, we are supposed to see types of the signs of the Sacraments, which use sensible things (water, oil, etc.) for a spiritual effect.
9:7. And said to him: "Go, wash in the pool of Siloe," which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.
St. John now gives an account of the immediate aftermath of the miracle. We observe the man, his sight restored, the Pharisees, the enemies of Christ, the incurably blind, and the parents of the man.
9:8-9 The neighbors, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.
But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.
The reason there was discussion as to whether this was the former blind beggar was that, as yet, no one knew what had happened.
9:10-11. They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.
The Fathers liken the washing at the poor of Siloe as a type of Baptism, whereby the man gained not only his physical sight, but the gifts of faith, hope, and charity besides.
The man does not refer to our Lord as Rabbi Jesus (or Yeshua, the Hebrew), Whom all the people know, but simply as Jesus, a very common name. He does this in order not to identify his Healer, apparently not knowing whether he is supposed to.
9:12-13. And they said to him: Where is He? He saith: I know not.
They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.
They bring the man to the Pharisees who would want to investigate the cure. Apparently they were in a place away from the temple, in a synagogue nearby.
9:14. Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
Here we have more of the fanaticism of the Pharisees. They are without mercy and without joy. They can see nothing good in the manís cure. They are not even willing to believe that such a thing might have happened. Indeed, it could not have happened, because the healing would have been a violation of the sabbath; God would have broken His Own law!
For our blessed Savior, the healing was a most fitting act for the sabbath, the Lordís Day, because it was a means to an end. He healed the manís blindness in order to save his soul, which is more properly done on the sabbath than on any other day.
9:15-16. Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.
Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
There was genuine confusion among the Pharisees, so entangled were they in their own interpretations of the law. Some of them were incapable of the most simple spiritual insight.
9:17. They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of Him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.
They ask the man what he thinks of his Healer. To him, everything is very simple. He is not learned, but he knows the fundamental things. And, with each moment that is passing, he is experiencing further spiritual understanding.
9:18-23. The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,
And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.
These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.
Here we see what a reign of joylessness and fear the Pharisees have imposed upon all the environment of Jerusalem. The parents themselves cannot jubilate over the fact that their son, whose blindness they have grieved over and struggled with throughout his life, has now been healed, so intimidated are they by the Pharisees. In the circumstances, they are more concerned with what can happen to themselves than their sonís good fortune. (Conciliar Catholics are so fearful of their priests that they dare not see the shriveling and disintegration of the Church.)
9:24-25 They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.
He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.
We see that the man is blessed in his common sense and simple faith. Whereas the cure is a baffling problem of their own making for the Pharisees, for him, there is no difficulty whatsoever. His mind is as clear as his sight.
9:26. They said then to him: What did He to thee? How did He open thy eyes?
They keep asking the same question in the hope that the man will say something different. (This is the way the church authorities interrogated the three children of Fatima, for months on end.)
9:27. He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become His disciples?
By using the word "also," the man indicates that he now considers himself a disciple of Jesus. Whether the man asks this last question sincerely or facetiously, we do not know. Obviously, he sees everything about his experience differently from his questioners.
9:28. They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou His disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.
To them, nothing could be more insulting than the suggestion that they might wish to be disciples of Jesus.
9:29. We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.
The Pharisees demand the credentials of Christ. He responds, "Believe the works" that I do, "that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in the Father" (Jn. 10:38). It is His sublime teaching and His miracles which are His credentials.
9:30-33 The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence He is, and He hath opened my eyes. Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth His will, him He heareth. From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.
Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.
It is because of these beautiful words that I thought to call this miracle to your attention. Some of the things he says are not quite accurate, but we have not difficulty understanding what he means. For instance, God does hear sinners, else, we would all be without hope. What he means is that no sinner can be a great miracle-worker, as Jesus is, and his enemies know it. Also, in the Old Testament, there is no record of any congenital blind man regaining his sight, but great miracles are recorded, such as Eliseusí raising the son of the widow of Sereptha from the dead. (4 Kings, Chapter 4).
9:34. They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
In response, the Pharisees curse him out of the hardness of their hearts and their hatred of Christ. Being born blind is proof to them that he was "born in sins," as strong a revilement as they can think of. They know that what he has said is true, that his Healer has to be favored by God, else He could not have worked such a wondrous miracle. The truth is inescapable. Further, what the man knows, he learned from them. They claim to be the teachers of the people. This is what infuriates them, his saying what they know very well to be the truth, which they do not want to hear or accept. Therewith, they cast him out of the synagogue, which is a great ostracism.
9:35. Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when He had found him, He said to him: "Dost thou believe in the Son of God?"
When Jesus finds the man, he undoubtedly recognized His voice, but he sees our Savior for the first time.
9:36-38. He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?
And Jesus said to him: "Thou hast both seen Him; and it is He that talketh with thee."
And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored Him.
The manís enlightenment is now complete. He is able to give his entire faith to our blessed Redeemer, so that when He reveals Himself as none other than the Son of the infinite God, he believes Him without wavering, and worships Him with true adoration.
According to Fr. A Lapide, the tradition is that the man born blind became one of our Lordís seventy-two disciples and preached in the towns of Galilee. He was one of the first Christians. He became a priest and the bishop of Aix in the French ProvenÁal.
We find ourselves in the same situation as the man born blind. We freely admit that we only know of our religion what the bishops and priests have taught us. But we find that what they taught us is unacceptable to them anymore, and they do not want to hear it.
We say: But you, Your Excellency, and you, Reverend Father, you were they that told us that the rite of the Mass could never be changed, that it had been made so by the strictest laws. We knew nothing until you emphasized this very strongly. And you were they who told us that the word, "Canon" meant a "rule," a "standard," a "norm," a "measure." And you explained that in the Mass, which was itself unchangeable (except, perhaps in its calendar, or the classification of its feasts, etc.), there was the Canon, which was even more unchangeable than the rest of the rite. The Canon was untouchable, sacrosanct, inviolable, made so in order that the Consecration of the Mass might be forever certain and secure.
Then you proceeded to change this unchangeable Thing, a little at a time. Then you gave us a "New Mass," and you insisted to us what was most obviously not true, for we could see with our own eyes, that the New was identical to the Old. And when we began to remind you of what you yourselves had taught us, you exclaimed with great impatience and indignation:
"What do you know? Do you know theology? Do you know Latin? Do you know more than the Pope? "Dost thou teach us?"
No, Bishop, and no, Father. We donít know anything but what you taught us. And if it was true then, it must be true now. And you stand condemned by your own teaching.
Again, I express my thanks to everyone who is praying for me, and for those who send me their good wishes and financial support. Please forgive me for not responding as I ought. I send you my priestly blessing, praying that you enter generously into the observance of the days of our Lord's Passion.
Father James Wathen
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