Gospel Commentary for 4th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

John 9:1-41—The Healing of the Man Born Blind

The Church gives us this Gospel on the 4th Sunday of Lent to prepare the catechumens to receive the sacrament of Baptism.

How so? 

The miracles in John’s Gospel often reveal what Jesus is going to accomplish in the sacraments or “the mysteries” as ancient Christians referred to them: “What was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries [=sacraments]” (Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermon 74.2).

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In today’s Gospel, the visible miracle of Jesus healing physical blindness points forward to the invisible miracle of Jesus healing the spiritual blindness in the sacrament of Baptism, which has been called “the sacrament of illumination” or “enlightenment”, where we receive supernatural sight in order to see the mysteries of faith.

This baptismal view sheds a supernatural light on the whole Gospel passage.

1) “As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-3).
  • Jesus’ response points to the spiritual blindness of Original Sin – a state into which we are born and not culpable – just like the man born blind. Furthermore, we can now look @ Original Sin more properly as an absence of something (spiritual blindness) rather than an addition of something (stain on the soul).
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2) “When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see” (John 9:6-7).
  • Although saliva itself has scientifically-approved curative qualities (click here) and using saliva was a method of Jesus’ time by reputable doctors, Jesus’ action points to a far deeper meaning – an act of a new creation. In 1st century Judaism, there was a tradition that the Dead Sea Scrolls attests to (Man was made from “spat saliva, molded clay” (1QS 11:22)), that when God made Adam from the dust of the ground, He used spittle because you need some liquid to hold the dirt together. Since Jewish tradition attests that God made Adam from spit and dust from the clay, Jesus is acting like Old in the Old Testament and thus performs an act of a new creation and thus reveals His divinity.

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So Jesus’ action with saliva is the inauguration of a new creation through the sacrament of Baptism to give us supernatural sight so that we can see the mysteries of faith.

  • The 2nd reading confirms this baptismal perspective: “Once you were in darkness, now you are light in the Lord… walk as children of light… in all that is good and right and true” (5:8-9).
  • Before Baptism, we walked in darkness (in the spiritual darkness of sin).
  • Having been baptized, we are called to live out this new identity by holiness of life (in all that is good and right and true).

Therefore, the Church gives us this Gospel in Lent to prepare the catechumens to receive that grace of illumination, the sight that they will receive in the washing of the water in the font of Baptism.

 

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