4th Sunday of Lent [A]
April 19, 2023
There are seven signs (or miracles) in the Gospel of John. Naturally, the Church has recognized these seven miracles corresponds to the seven sacraments entrusted to her. The healing of the man born blind turns out to be the sign to the sacrament of Baptism. Since the basic theme of Lenten season is baptism, the Church does not hesitate to place this reading during this holy season. But, is true that this miracles is related to baptism? And how do we know?
The story begins with Jesus and disciples saw a poor blind man. Then, His disciples start to ask Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9:2)?’ Jesus’ disciples believe that his sufferings are consequences of his personal sins, or at least his parents. Yet, Jesus immediately teaches them the truth. Jesus points out that neither blind man nor his parents have sinned to cause him blindness. Although sufferings and death are indeed related to sin, but the relation is not linear, but a mystery. The man does not commit personal sins, but he bears the consequence of sin. How is it possible?
The Church recognizes this condition as the original sin. Every descendant of Adam and Eve was born into the world as ‘enemies’ of God. Since we are in the womb of our mothers, we were ‘sinners’, not because we commit any personal sins, but because we are far from God and do not have a spiritual friendship with Him. Thus, because of the original sin, we are susceptible to various sufferings as well as struggling with concupiscence (check also my reflection two weeks ago).
How does Jesus heal this blind man? Jesus spats on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, and smears the clay on his eyes. Finally, He asks the blind man to wash himself with water. Why does Jesus perform such a weird and unhygienic treatment? Jesus performs what God did in the beginning: the creation of man. When God created Adam, He molded a soil of the ground. There is a Jewish tradition that says that God used His own saliva to make soil easier to form. Jesus does the same here. He is bringing the man with blindness into healing by ‘re-creating’ him. Then, the final healing takes place when the man wash himself with water.
What happens to the healed man, takes place also in every person during the baptism. What we see in our eyes is someone is washed with water, but spiritually, God is making us a new creation. All sins, both original and personal sins, are cleansed. Our souls are transformed into the likeness of Christ and are elevated into the adopted children of God. Thus, we call God our Father, not in the metaphorical sense, but in the real one.
Lastly, towards the end of the story, Jesus asks him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ Eventually, the man professes his faith in Jesus and worships Him. Faith is integral part of baptism; whether we believe before the baptism (like in the case of adult baptism) or after baptism (in the case of infant baptism). However, baptism is just the beginning, and our faith must also grow.
We are not sure what the man does after the healing he received, but we may believe that he becomes Jesus’s disciple and follow Him. After baptism and initial faith in Jesus, the Church encourages us to continue our journey of holiness. We grow in faith through living in Christ, works of charity, and proper reception of other sacraments.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP