Now the coolness, now the spring,
gone all craving and desire,
now the shade by waters sweet
Now the anthem soaring high,
gone the fear of flight and dance,
now more joy, inspired strains
Now the Bridegroom's healing touch,
gone the aching loneliness,
now the kiss, restoring life
Now the Light, how searing bright,
gone the shadows of the night,
now the blaze, resplendent flames
Now the glory of His face,
now the splendid feast divine,
now all love and tenderness
Frost & Fire
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1985
Greetings, SBT Readers:
As in the case of last Sunday (the third Sunday in Lent), faith communities can either select the readings of the day from
, or else the
texts commonly used if there are catechumens in the assembly. My choice of the
texts is a personal preference stemming from 1) my love of John's Gospel and 2) the mystical dimension of the gospel narratives. Last Sunday, the focus was on Jesus as the source of Living Water; this Sunday, Jesus, the Light of the World, gives sight to the man born blind and, in so doing, proves himself to be the great "I AM" (Jn 8:58). Both water and light, of course, are baptismal images, reminding us that we need to immerse ourselves in cleansing waters so as to become the Light of Christ:
"Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who is now reconciled to us
2 Cor 5:17-21
The story of the man born blind is not just a miracle story but an invitation for each of us to become that person God intended us to be-- not the finite self with all its pettiness, selfishness, judgementalism and greed, but the Christ-Self. Just as the man left his old identity at the Pool of Siloam, taking up a new identity as one of Jesus' disciples, so we, too, need to let go of all that obscures the image of God within us. Like the man born blind, we need to wash the filth from our eyes that we may have clear vision. At first, this is a painful process. We begin by recognizing our own sinfulness and feeling genuine remorse for having offended God and for having hurt ourselves and others. At the same time, our eyes are opened to the countless occasions when God has saved us from ourselves, from our poor decisions and less than holy actions. Gratitude begins to fill our hearts, along with amazement at God's forgiveness and compassion; this, in turn, leads us to be more understanding of others and less inclined to judge them. The more we "put on Christ," the more able we are to die to all our old destructive habits, thoughts and deeds. Soon, all vestiges of our old selves disappear and the Self that emerges is the Christ within.
This is the soul's journey. Having experienced the amazing grace of God's healing power through Jesus, the man born blind cannot be silent; in fact, he becomes a prophet, speaking "in the Spirit," taking on the establishment and paying for it. Just as Jesus was cast out of the temple, so the man born blind is thrown out by the religious authorities. Jesus' fate becomes his fate, but he has no regrets: like the Samaritan woman, he has learned to worship in Spirit and Truth...
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Having said this, Jesus spat on the ground, made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on the blind man's eyes, saying,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—.
So the man went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him begging said,
“Isn’t this the blind man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is," but others said, “No, but he just looks like him.”
The man said, “I'm the one.”
So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied,
“The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes, telling me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there, washed and was able to see.”
At the time of Jesus,
Pool of Siloam
was not only used for everyday ablutions, but also for ritual bathing by those who wished to purify themselves before going to pray in the temple; located close to the temple itself, it was reputed to have cleansing properties because it was fed by waters flowing from a spring in the Kidron Valley. Ironically, in the chapter immediately preceding his encounter with the blind man, Jesus had to leave the temple area to avoid being stoned by an angry mob that had accused him of blasphemy; now he set in motion the cleansing of a beggar whom that same mob would have considered to be "unclean" because of his disability. Not only did he give sight to a man born blind but by sending him to Siloam, Jesus made sure that the man performed the necessary ritual to gain access to the temple. Seen in this light, this miracle was not just an act of compassion, but it made visible "the works of God" (Jn 9:3) to Jesus' opponents. In other words, the healing of the man born blind was Jesus' response to the question,
"Who are you?"
By following Jesus' instructions, the man born blind participated actively in his own healing. Unless he had a companion with him, it would have taken some effort on his part to get to the
Pool of Siloam
. In the first place, the area would most likely have been crowded and he would have had to jostle his way to get there; secondly, he would have had to have climbed down a series of steep steps to reach the water's edge-- quite a feat for someone who was blind! There, he would have either lowered himself into the pool or else knelt by the water to splash his face. Either way, the waters healed him of his blindness -- or, to be more precise, Jesus healed him through the waters. The man born blind not only gained physical sight but was now able to see on a spiritual plane. His old self was washed away with his infirmity and he emerged from the waters filled with the Holy Spirit. As we follow his interaction with the authorities, we observe a man of courage who was unafraid of testifying to the truth; a beggar by trade, he refused to be intimidated by the Pharisees and by those who wanted to deny that a miracle had taken place. Moreover. he was consistent with his story, named Jesus as a prophet, boldly challenged his adversaries' assumptions about Jesus being a sinner and, finally, before the authorities banished him, insisted that Jesus had been sent by God.
Healing is never just a physical matter. In the first place, we have to desire to be healed and this means that our will must be in alignment with God's. Sadly, not everyone wants to be healed. Some people become used to their lives as invalids; others become dependent upon benefits such as government assistance; still others may be unwilling to do the hard work involved in healing -- physiotherapy, for example, or lifestyle changes; and still others may have given up on life altogether. Just as "God helps those who help themselves," so, too, it seems, that "God heals those who want to be healed." Now, this doesn't mean to say that by
to be healed we will be miraculously cured of a chronic condition or terminal illness but our very desire to be healthy, happy human beings gives God "permission" to act. Just as the man born blind obediently went off to Siloam, so we, too, must go wherever God sends us -- whether to a medical doctor or to a doctor of the soul, whether on vacation or on a retreat, whether to the nearest gym or to a health food store....
At some level, we each need healing and, amazingly, resources tend to surface when we invite God to help us in our recovery process. If, like the man born blind, we learn to see differently, then we, too, become a new creation and can leave our old, tired selves by the sparkling waters of Siloam.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Do you presently suffer from any physical, emotional or spiritual ailments? If so, what healing protocols are you following and are they helpful?
- Have you ever invited God to be a part of your healing process and, if so, what happened?
- What changes do you need to make in your life to be a happier, healthier YOU? What holds you back from making these changes?
- What do you need to do to become a "new creation" this Lent?
Ways of Sacred Listening:
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