In John’s Gospel, Miracles are not called miracles. Miracles are called Signs! At his first sign at the Wedding at Cana, John writes, “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.”
The point: Signs rarely point to themselves. They point to something else.
The spiritual writer, Anthony de Mello loved to tell the story of the Indian peasant who had a lifelong passion to visit Bombay. He talked about traveling there so often that his friends and neighbors eventually collected enough money to pay for the trip.
When the day for his departure arrived, everyone gathered at the outskirts of their village to wish him well and see him off. The peasant thanked everyone for making his trip possible and started walking down the road to the big city to fulfill his dream.
But to everyone’s surprise, he returned much earlier than expected. When they asked him if anything had happened to stop him from reaching the city, he immediately answered, “Nothing.” He assured them his trip went well and he had seen Bombay.
When someone asked him what Bombay was like, he responded, “It’s quite a sight! About a foot and a half high, two feet long, green, with yellow letters spelling out B-O-M-B-A-Y.”
He’d gone no further than the sign marking the city limits, read it, and returned to his village, content that his lifelong dream had been fulfilled. He’d finally seen Bombay.
If we just read or hear Jesus’ miracles in John’s Gospel without realizing they’re pointing to something else, we’re imitating the peasant’s behavior. We zero in only on the sign and ignore why the evangelist uses them.
In the Man Born Blind, we can see many meanings, here are two that I would like to bring to you.
1. In this passage of scripture, it is Jesus who is the pursuer. The “man born blind” seems to be minding his own “begging” business when Jesus and his disciples causally walk by and Jesus suddenly “spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, ‘go wash in the Pool of Siloam.’”
Note it Jesus who make the advance, no Faith is required, it is at the point of being chosen or called by Jesus that the man’s faith journey begins. Step by step, the now-sighted beggar starts the process that will eventually end with his believing in Jesus as God!
2. The man speaks of Jesus three times, the first when speaking to his neighbors about Jesus, the man born blind calls him “The Man”. Under questioning by the Pharisees, he states, “He is a Prophet.” And upon his second encounter with Jesus, “he worshiped Him.” At last he finally reaches a deep faith in Jesus and “SEES” his divinity!
John is stating his belief that Christian faith is not of our choosing, for remember in John’s Gospel, Jesus says “you did not choose me but I chose you to go out and bear much fruit.” It is God who ELECTS and CHOOSES. Then once chosen, the faith is not instant, but grows and matures as we journey in life with the Lord.
This is why, the Rite of Christian Initiation (RICA) for some 20 people in our church this year, is a journey taking months…because we grow, and change and are converted by the Lord. We become “seers” when opening our eyes and behold the Light, Jesus who says I am the Light of the world.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saves a wretch like me, I once was blind but now I see was lost and now am found.
When you look at the signs in Johns Gospel, what do you see? A Miracle!
Or do you see, the Man, who is not only a prophet but Light of the World! The one who “came into this world for judgment, so that those who did not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
In these last few weeks of Lent is preparation for Easter. Let us see Christ, the Light of the World, looking to save us, ready to heal us of our blindness, and calling us see him the Lord of Life.
This homily is inspired by the writings of Anthony de Mello and Fr. Roger Karban.