In recent years, society has changed its thinking about conditions like blindness, deafness and autism. Once considered defects or maladies, they are now understood as aspects of human variation—or, as a Catholic might say, ways that God brings certain of His children into the world. Our own parishioner Kierstyn Kuehnle, who was born with deafness, recently put it this way: “God does not make mistakes. There is nothing wrong with us. We are created this way, and God has laid out a life and a plan for each of us.”
What better confirmation of this insight than the case of the congenitally blind man in today’s Gospel. Jesus affirms it in his own words. The man was born blind, Jesus explains, “so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:3).
In other words, this man was born to have an encounter with Jesus. What is made visible in that encounter? Nothing less than the whole of Christian conversion. In a scene with parallels to the Garden of Eden, Jesus begins remaking the man by mixing dust and spittle and applying the clay to his eyes. Then Jesus instructs him to bathe in the Pool of Siloam (which means “Sent”), in other words, to be washed clean from sin by Jesus through baptism. Gradually, the man comes to realize and confess his faith. “I do believe, Lord” (John 9:38). Now converted, the man can see by way of Christ, the Light of Life.
This passage from John also depicts a form of blindness that does not come from God: the short-sightedness of the Pharisees. They continue to nitpick over definitions of sin even as they fail to grasp the meaning of a miracle that is right before their eyes.
Whenever and however we encounter Christ this week, will we shed our spiritual blindness and see by the way of His light? Will we ponder what God could be trying to make visible through the life he has given us?