And how clear is your vision?
John’s Gospel relies heavily on the evocation of light and darkness as metaphors for our human condition. We get a particularly poignant example of John’s fascination with this metaphor this Sunday in the story of the blind man at the pool of Siloam whose eyes Jesus anoints with clay in order to heal him. The very verb used in the text underscores the sacred nature of the event, and the man moves from physical blindness to spiritual vision in a breathlessly short period of time. He first believes Jesus to be a prophet, defending his healer (in Jesus’ absence) to the Pharisees. Then, when Jesus returns, seeking out the man he himself has healed, the formerly blind man comes to recognize with christological clarity that Jesus is the Son of Man. He who once was blind now can see, see with his eyes and with his heart; he sees clearly that he has been touched by God.
It’s very hard to see clearly when our expectations get in the way of our vision. Samuel encounters this reality when the Lord sends him to Jesse to seek out the Lord’s anointed, the future king David, with the admonition, Not as man sees does God see. Jesse presents seven sons before Samuel, expecting that Samuel will choose one of them, but Samuel waits for God’s choice, the shepherd David. As the consummate host of the Good Shepherd psalm, God similarly anoints the psalmist with oil, a sign of hospitality, and guides him in right paths. So long as the psalmist allows himself to engage with God’s vision, he is assured of God’s fidelity to covenant: only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23).
With the coming of Jesus, our ability to appreciate God’s vision is made all the more clear, as Paul reminds the Ephesians, and we are charged with furthering the clear sight of others, exposing the fruitless works of darkness as we live as children of light. But to do so requires open eyes, that is, openness to God’s vision. I came into the world for judgment, Jesus tells the man he has healed, so that those who do not see might see. Healed ourselves, we are likewise called to bring sight to the blind through our witnessing to the healing action of God in our lives.
How clearly do we see? To what extent does fear keep us in a state of blindness? How open are we to seeing things differently, and to helping others to clearer vision as well? Can we imagine Jesus anointing our eyes with dirt and spittle so that we can truly enjoy the light that Christ can give?