Fourth Sunday of Lent-A
The Gospel story this week comes from St. John about the man blind by birth-given sight by the healing power of Jesus. It is often helpful to tap on the vast tradition of the Church and her experts to draw out a deeper meaning about this miraculous story.
One such master is St. Bonaventure who utilizes the sense of sight to unearth the sublime realities of the relationship between God and his creatures. Bonaventure surmises the ability to see is more than just a physical manifestation of the eye but should include different capacities of seeing; namely, through our mental and spiritual attributes of sight.
It is quite easy for us to understand and relate to our physical eye. We use it every day and for that matter, we sometimes take it for granted. We first see the world through the physical eye and when it is damaged or is less than optimal, science has devised ways of correcting it. The physical eye as the organ responsible in part for our sight is what Bonaventure calls the “eye of the flesh.” Through the natural eye, a person may first see the power of God in the beauty of nature or the complexities of the universe. However, the ‘eye of the flesh’ is an immature spirituality.
The second type of seeing Bonaventure notices is a type of vision uniquely observed through our rational mind. This type of sight is the “eye of the mind.” The “eye of the mind” gives us the ability to recognize things that are out of the range of physical sight. Anyone who has struggled through advanced mathematics has employed the “eye of the mind” by seeing the abstract reality that lies beyond the range of the physical. You may start with a bunch of x’s and y’s and before you know it, those two letters have some kind of value at the end of the process. Or the artist who has an image in his mind long before he commits it to the canvas. In each case, we can, and do, have the ability to see through the “eye of the mind.” More advanced than the physical eye, the eye of the mind is still not all we can see.
Along with the physical and mental ability to see is a sight that is the most complex of all. It is a sight emanating from the most profound place of any person—his soul. Quite predictably, Bonaventure will call this sense, the “eye of the soul.” The “eye of the soul” can see God in a way neither the eye of the flesh nor mind can ever access. Unfortunately, a lot of people never choose to go that deep for many reasons. The eye of the soul is often atrophied and can be likened to our appendix. The ‘eye of the soul’ even if it is acknowledged is there somewhere, but like the forgotten appendix, is never paid attention to until it begins to act up. And so it is with the “eye of the soul” because the “eye of the flesh” and the “eye of the mind” have been called to satisfy all of my spiritual needs. No need to go further. But for those who do, those who employ the “eye of the soul” have willingly entered a deeper relationship with God, a relationship demanding a level of spiritual maturity.
The Gospel today with the man born blind from birth is a good example of the steps needed for spiritual growth. The story about the miracle and the restoration of sight takes place gradually. The blind man’s reaction to Jesus is to regard him as just another man. At this point, the blind man is extremely spiritually immature. Thus, when some people asked about his cure, he said. “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.” The blind man’s first impression of Jesus through the “eyes of the flesh” is that he is just a mere man, perhaps remarkable, but a man.
The blind man’s second perception, unlike the first is a reaction of a rational mind, or better said, through the”eyes of his mind.” The Pharisees investigating the miracle are quick to denounce Jesus as the source of the cure, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” Remember in those days, the prevalent thought was that sin was the cause of disability and illness. How can a man like Jesus reverse the cause of sickness by forgiving or eliminating sin? He cannot, in the Pharisee’s opinion, for only God can forgive sins.
Despite this the blind man responds that indeed Jesus is something greater than he first expected: the blind man admits “He is a Prophet.” The blind man moved closer to the truth by acknowledging Jesus was more than an average man. In the blind man’s experience, he had never known of a man curing blindness.
The only way he could have come to this conclusion was by tapping into the “eye of his mind” revealing a greater truth about Jesus. Through his reason his spiritual maturity grew by acknowledging Jesus was greater than just a man, he must have been a prophet of God. His perception of Jesus has taken a giant leap. His spiritual progression will continue when Jesus carefully and gently leads the man once blind, to a greater experience and relationship with God through the grace which will utilize his “eye in the soul.”
Later in the day, the blind man meets Jesus face to face. Now, Jesus looks straight into the man’s eyes and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” The man answers, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus responded, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” The man responded, “Lord I believe.” The man’s profession of faith is a response from the soul, it is heartfelt, and it is the first time that the blind man used the faculty of his “eye of the soul.”
What a great story about faith and spiritual maturity. The blind man thought that his only blindness was physical. The healing offered by Jesus gave the blind man more than his sight, he gave him a way to know and follow God. Complete healing, whoever we are, is to believe Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Within our pronouncement of belief, comes the opening of our “eyes of the soul” now able to see and obey the words of the truth in the person of Jesus Christ.
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