Today’s gospel (Jn 9) is about the healing of a man born blind. Like the story of the Samaritan woman last week, it is told on many levels of meaning opening on to each other. Despite the apparent obviousness of the story it has Shakespearian depths and, like our experience of life, reveals how multi-faceted reality is.
The disciples ask Jesus who was responsible for the man’s condition – his parents or himself? It’s hard to see from this question how either was to blame without having inherited karma. Anyway Jesus dismisses this approach by saying the meaning of the man’s suffering is found in the way God is revealed through healing. This may not answer all our rational questions, but it gives us a definitive direction. In other words, look ahead, not in the rear-view mirror, for the connections that yield meaning. Then, as if to illustrate a point, rather like a busy Emergency Department doctor, Jesus heals him (thereby breaking the union rules by working on the Sabbath).
Jesus merges back into the crowd, hardly giving the man time to see him. However the people and then the authorities hear of the event. Some sceptics are not convinced it is the same individual they knew as the blind man who was hanging around the place. The parents are dragged into the controversy and, for fear of getting involved, disclaim any knowledge and leave their son to fend for himself – the first glimpse of the solitude which the man is being plunged into. Under questioning, the man holds his ground about the healing and is quickly condemned as a troublemaker, dismissed as someone ‘born in sin’. If you answer us like that (they are saying),being handicapped was your own fault and you don’t deserve to be healed. He was excommunicated. A good example of how often religious people don’t welcome the power of God meddling in their affairs. But Jesus hears of this and seeks him out.
The next level of meaning and intimacy in the story begins, as often with this healer of humanity, with a question. Jesus asks if he believes (has faith) in the Son of God. The man honestly replies, well I might if I knew who he was. Then, just as he did with the Samaritan woman, who was another outcast, Jesus simply identifies himself. You’re looking at him. The man spontaneously opened to faith, believed and bowed down in spirit.
In these few moves we have passed from a cure to a healing. The man crossed rapidly from a place of affliction through a testing of his character and the painful experience of exclusion and rejection into a life-transforming relationship of faith.
As the experience of silence and presence deepens over time, we might see the journey of meditation as taking us along the same trajectory, though probably less quickly.