The Fourth Sunday in Advent is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, which means “Rejoice” and sets the tone of a joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery.
Today’s Gospel message tells the story of how Jesus entered into the life of a man born blind and gave him both the physical and spiritual gift of sight. This healing of the man blind from birth hits close to home, because in a certain sense all of us are blind from birth.
When a child is born, it is not precisely blind rather it is incapable of distinguishing things clearly. Only after weeks the child begins to see clearly. Imagine if the children could express what they experiences when beginning to see clearly the face of their parents, of people, of things, of colors — how many “Oh’s” of awe would be heard!
To see is a miracle, we just tend to take this great gift for granted. The gift of sight that Jesus gave to the man born blind from birth was an awesome gift indeed. But this is not the only reason why Jesus healed the man blind from birth. The healing of the physical blindness was to help the blind man to also heal the spiritual blindness. He wants to show us that there is another set of eyes that need to be opened: the eyes of faith! The eyes of faith allow us to see beyond the physical world and to be able to glimpse into the spiritual world: the world of God, of eternal life, the world of the Gospel, the world that does not end.
Jesus sent the young blind man to the pool of Siloam. With this, Jesus wanted to show that these different eyes, those of faith, begin to open up in baptism, precisely when we receive the gift of faith. That’s why in ancient times baptism was also called “illumination,” and being baptized meant “having been illuminated.”
This story shows us how we too can arrive to a full and mature faith in the Son of God. The blind man’s recovery of his sight happens at the same time that he discovers who Jesus is. In the beginning, for the blind man, Jesus is no more than a man. “The man called Jesus made clay …”
Later, he was asked, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He responded, “He is a prophet.” He has taken a step forward; he has understood that Jesus is sent from God.
Finally, finding Jesus again, he exclaims, “I do believe Lord,” and he bows before him to worship him, thus openly recognizing him as his Lord and God.
In describing the healing of the man born blind with so much detail, it is as if John the Evangelist very discreetly invites us to look at how are we allowing Christ’s healing touch enter into our lives? Where am I in this relationship with Jesus? May this Laetare Sunday continue to set the tone of a joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery as Jesus wants nothing more than to heal us of any spiritual blindness that we may be experiencing.
~ Reflection by Fr. John Poncini