In this reading we are reminded that, like the man born blind, we too have the opportunity of seeing again, seeing with greater clarity. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ 3 ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.’
6 Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man 7 and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
8 His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9 Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’
Other readings: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 Psalm 22 (23) Ephesians 5:8-14
Once again this week we have a lengthy passage from the Gospel of John, the story of the man born blind. Only the opening verses are given here and you are invited to complete the reading in your own Bible, by reading up to verse 41. This is another story of a journey in faith, which invites us to consider our own journey. The words of Jesus at the very start (verse 5) give us the theme: Jesus is the light of the world. Like the man born blind, we too have the opportunity of seeing again, seeing with greater clarity.
Even in the opening verses given above the man has already had to defend the reality of the healing. Yes, he is indeed the man who was blind from birth and he has indeed been given his sight. As the chapter continues he bears witness to Jesus more and more strongly and more and more indignantly. In the end it is clear that there are none so blind as those who will not see. The religious leaders refuse to see that Jesus brings light into the world. They refuse to acknowledge their own blindness.
It may seem strange that we have the story of David’s anointing as king in the first reading. This reminds us that, as we were given the light of faith in baptism, we were also anointed for God’s service. St Paul tells the Christians of Ephesus in our second reading: ‘You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.’
What might we learn from the courageous witness of the man born blind?
Am I to some extent still blind and unwilling to see?
We pray for those who are still seeking the light and discouraged by darkness.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy