Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 2, 2008
1st reading: 1 Sam 16:1-4, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 22; 2nd reading: Eph 5:8-14; Gospel: Jn 9:1-41
“At that time, as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him. We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”). So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing. Then the neighbors and the people who had seen him previously as a beggar began saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some people said, “This is the man!” while others said, “No, but he looks like him”. The man himself kept insisting, “I am the one!” So they asked him, “How then were you made to see?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and was able to see”. They said to him, “Where is that man?” He replied, “I don’t know”. They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees. (Now the day on which Jesus made the mud and caused him to see was a Sabbath.) So the Pharisees asked him again how he had gained his sight. He replied, “He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I am able to see”. Then some of the Pharisees began to say, “This man is not from God, because he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” Thus there was a division among them. So again they asked the man who used to be blind, “What do you say about him, since he caused you to see?” “He is a prophet,” the man replied. Now the Jewish religious leaders refused to believe that he had really been blind and had gained his sight until at last they summoned the parents of the man who had become able to see. They asked the parents, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” So his parents replied, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But we do not know how he is now able to see, nor do we know who caused him to see. Ask him, he is a mature adult. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders. For the Jewish leaders had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is a mature adult, ask him”.) Then they summoned the man who used to be blind a second time and said to him, “Promise before God to tell the truth. We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. I do know one thing - that although I was blind, now I can see”. Then they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he cause you to see?” He answered, “I told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You people don’t want to become his disciples too, do you? They heaped insults on him, saying, “You are his disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God has spoken to Moses! We do not know where this man comes from!” The man replied, “This is a remarkable thing, that you don’t know where he comes from, and yet he caused me to see! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is devout and does his will, God listens to him. Never before has anyone heard of someone causing a man born blind to see. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing”. They replied, “You were born completely in sinfulness, and yet you presume to teach us?” So they threw him out. Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, so he found the man and said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man replied, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus told him, “You have seen him; he is the one speaking with you”. He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind”. Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and asked him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains”.
It is not easy to explain, in a few minutes, the Gospel passage just proclaimed, as it is so rich, strong and fertile as to suggest plenty food for thought and meditation. It is a beautiful, wonderful passage representing the meeting of humanity and divinity, the meeting of man with Christ and the reaction of men facing this event. In this page of John I see, and I think you too have seen a striking resemblance to our situation and our history. The characters are different, times are different, but if men are not united to God they will continue to always maintain the same negative attitude towards the works of God and God himself. Men cannot take God's place, up to the point to judge Him and His work because it would be blasphemy. God continues to confound men who demand respect from their siblings or want to be heard or those who want, for the qualities and offices they hold, to always have the last word on everything. It is important to state that the first and last word on the works of God belongs to the One doing them, and not to men. Men should limit themselves to listen to God, not to judge Him, this claim is absurd. You cannot expect to be able to judge the works of God. The blindness of the man in the Gospel can also be considered as a symbol of spiritual blindness that, in many respects, is more dangerous, but today I wish to remain in the footsteps of the Gospel story, and not getting away from it.
Christ, who is infinite love, bends down on this man, tried from birth as he is sightless. The humiliating occupation as beggar, for he is blind, was a necessity due to inability to work. When men do not enjoy physical integrity or personal economic resources, they are forced to beg and ask for assistance to those who are provided with worldly goods. This is just what this man, born blind, was doing. He did not think that God would have laid His eyes on him thus becoming, in future centuries, the symbol of all those benefited by the Lord. Benefits and graces God has distributed freely, on His own initiative, over the centuries and that, unfortunately, was not recognized and appreciated by many people. This man is there holding out his hand. Jesus already knows, as He is God, what would have happened, so He wants to ease the understanding by the benefited blind and by the people who, later on, would have to judge this portentous work. Mary has preceded me and explained that Jesus resorted to the artifice to take dust, spit on it, make a mud and put it on the man's eyes to show that God does what He wants. On occasions, our Lord resorts to ways that are incomprehensible to us. He worked miracles even with the simple command: "I want it, be healed", "I want it, regain your sight", "I want it, walk" but, in this case, knowing what would have happened, acted differently but men did not understood, as they were not in a position to accept the work of God. Our Lord does what He wants, how and when He wants, and He even does so by going against the human law, the law men have to comply with. God is above this law. It was Saturday when our Lord gave sight to the blind, and for the Jews the observance of this day was sacred and was one of the manifestations of acceptance and belonging to the Jewish religion. On Saturday, they could not even make more than a certain number of steps because they would have offended God. Jesus is God and works the miracle. In this circumstance we see the stupidity of men who, faced with a miraculous and striking event, they clam up because they feel insecure or almost think that God can put them aside and prevent their emergence. It is God emerging and not them and this bothers them and arouses fear in them. The healed man is quickly led to the Jewish leaders and to the scribes, who never pronounce Jesus’ name even though they know Him, but they use the term "that man, that one" to indicate Him. The blind man, or rather, the one who was blind before, says: "A man called Jesus". They, on the contrary, do not name him, and this is enough to mean disrespect and rejection and expresses a clear desire to silence such a miraculous event that instead of giving them joy, puts them in trouble. When they start to deny the evidence in front of the works of God there is no going back. The same happened with the great Eucharistic miracle of June 11, 2000, when there was another work of God you have witnessed. What do they say those who would have welcome him? "It is not possible". Should God, perhaps, ask their permission first or should He have involved them in some way so that their authority would be more noticeable? Maybe that is what they wanted. Jesus, the same Jesus who worked the miracle of restoring sight to the blind, who worked the miracle of blood spilling from the host, the same Jesus who was rejected two thousand years ago, is still rejected today. He was rejected, two thousand years ago, by those who were supposed to welcome Him and spread His word and, two thousand years later, by those who were supposed to preach it. The situation is the same, the sin is the same: the rejection of the work of God. The blind man, on the contrary, in this circumstance adopts the correct attitude that does not come, however, from the benefit he received, but by the fact that his heart is more open and we know that the heart of the humble, small, weak and vulnerable people is placed in a position of greater and more genuine cooperation with God. Jesus himself recognized it in the beautiful thanks prayer to the Father: "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children" (Mt 11:25). We, and I say it with satisfaction, are the humble, the poor, the weak, and on this smallness, on this weakness God bent down by giving us the greatest miracles in the entire Church history. The Lord is giving us the only apparitions left in the world, He has given you a Bishop He has ordained but men do not want it and do not accept it. The blind man prostrating before Jesus is sufficient to the Christ. Jesus asks him this question: "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" And he replies: "Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" The man is not saying he does not believe, but asks Jesus to tell him who He is. Look at the subtlety: the benefited blind would be ready and willing to accept a Son of man different from the one he was speaking to, so open was he to trust, to faith for Christ. He does not know that it is He and Jesus replied: "Have you seen him: it is he who speaks with you". And the reaction of the blind man is the immediate acceptance. Indeed, he prostrates in adoration and recognizes Him as the Messiah. The others, who have seen the blind man miraculously regaining his sight, would have had to accept that He was certainly coming from God and would have had to listen to him. Instead they refused. In fact, to those who posed the following question: "Are we blind too?" Jesus answers: "For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind". Today, after two thousand years, those who refuse to recognize God's work should ask themselves whether they are blind. And for them there is the dreadful response from Christ: "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains". It is difficult to understand, but the explanation is this: they are responsible because they have killed their conscience, they cannot see because they are blind on their own will, then guilty and the consequences will be against them. The blind man makes us understand that we need the light because we are in a world where we do not see, not because we are blind but because it is full of darkness. If we enter a dark room, even with the diopters to the full, we cannot see anything because there is darkness. We may hit something, we may get hurt due to some obstacles, even fall or injure us, for it is dark. But if we do not eliminate the darkness in the room, by pushing the light switch, we are responsible for this darkness. This means that the darkness around us thins out when we accept with faith the teaching of Christ and let ourselves be guided by this teaching. Only then we will not be in darkness, but we'll see very well and we will be at ease because Jesus himself will be next to us as He is the life, truth and way and along this road He will take us to the goal established by him, that is, the definitive meeting with God. A beautiful, rewarding and joyful meeting, if there is the presence of God within us, or else, if due to our fault and responsibility there is sin, the meeting with our Lord will be tough and awful. Then it is clear how important is a life in a state of grace, the importance of attending the H. Mass and the need to receive communion in a state of grace because the Eucharist is bread but it is also light. We need Jesus the Eucharist to make sure we walk in the truth and, above all, to ensure that we have the strength to go high, as high as possible because holiness is bought every day with commitment and difficulties. God is helping us in front of obstacles, is helping us to face and overcome them, by completely giving Himself to us every day, if we want him to be in our life. We are beginning to live important moments such as passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Let us remember: I see, you see why Christ died. Were he not dead, we would continue to be blind, but since He did it on our behalf, He has given back to us the sight, joy and taste of living.
Praised be Jesus Christ.