Reflection for the Vigil of the 4th Sunday Lent 2014

29 March 2014

by Sister Mary Beth Niehaus,OSB

As we listen to the reading of the Gospel for this 4th Sunday of Lent (John 9:1-41) it gives us an opportunity to be open to our Lenten conversion, as was the case of the blind man in the gospel account. To see...that was a physical conversion. What kind of conversion does Jesus invite us to this Lenten Sunday - to a conversion of life?  He invites us to an exploration of our lives: to dig, to water, to enrich our soil with compost and to pray that rain will water the earth. Julian of Norwich said that to be a gardener, you must turn the earth upside down, seek the deepness, water the vegetation, continue this labor, take the growth and carry it to God.

So as we continue to pray this Gospel of John, we hear the story of the man born blind. Who will open his eyes? How will they be opened, and what opportunities lie ahead for this man? This will be a splendid chance for the people around this blind man to experience the curative powers of Jesus as in the days of Creation when God brought light out of darkness. That is why the Father has sent Him into the world, to complete the works that His Father has sent Him to do. 

Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud with His saliva and spreads it on the eyes of the man  born blind. "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" (which comes from the Hebrew word meaning "sent"). When the man goes to the pool, it is like creation continuing in those waters. According to an article I read, this pool was beautiful and the waters were refreshing and curative, a place where people go even to this day.   

Thus the work of creation is ongoing. Jesus activates the spiritual gifts of the person. One of the titles of Jesus in the early Eastern church was  "Eye Salve." There is a long tradition of people using the soil in medicinal ways. I remember when I was very young, my Dad would spit on the ground to make a sort of paste which he would then put on a mosquito bite to draw out the venom. The mud was put on the bite and in a short time I was cured of the pain and itching. Many people believe in the healing properties of water and earth to cure certain maladies. For example, at Waconda Springs, close to my father’s home, people would bathe in the waters and some people were cured of their ailments. Creation is a work in progress!

So when the man born blind returned after his cure he could now see more clearly. He was a new creation. This miracle transformed him. It not only changed his physical being, but it awakened him to being a new person. Now he could go and proclaim his new-found strength to others. How? Perhaps by giving love, care and joy to those he meets on his way home. Perhaps by taking the blind by the hand and leading them to the healing waters or taking them to one who has healing powers. In this way the blind man and those he touches become the "eye salve" within the community of believers--just as we can be to our community members whom we see sad and discouraged. Let us awaken the gift of our “eye salve” and use it. What a gift!