Back in Vietnam, 20 years ago, where I spent my childhood, I have seen many respected blind master of fortune telling and scornful phony ones as well. These so-called blind fortune-tellers has immersed in the Vietnamese culture and grown into a career. People continue to line up to see these blind fortune-tellers, hoping to know more about their futures and what to do. Blind people with their visions taken away physically have somehow developed a better sense of spiritual insights which attract people. Jesus Christ in this Gospel’s story has met an interesting blind man, opened his eyes, allowed him to grow in faith and healed him completely as he finally comes to profess and worship Christ as Lord, the son of God.
James Do, one of my friends whom I met back in Vietnam in 1980 happens to live in the same city of Richardson where I moved in from Reston, VA. When we met again in 2002, James was married and had three children. He was an arrogant, strong, over-confident man who was very determined and stubborn in handling his own affairs. Besides being a Catholic to the minimum; He had his life pretty much figured out. The friendship between James and I has been growing a lot simply because he is one of a few people I knew in town and we have a lot of things to share in our young age. Unfortunately, at the age of 44, James didn’t ever expect his beautiful wife would die of lung cancer and then his eldest son passed away a couple of years later at the age of 19 because of brain tumor. Disaster didn’t stop there when James’ health had gotten worse for all the stress of dealing with his wife and son’s hospitalization and death. James himself had been hospitalized for lung infections but survived after ten day of intensive care. Tragedies must have been impairing James’ life.
However, within a 5-years window full of challenges, James, like a miracle, has changed completely to a new, transformed man of God. Instead of losing hope, getting bitter and frustration because of these seem-to-be unjust painful events, James has grown into a man of service to the people of God. Recently in an RCIA journey of faith sharing; many catechumen have deeply appreciated the staff for helping them encountering Jesus and being transformed. James as a staff member has shared his life changing experiences; he has also found Jesus at the most painful moments in his life. Jesus has shed his blindness of pride, prejudice, lust and hatred and restored his spiritual life.
St. John in the story of the man born blind repeats the message of light and darkness in the previous chapter when the Jews confronted Jesus and planned to kill him. Jesus said “I am the light of the world” and to demonstrate the truth of this statement he opened the eyes of a man who had been blind from birth. The blind man was sent to wash in the pool of Siloam - which means Sent - suggesting that the pool is a symbol of Jesus, the source of living water and the One sent by his Father. The blind man went, washed and was able to see.
This is the story of how a man sitting in darkness was brought to see the light not only physically but also spiritually. And it is also a tale of those who thought they saw but only to blind themselves to the light and plunging into darkness. If the blind man has gradually opened his eyes to the truth about Jesus, the Jews, have become more stubborn in their failure to see the truth. Three times the blind man was interrogated; three times he came out with stronger convictions. From the initial answer to the question who has opened your eyes: “the man they called Jesus”, to “Jesus the prophet” and finally to the confession of faith in “Jesus, the Son of God”, the blind man has been completely restored physically and spiritually. On the contrary, the Pharisees and the Jews after three times of interrogating, came out more doubtful, hostile, manipulative, malice and completely blinded spiritually and physically. Today, the Church reflects on the story of the man born blind because those who will be entering the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil are on a spiritual journey; a journey of faith, just like the blind man in today’s Gospel. They ought to come to encounter and to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, Son of the Living God, and to worship Him in the Catholic Church which Jesus founded nearly two thousand years ago.
For the rest of us, what has been our faith journey? Do we stand with the blind man, or with his parents, or with the crowd, or with the Pharisees? Are we like the parents of the man born blind who succumb to the threat of being cut off from the community or social status? Are we like the Pharisees who were too obsessed with people’s transgression of the laws and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge any valid truths existing beside our own?
Evidently, we human beings wouldn’t like suffering; we prefer not going through all the hardships, trials, or tragedies in life so that to be healed, and restored by God like the story of James Do in our community. It seems like we all want easy access to success and glory without any effort and commitment. However, it is time for us to learn what is pleasing to God now! Yes, the healed man in this Gospel’s story today hasn’t stopped searching to see the person who has brought him sight even to the exchange of eviction from his community. He has found that light: Jesus Christ, the one who enlightened his life and restored him completely physically and spiritually.
My dear brothers and sisters, my dear catechumen, Jesus is inviting all of us to come to him because he is the true light of the world. Whoever believes in him will not walk in darkness and will have life. Would you dare to ask Jesus to be your light today? Would you dare to acknowledge your own sins, your weakness and limitation and implore Jesus to come to open your eyes, to heal your soul and to make you whole again?
Only you and I can response to these urgent invitations. Saying yes to the Lord would not be easy and simple, but with God’s help, we will all walk in Jesus’ light, live as children of God and produce every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth (Eph. 5:8). Amen.
Deacon Vincent Thu Huu Dam