We have washed in the Siloam of Baptism and we Believe in Jesus

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

“Veni, vidi, vici” wrote Julius Caesar (Suetonius De Vita Caesarum 37). “I went, I washed, I saw” answered the blind man when he was asked how his eyes were opened (John 9:11). Jesus could have healed the blind man instantly when he met him just as Jesus instantly performed so many other healing miracles. Instead Jesus sends the blind man to the Pool of Siloam. Obviously Jesus wants to teach us something. It is when the blind man washes his eyes in the Pool of Siloam that he receives his sight again. A number of times previously in this Gospel Jesus had taught about the necessity of baptism. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “…no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6) Jesus said to the woman in Samaria, “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) During the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus proclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” (John 7:37-38). To make sure that we know Jesus is talking about baptism, John then adds his own comment, “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.” (John 7:39) In today’s Gospel Jesus sends the blind man to Siloam, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (John 9:4). Here again John adds his own comment to make sure we understand what is really happening; he wrote, Siloam means “Sent.” In any other New Testament book this might not be so significant but in John’s Gospel every word is noteworthy and this word “sent” is certainly significant because many times in John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus has been sent by the Father: Jesus’ food is to do the will of him who sent him (4:34); whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (5:23); these works that I perform testify…that the Father has sent me. (5:36) So when John tells us that the blind man washed in the Pool of Siloam which means Sent and came back seeing, he wants us to understand that the blind man washed in Jesus and came back seeing. What really happened is that the blind man was washed by Jesus. Jesus taught three times earlier in this Gospel about the gift of the Spirit during baptism, and now this blind man washes in Siloam – he really washes in Jesus - and is cured of his blindness. The blind man does not yet have faith in Jesus but that will also change now.

The man who had been blind is put through a series of tests by the Pharisees. During this interrogation we see two things happening; the blind man grows in his understanding of who Jesus is and at the same time the Pharisees grow more and more blind to who Jesus is. The trials and tests that the Pharisees put the man through did not weaken him but only strengthened him. We see this above all in the way he spoke about Jesus: at first he simply says, “the man called Jesus…” (9:11); then he says Jesus is a prophet (9:17), then he says Jesus is from God (9:33). He will come to full faith in Jesus when he meets Jesus for the second time but his faith in Jesus has already been crystallized through a series of trials before he meets Jesus again. The blind man’s parents are also questioned but they do not have the strength to stand up to the Pharisees and simply say, “We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him…” (9:21) So we have the Pharisees going deeper into darkness, becoming more and more blind, as the drama progresses, the man who had been blind growing in understanding of Jesus, and his parents afraid to witness to Jesus. The Pharisees continue ridiculing the man and then throw him out.

Jesus meets the man for the second time after he has been expelled by the Pharisees and now we reach the climax of the drama. Jesus asks the man if he believes in the Son of Man (9:35) and the man asks who is the Son of Man (9:36). Jesus reveals that he is the Son of Man and the man responds in faith, “I believe Lord” and he worshipped Jesus (9:38), and the Greek of John indicates that the man went down on his knees before Jesus. Going to the Pool of Siloam to wash was only a preparatory journey. The man would make an even bigger journey, a journey to faith in Jesus, as he is tested. We can see this chapter being played out all around us today as people now act in the same way as the Pharisees, the blind man and his parents. There are those like the Pharisees who are blind to Jesus and living in darkness and who persecute and ridicule those who have faith in Jesus. There are others like the man’s parents who are afraid to witness to Jesus because they don’t want to disturb the comfort of their lives. They want Jesus but not the cross. What about us? We have been washed in the Siloam of baptism. Like the blind man, we have grown in our faith in Jesus through trials and tests just as the blind man went from saying “the man called Jesus”, to Jesus is a prophet, to Jesus is from God. The crosses and trials that came our way helped us to grow like the blind man so that we are not afraid to witness to Jesus no matter what. Now Jesus stands before us today and asks for our everything, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Yes Lord, we believe and we worship you.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2014

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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