Homily for the 4th Week of Lent - March 26, 2017
This is a baptism gospel. Now, you might be thinking: “Fr. Najim, what do you mean? This gospel has nothing to do with baptism. If anything, you might say this is a gospel about healing, but not baptism.” But the healing of the blind man in this long narrative we just heard is an illustration of what happens at baptism and how we’re supposed to live as baptized Christians.
There’s a lot of symbolism in the baptism ritual. After the pouring of the water, the actual baptism, a candle is lit and the priest or deacon says, “Receive the light of Christ. Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child has been enlightened by Christ. May this child keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts…”
In baptism, we are cleansed of Original Sin; faith, hope, and charity are infused into our souls; and we become children of God. God makes his dwelling in us. We are enlightened at baptism, we receive Christ’s light, and for the rest of our lives we are called to make Christ present in the world, to shine Christ’s light to others. You see, baptism is not simply a moment in time; it is meant to be lived out.
So how does this relate to the blind man? The blind man is healed by Christ; and notice that Christ has him wash in water. The people then inquire, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” And the blind man answers them, “I am.” Now, the now healed blind man’s answer might not seem extraordinary on the surface; however, when he answers “I am,” there is a profound theological point that St. John is trying to make. Where else in Scripture do we hear the answer, “I am”?
In chapter 8 of John’s gospel, the Pharisees are questioning Jesus about his identity. Jesus says to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” In this way, Jesus identifies himself with the Father. He reveals his oneness with the Father.
And so when the blind man answers, “I am,” St. John is making it clear that this man was not simply healed by Christ, but in receiving healing from Christ, from being enlightened by Christ, he takes on the very resemblance of Christ. Or, as I read somewhere, “The Light who is Christ produces a goodness in us by which we come to resemble Christ himself.” The man healed of blindness is now called to become Christ to others, to be Christ’s light now that he has received light from Christ.
St. Paul speaks to this in the reading we heard from Ephesians: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
When we were baptized, we were enlightened by Christ. Living our baptism, we are called to shine the light of Christ. We are called to be so close to Jesus that we take on his resemblance, to live like him, to imitate him; so that when people are with us they feel close to him, that they get to know Jesus more because of us.
Are we doing that? Are we shining Christ’s light? During this Lent, are we allowing the Lord to cleanse and heal us of our darkness, of our blindness, so that we can become more and more like Jesus.
Let’s make a commitment to live our baptism. To live as children of God. To live as children of light in a world so often shrouded in darkness. Baptism was not just a moment in our lives; baptism was the beginning of our Christian life and we are meant to live our baptism every day.