Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Unfinished Creation: John 9:1-12
As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said. (John 9:1-12)

Jesus saw the man who never saw anything. His disciples raised the problem of evil: was he born blind by his own fault or that of his parents? Trying to explain evil as misfortune by evil as fault is as old as humankind. “The parents ate green grapes, but the children had toothaches” (Ezekiel 18:2). As for the curious explanation of the beggar’s blindness by his own sin, there is no need to resort to reincarnation. A biblical author believed that a child could act badly before birth: “Before Jacob was born he was already cheating on his brother” (Hosea 12:4).

Jesus refuses any attempt to explain the beggar’s misfortune by sin. There is suffering that no human fault can explain. When we are able to identify the causes of a disaster, we must certainly act, and if possible learn from the mistakes that caused it. But in our world and in our lives, there will always be an inexplicable part. Why was that child born disabled? Why did this disease suddenly appear?

The inexplicable and the absurd remind us that we are not God. We are creatures, and therefore necessarily limited and imperfect. After meeting God in a hurricane, Job comes to the conclusion that in the vastness of creation he does not count for much, and he consoles himself for being dust and ashes (Job 38–42). According to Jesus, meeting the blind beggar is not an opportunity to discuss the origin of evil. But neither should it give rise to resignation. It becomes an opportunity that “the works of God might be displayed.” Jesus reveals himself to be a creator with God, because the first of the works of God that he has the mission to accomplish is his creation. God worked six days to “complete his works” (Genesis 2:2).

“God saw that all he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But all is not good when someone never sees the light of day! This is why Jesus said, “My Father has been at work until now, and I too am working” (John 5:17). Jesus does not give sight back to the blind man, since he never had it in the first place. He does not cure him, but completes a work of creation that was still unfinished. John carefully sets in parallel creation and the act of Jesus. Just as God made man from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), Jesus made mud out of it to coat the blind man’s eyes. And the man obeys his command; he will wash his face and then see.

Irenaeus, a bishop in Lyon, wrote towards the end of the second century: “What the Word-Artisan [in other words, Christ present at creation as the eternal Word of God] had failed to model in the maternal womb, he does in broad daylight ‘so that the works of God might be manifested in him’”(Against Heresies, V, 15,2).

Aren’t we all, like the man born blind, unfinished creatures? We lack something in order to be fully what we are called to be. It is not so much by trying to find out who is guilty of our imperfections that we will go forward, but rather by listening to the voice of Christ and doing what he tells us to do.

- What distress do we see around us?

- Of what misfortunes can we identify the causes and act accordingly?

- What sufferings in my life and in the world remain incomprehensible, without reason? What does it mean to let Christ finish the work of God that has only just begun?

Other bible meditations:

Printed from: - 4 August 2020
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