In Jesus’ time, it was taken for granted that sickness or disability was God’s punishment for sin. This idea lies behind the disciples’ question to Jesus: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?” The man not only has to live with his blindness; he is also despised by those who judge him as a sinner, and has to live by begging.
Jesus rejects this whole way of thinking. By giving the blind man his sight, he also gives him dignity and independence. God’s power is displayed in the man; he can now recognise Jesus as a prophet, and witness to him courageously in the face of the Pharisees’ hostile questioning.
The Pharisees, in contrast, reject Jesus, even when they can see the miracles he works. They “know” that Jesus must be a sinner, because he heals the sick on the sabbath. Their reasoning blinds them to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.
The blind man has been given his sight by Jesus. The Pharisees remain wilfully blind. By the gift of faith, God opens our eyes to see Christ, and our ears to hear the Good News that he brings. The season of Lent is a privileged time to renew the gift of faith, and to clear away the obstacles that can prevent us from seeing Christ clearly.