What unfolds in this entire chapter, both through Christ’s love-healing action and His teaching is a type of mini-catechism on our baptismal vocation to live in imitation of Christ as servants, to be present and helpful to those who suffer, to be as well witnesses to the Gospel of life and hope,
Though commenting on another teaching of Jesus in St. Matthew, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis’ words are applicable here: Jesus is our responsible and tender Lord in a personal, intimate, exclusive and jealous manner. Not because He is also Lord of all the myriad angelic hosts, who serve His glory continually with magnificence, does He think any less of His fragile creature, man. Indeed, He would have come to earth, suffered, and died exactly as He did even for only one of us! 
As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. [v. 1]
St. John’s final words in chapter 8 are of Jesus passing by as He escaped through the midst of the crowd trying to stone Him. Here, as if that passing motion was a continuous movement, indeed, all Christ’s movements on earth were salvificly purposeful, the passing by becomes a moment of recognition of another aspect of Christ’s love, for He who is Light, He who is all seeing, sees a man whom created light has never penetrated, who embodies in his from birth-blindness, that which is ours before baptism, the blindness we choose post-baptism when we sin; also this blind man is representative of that which Isaiah foresaw the Redeemer would come to accomplish: To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. [Is.42:7]
Being Light Himself, Jesus also experiences in His humanity the gift of sight. Awareness of the blind man did not only pain His heart because the man could not physically see, experience light, but because Christ was in that moment once more profoundly aware of the blindness resulting from original sin, and the chosen blindness, post-baptism, of our actual sins.
His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [v.2]
The whole mystery of sin and human suffering can be found throughout Sacred Scripture and in our own hearts. It is the paradox that not all sin results in suffering per se, nor is all suffering a direct result of our committing a sin, and yet!
It is the ‘and yet’ that also is found throughout Sacred Scripture, notably in the book of Job, and still the mystery remains! In Genesis 20:5 the Lord speaks of the generational punishment He inflicts, because He is a jealous God, upon those who hate Him, yet in Ezekiel 18:20 He says only the one who sins will die, and in Luke 13:2 Jesus challenges the notion that the Galileans who were killed were more sinful than those who were not.
St. John Paul II give us a powerful catecheses in his Apostolic Letter: On The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering , exploring this mystery of evil/sin and suffering.
Who among us when seeing someone we love suffer, or suffer ourselves, has not challenged God in words not that far removed from those of the disciples pondering the mystery before them of a man born blind, born suffering?
Had Adam and Eve not committed original sin then evil and suffering would not have entered our lives, nor would we ourselves chose to sin, inflict suffering upon ourselves or others, for neither we would be sinners, nor anyone else.
In the Roman Rite, in the great Exultet of the Easter Vigil the Church cries out Her joyful acceptance of this mystery of sin and suffering: O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him…….[v.3] As with the story of Job, as with, for example, those miraculous cures which occur at Lourdes and other shrines, or are investigated as part of the processes for the beatification and canonization of saints, yes and as too, if embraced, all forms of suffering, physical, emotional, spiritual – as best we can do so without falling into the trap of worrying about the ‘quality’ of our yes – enable us to become icons of the manifestation of the works of God, primary the work of redemption through our uniting our sufferings with those of Christ that we might make up….what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church….[Col.1:24].
“I must work the works of the Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work…..” [v. 4] Doing, in union with Jesus, the works of the Father is constitutive of our baptismal vocation, and we do these works through active faith, living the Gospel with our lives without compromise before the night of persecution arrives to such an extent our final work is martyrdom, or the night of natural death arrives and our final work is to, as Jesus did, commit ourselves into the hands of the Father.
“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” [v.5] To see and bask in, to dwell in the light of Christ, Himself our light, is to have the blindness of sin exorcised from our mind, will, heart, soul.
Now something is about to happen which, given the changing of water into wine, and later the use of water to wash the Apostle’s feet, the transubstantiation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood during the Last Supper, a gift given anew and immediately in every Holy Mass/Divine Liturgy, the embracing of the wood of the Cross, transforming the tree of death from the Garden into the tree, the altar, of life, and in His glorious Resurrection transforming mortality in the flesh to immortality for each of us, He who is the Lord of all that is created, takes the very dust/earth from which the human person has been created: When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, [v. 6]
Some translations say Jesus smeared the clay, rather than anointed. Either way what Jesus does here is indeed a anointing for that which until now has been darkness, by the touch of Light Himself, is smeared away, pushed asunder, fractured like smoked glass that blocks light and as the dark shards crash to the ground, from the very body and being of the man, as the sun shatters night at dawn, light penetrates the eyes, the mind, the heart, the soul of the man.
This miracle occurs with Baptism, with absolution when we have sinned and confess, for the very act of going to confession is to own our blindness, it is to cry out: Lord, grant that I might see. [Lk.18:41]
and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see. [v.7]
In 2 Kings 5:10 we see Elisha tells Naaman to go and wash in the river if he wishes to be cured. We must be active participants whenever we ask for any miracle, that is to not simply utter words of faith but have faith that is active. The Gospels show us where Jesus could not do many miracles because of the lack of faith of the people, Mt. 13:55, and as well the humility of the father seeking the cure of his child who admitted that while he did have faith, he also needed help to fully believe, Mk. 9:24: thus the Blind Man, by going to do as Jesus told him makes an act of faith.
It is the journey of return wherein the man experiences the reality of sight, frankly of being enlightened, that is filled with light, natural light to be sure, but more importantly with the light of Christ our Light Himself.
His neighbours and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “So how were your eyes opened?” [vs. 8-10].
The fact the man had returned clearly without assistance, clearly walking with the assurance of a sighted person peaked the curiosity of those specially named by St. John as the man’s neighbours, a way of telling us these people can be trusted as witnesses to the miraculous healing of the man’s blindness to sight. It is also interesting St. John has the man use the phrase “I am.”, rather than the colloquial ‘its me’, for the “I am” is powerfully declarative of being.
He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I don’t know.” [vs. 11,12] There is a humble simplicity in the man’s unambiguous reply, and it is also clear from his words that Jesus had moved on once He sent the man to Siloam. Not unexpectedly the stage is set for another confrontation with Jesus by the Pharisees.
 FIRE of MERCY HEART of the WORLD, Volume II, page 69, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Ignatius Press, 2003
© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph