A Man Born Blind

St. John tells of the time when Jesus Christ healed a man who was born blind:

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth” (Jn 9:1). St. Augustine offers this allegorical interpretation: “The blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: that is, man is blind from his birth.”

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2) St. John Chrysostom surmises that neither of these reasons explains his blindness: “the former, because he had been blind from his birth; the latter, because the son does not suffer for the father.”

Thus, “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (v. 3). St. Augustine reminds us that we are born with original sin and that we add to that by committing sins. However, what Christ is saying is that “sin was not the reason why he was born blind.”

Was it, then, unjust that he should suffer from blindness? St. John Chrysostom replies: “Rather I should say that that blindness was a benefit to him: for by it he was brought to see with the inward eye. . . . Our Lord, by opening the closed eye, and healing other natural infirmities, demonstrated His own power.”

“He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (v. 6). St. John Chrysostom remarked in a homily: “He who had brought greater substances into being out of nothing, could much more have given sight without the use of any material: but He wished to show that He was the Creator, Who in the beginning used clay for the formation of man. He makes the clay with spittle, and not with water, to make it evident that it was not the pool of Siloam, whither He was about to send him, but the virtue proceeding from His mouth, which restored the man’s sight.”

“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” (v. 7) St. John Chrysostom says that He told the man to wash “that the cure might not seem to be the effect of the clay.” And he suggests that the Evangelist added the interpretation “Sent” for this reason: “to intimate that it was Christ’s power that cured him even there,” that is, at the Pool of Siloam, which was some distance away.

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. IV, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).

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