Isn’t it funny that I’ve overlooked that little phrase from this Sunday’s Gospel even though I’ve read or heard it dozens and dozens of times? I readily focus on the story of the blind man—the miracle performed by Jesus in restoring his sight, the very odd dialogue that happens between him and the Pharisees, the strange relationship he seems to have with his parents, even the dynamic that he finds himself immersed in through a chance meeting of this miracle-worker named Jesus Christ. But not until today have I ever taken note of a simple little phrase thrown in by St. John as Jesus is actually in the act of healing the man. “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, 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.”
Which means ‘Sent.’ Strange detail to include, John. Just a translator’s note? A geographical reference? An idiosyncratic side comment? I think not. Indeed, I think not! And it seems to me Pope Benedict might agree. He writes in his Lenten reflection for this week that the man born blind joyfully exclaims, “Lord, I believe!” thus “giving voice to all believers.” Is that merely to say that his proclamation of faith is one echoed down through the centuries? Is the pope implying that the courage of the healed blind man spurs the rest of us believers on to profess faith in a God even when that faith might meet with resistance, if not outright opposition? Perhaps. But as I read both the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent and the Holy Father’s reflection on that Gospel, I understand something a little bit different…something more. When Jesus healed the man born blind, he did so with a commissioning. Go and wash in the pool that will both heal you and send you. Be sent. Receive your sight, and then go out and profess your faith, that all might believe. After all, you didn’t just receive your sight today. You received vision.