Gospel Story of the Week
Jesus heals the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
“‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.” (John 9:7)
A defining characteristic of being touched by Jesus is the ability to see. For the blind man, Jesus’ touch resulted in physical healing; he was able to see for the first time. For the other disciples, Jesus’ touch transforms their view of the world, reveals the way that God is present as a healing force and conveys spiritual insight. By contrast, the Pharisees refuse to open their eyes. As a result, they are unable to see the goodness of the works Jesus performs or recognize his identity in God.
Jesus’ touch has a remarkable power to heal and transform. His touch not only heals the physical blindness of the man born blind, it gives him the insight to recognize Jesus’ identity in God. As our Lenten journey continues, we are invited to explore our own experience of Jesus’ healing touch.
I changed schools at the start of third grade. On my first day in the new school, I encountered a crippled boy whose life has taught me much about Jesus’ healing touch. It was impossible not to notice Tim – he came into class on crutches wearing a plaster cast on each leg. I later found out that he suffered from a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that caused deformity in both his legs and his arms. On the day I first saw him, he was recovering from his usual summer routine – one or more serious surgeries.
While Tim’s entrance into class captured my attention, it was nothing compared to what I experienced during recess. He became one team’s quarterback in a pickup game of football. The game began with a rules discussion because Tim wanted to play tackle! Fortunately for everyone, less courageous players won the argument, and they played touch. The next obstacle was that the team had no football. Tim immediately took the arm pad off one of his crutches, and it became the ball.
Picture in your mind’s eye a seriously crippled third grader. Tim is at least a head shorter than anyone else on the field, and he’s balanced on his crutches. He takes the snap from center and lofts a pass into the end zone for a touchdown. That scene repeated itself over and over during that recess and the ones that followed. Over the years, it connected with other images that helped me recognize that this kid with a crippled body had an amazing spirit and two defining characteristics: courage and character.
Tim and I have now known each other for over five decades. Our long friendship has given me the opportunity to see how Jesus’ healing touch has transformed his life. No, Tim didn’t experience the kind of instantaneous healing that the man born blind did. There wasn’t a single miraculous moment in which he put down his crutches and walked away healed. For Tim, Jesus’ healing touch came to him in many ways over many years.
By the time Tim and I were in high school, he was walking independently. More importantly, his mental development was taking him toward a career in journalism. Always driven to excel, his career highlights include a long tenure as editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, working on committees to award the Pulitzer Prize and serving as President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
At some point well into his career, Tim came to recognize the second dimension of the Jesus touch. Those who have been healed are called to reach out to touch others. The crippled boy who experienced Jesus’ healing touch became a man who saw there was more at stake in his career than personal success. He came to recognize his career as a calling, and that changed everything.
As a result of this second transformation, being an editor took on new meaning for Tim. It went beyond putting out an outstanding newspaper to include fostering values in the workplace and in his profession. Tim’s strong convictions led him to use his positions of power and influence to urge others to recognize their roles in journalism as a calling, commit themselves to excellence and to take up their responsibility to society.
Tim’s life exhibits some remarkable parallels to the story of the man born blind. He received the healing touch of Jesus, and that touch led him to face adversity with courage and overcome difficult circumstances. Like the man born blind, Tim’s experience of suffering, healing and transformation led him to recognize his call to discipleship. He now uses the many opportunities he has to witness to that calling in his own life and to encourage others to live their own lives as a calling.
Each of us is born into the painful limits of the human condition. Some of us – like Tim and the man born blind – have physical infirmities that are immediately obvious. Others of us suffer from less visible wounds. We wrestle with inner wounds such as loneliness and depression, self-doubt, difficulty in loving ourselves or the emotional scars left by past trauma. Whatever our experiences of brokenness, our wounds invite us to open ourselves to the healing touch of Jesus.
Questions to Ponder
- In what ways have you received Jesus’ healing touch?
- How has that touch changed your life?
- How has Jesus’ healing touch called you to reach out and touch others?
Invitation to Prayer
Jesus, your touch opened the eyes of the blind man and gave him the ability to recognize your identity in God. You know the ways in which I need to be touched and healed. Open me to the gift of healing that I might see . . . Open me to your call to serve that I might find the courage to reach out and touch others.