During Lent we are often asked to confront our spiritual blindness. One story from the Gospels, about the man blind from birth, offers us new perspective.
The first thing to note is that the blind man symbolizes all of us. We are all blind from birth, affected negatively by original sin.
What does Jesus do when he confronts this man? He announces who he is: "I am the light of the world." In John's Gospel there are a series of "I am" statements: "I am the bread of life; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life." And here he issues another of those powerful claims: "I am the light."
Jesus is the way to see. When we are grafted onto him, when we assume his mind and his attitude, when we live his life, we are able to see the world as it is, and not through the distorting lens of our fear and our hatred.
In the story, Jesus makes a mud paste by spitting on the ground. Many Church Fathers saw this as the mixing of divinity and humanity (the Incarnation) which effectively saves us. God bends low in order to show us what he looks like. Then he smears the paste on the man's eyes becoming the salvator, the bearer of the salve. After the man washes in the pool of Siloam, he comes back and he is able to see.
Now at this point, we would expect that everyone around the cured man would rejoice, but just the contrary; they are infuriated and confounded. The Pharisees try first to deny that a real healing took place: "He is not really the one; he just looks like him." But the man himself corrects them, "No, I'm the one alright."
Then they try to tie him up in legal knots. "This man cured on a Sabbath; only sinners cure on the Sabbath; therefore, your cure came from an evil source." Once more, the man's response is a masterpiece of constraint and understatement: "I don't know whether he was a sinner or not; all I know is that I was blind and now I see."
Why are the Pharisees so reactive? Why don't they want this man to be cured? I suggest it's because we sinners don't like the ways of God; we find them troubling and threatening because they undermine the games of oppression and exclusion that we rely upon in order to boost our own egos.
But God doesn't come to play these games. He comes to help us see.