Fourth Sunday: Take This: My Body, My Gaze
Fr. José Granados, dcjm
After the Samaritan Woman, we now receive the man born blind, on this fourth Sunday of Lent. This is a man who got his vision back in a radical way, because he had never been able to see. Jesus appears as a source of light: “while I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” The first and second readings also insist about vision. Samuel, when he chooses David, says, “mortal men see appearance; the Lord looks into the heart.” Saint Paul as well: “live as children of the light.”
On the one hand, this gospel speaks about Baptism. The ancient Church called this Sacrament “enlightenment.” In Baptism, we are born – that is, we come out into the light of the world. Mud would seem to be the most contrary element to light; however, we can only perceive things with clarity if we are given eyes made of mud. We know that, when Jesus accomplishes a miracle, he is foreshadowing the effects of his Resurrection. His Risen body, full of glory, will invigorate the eye too, so it might see depth.
There is, therefore, a light that emerges from our impoverished mud. Vision is related to the body, to the way our heart is configured, and to the ability to look into the heart – as the prophet Samuel says that God does. In the Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II says the way we look follows the way we are. There is a simplistic way of look at others, contrary to their personal dignity, that strips and that overpowers the other. There is a different, pure way of looking – pure, since it sees from a pure heart, and it sees more deeply.
Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus has come precisely to unveil these two ways of looking at others: so that those who see might not see, and those who do not see might see. For Adam’s eyes were opened to look upon evil, and someone had to come along to reshape them. We need someone to blind our domineering vision and open us up to love’s vision.
There are three typical elements of sight. First, everything is perceived simultaneously, whereas for the other senses, such as hearing or touch, information is received bit by bit. Vision thus allows us to understand eternity. Here we find the first challenge of the look: being able to see the eternal and not forget that everything has an origin and a destination, that we receive the eternal within a path. We look into the heart when we see a person’s whole story, and so we learn to judge by the gifts and promises God makes to each one. In Gothic churches, the light comes in through stained-glass windows, where the lives of the saints are depicted, because they are luminous stories. Faith consists of perceiving Jesus’ luminous life, step by step, from his birth to his Ascension into Heaven, and passing through his glorious death.
The second element of sight is that, while it allows us to view everything at once, it lets us take some distance to be able to relate everything together. The other senses lose out upon moving further away, but sight can even gain by it. Here is another challenge for sight. The overpowering vision is a man who looks through a keyhole, a gaze that separates himself to judge. He sees light, but lives in darkness. In the second reading, Saint Paul condemns those who hide in the dark to commit evil deeds. To see the light, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons says, one must come into the light. Whoever lets himself be seen knows how to see well. We do not want to be looked upon, because we have a judgmental and accusing gaze. Saint Augustine says everyone loves the light insofar as it enlightens them, but everyone hates it insofar as it condemns them. Jesus has come to recover the original gaze of the Father, a gaze that affirms us in our being: “he looked at everything he made and found it very good.”
In third place, sight is the sense of objectivity. We cannot touch without being touched, without being transformed by what we touch. Even hearing affects our body and resounds in it. Sight, however, seems to leave us untouched. Therefore, sight allows us to share the same vision with others. The challenge here is understanding that each person’s viewpoint can enrich our vision. Our eye dilates when we see together with someone else. In the Gospel, faith is learning to see with Jesus’ eyes, and receiving his gaze. Jesus is like a painter that, in painting a canvas, not only transmits what he sees, but also his way of seeing; like Rembrandt, who painted the elderly body with mercy and respect, which is what we learn from his paintings.
As we were saying, what Jesus gives the man born blind is a foreshadowing of the vision of the Resurrections. Therefore, he must give his eyes a shape. He gives us his body so that we can see, and thus introduces us in his shared vision, which is the shared vision of the Church. “Take this: my body,” Jesus says. This sentence could also be read: “Take this, my eyes, my vision, my way of seeing.” This is what occurs in the Sacraments, that are signs because they are light born from a shared body. Come in here and you will learn to see with my eyes. Baptism will form your eyes and will teach you to see from the loving gaze of the Father; Confirmation will give you a piercing gaze, able to generate vision in others; Penance will allow you to recognize superficial views and will take away the fear of returning to the light; Matrimony will give you light to be able to look together, man and woman, with the gaze of communion.
In the beginning, God made the light. On the sixth day, He made man, He made His image, who could reflect that light, and so could also see God’s light. On the seventh day God rested, because he could relax his pleased gaze upon the created world, and He deigned man to participate in the same divine vision of the world. On the eighth day, the day of Christ’s Resurrection, God will allow us to see him face to face and will fill our body with His glory, our mud with His light.
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?” Jesus asked in the Gospel. The Church Fathers would say that after Jesus, the light kept shining. He remains in the world, because He is the day, but the Apostles are the twelve hours of that day. We Christians, children of the light, are called to be light, so man can walk toward his goal, until the dawn of the day of Resurrection.
 Note from the Translator: here there is a play on words in Spanish – dar a luz (lit. to give to the light) is the typical way to render “giving birth.” In Baptism, we are born, we are given to the light.