Siloam, which means sent. Jesus sends a man, blind from birth, to wash himself in the pool of Siloam after he had put mud on his eyes, made with earth mixed with His own saliva. From the wealth of meanings enclosed in these gestures and words of Jesus, we may gather some precious insights.
The evangelist John underlines that the term “Siloam” means “sent”.
Let us call to mind that Jesus is the One sent by the Father. The Sender sends to the Sender. It would seem a simple play on words, but it has in itself the essential dynamic of the Christian life.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, Jesus had solemnly affirmed a little earlier and thus the prodigious healing of the blind man is the efficacious sign of it.
A blind man, by definition, lacks light; or rather his eyes are unable to receive the light and therefore he is unable to see. The light is there, but it is necessary to welcome it in order to see. Welcoming is always a movement that arises from a precise decision: to move out of oneself, not to presume to be self-sufficient, to let oneself be surprised by what comes our way and can open up promising perspectives of life and truth.
Jesus sends the blind man to Siloam; there is this sense of movement as he changes location. He indicates a direction and then seems to almost push the blind man in that direction. He frees his eyes from blindness with a gesture that recalls the events of the creation of humanity, and sets him in motion on this path towards a true and liberated vision, for this blind man, due to his physical condition and the prejudices of the time, was blocked, a prisoner and without hope.
The blind man goes to Siloam, humble and obedient, to wash himself, and finally his eyes can see, but it is not yet the whole miracle that is being played out; it is only the premise, real and “symbolic”, for at that same time, the true miracle is to be able to see and recognize Jesus, the Father’s Envoy, the True Light that illuminates every man and woman, if he or she is willing to welcome it.
In going to Siloam, the blind man symbolically distances himself from everything that had ever prevented him from welcoming the light and being able to see. On his return he distances himself from all those who do not welcome Jesus, the one true light. He has been miraculously gifted with new sight and has been made free; he has been delivered. He professes his faith in the One who “if ... he did not come from God, could not have done anything”. With all his being he affirms: “O Lord, I believe!” O what joy in this heartfelt confession! And that my dear people, is the key to the passage.
Since the first centuries of the Church, this Gospel passage has been illuminating our catechumenal journey, for all of us who wish to receive Baptism or rediscover its beauty and free message of salvation in our lives. Christian life is like this: the Father sent the Son into the world to save humanity, a prisoner of sin; it is only in obedience to His saving Word that we can enter on a path of liberation that brings wholeness and lasting well-being, a path that is illuminated by the Eternal Light. A path which moves us from immobility and gives the ability to see and recognize with new and true vision Jesus who is the enlightened Way, the Truth and the Life. So may I conclude that the message of this Gospel today on this Sunday of all Sundays, gives us every reason to be glad and rejoice.
* Custody of the Holy Land
By Fr Luke Gregory ofm *