"Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world,
I am the Light of the world." (Jn. 9:1-41)
A gospel song entitled "Jesus is the Light of the World" refers to John's gospel (Jn. 9:5). This song places a great emphasis on witnessing to the truth that Jesus is the Light of the World. Many different faith traditions sing this song, especially at the end of many sacramental celebrations. In our Catholic faith tradition, when celebrating the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, a candle is presented to families. The lighted candle symbolizes the grace received to bear witness that Jesus is the Light of the World. Many faith traditions light candles symbolizing the pure light that has come into our world on selected days of worship. We also see the image of light after a tragic event has occurred. Hundreds of people, religious and secular, in solidarity, will hold vigils with lighted candles to expel the darkness and pain from their hearts. These rituals are useful in expressing our need to overcome darkness.
Relevant here is this short text from John's gospel, chapter 9, verses 1-5. In understanding Jesus as the Light of the World, Christians should first embrace this truth: Jesus is profoundly concerned about a world spiritually blinded rather than the physicality of a blind man. This narrative shows Jesus revealing himself as the Light of the World. Jesus wants to allow everyone to experience His love for the world that is spiritually blinded by darkness.
At the beginning of the blind man's narrative, Jesus sees a man blind since birth. This story is unique to the Fourth Gospel as other stories in the Bible make references to a blind man, but none include the detail that the man had never had a vision. In the book of Tobit, there is a reference to a man blind because of cataracts (Tb. 7:11); in the synoptic gospels, there are several assertions about blind men (Mt. 20:29-30; Mk. 10:46-47; Lk.18:35). However, John's gospel offers readers a distinct difference about a man blind. This man was born blind! Later in this chapter, the Pharisees also comment on the uniqueness of this story by saying that no one has ever opened the eyes of a person born blind ( 9:32).
Interestingly, this story seems to indicate that the world was born blind. In the beginning, the world was in darkness and had no form (Gn. 1:1-2). As darkness covered the world in its creation, God called forth light and saw that it was good (Gn.1:3). The blind man, unable to see, symbolizes a world in darkness, just as the Pharisees and the blind man's parents lived in darkness. Yet, in our gospel today, we see Jesus coming forth as the Light of the World, expelling darkness one more time. I can hear God saying, "And that's Good."
Author: Michael P. Howard, M.A.