|Codex Egberti, Fol 50|
Chapter 9 of St John tells the story of Jesus healing a blind man who has been blind from birth, and the various reactions to this act, from his neighbours, his family, the Pharisees, and the man himself. Today's section looks at the initial reactions.
The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and Knox translation can be found here. you can listen to the Latin here and the Greek here.
1 Et præteriens Jesus vidit hominem cæcum a nativitate: 2 et interrogaverunt eum discipuli ejus: Rabbi, quis peccavit, hic, aut parentes ejus, ut cæcus nasceretur? 3 Respondit Jesus: Neque hic peccavit, neque parentes ejus: sed ut manifestentur opera Dei in illo. 4 Me oportet operari opera ejus qui misit me, donec dies est: venit nox, quando nemo potest operari: 5 quamdiu sum in mundo, lux sum mundi. 6 Hæc cum dixisset, exspuit in terram, et fecit lutum ex sputo, et linivit lutum super oculos ejus, 7 et dixit ei: Vade, lava in natatoria Siloë (quod interpretatur Missus). Abiit ergo, et lavit, et venit videns. 8 Itaque vicini, et qui viderant eum prius quia mendicus erat, dicebant: Nonne hic est qui sedebat, et mendicabat? Alii dicebant: Quia hic est. 9 Alii autem: Nequaquam, sed similis est ei. Ille vero dicebat: Quia ego sum. 10 Dicebant ergo ei: Quomodo aperti sunt tibi oculi? 11 Respondit: Ille homo qui dicitur Jesus, lutum fecit: et unxit oculos meos, et dixit mihi: Vade ad natatoria Siloë, et lava. Et abii, et lavi, et video. 12 Et dixerunt ei: Ubi est ille? Ait: Nescio.13 Adducunt eum ad pharisæos, qui cæcus fuerat. 14 Erat autem sabbatum quando lutum fecit Jesus, et aperuit oculos ejus. 15 Iterum ergo interrogabant eum pharisæi quomodo vidisset. Ille autem dixit eis: Lutum mihi posuit super oculos, et lavi, et video. 16 Dicebant ergo ex pharisæis quidam: Non est hic homo a Deo, qui sabbatum non custodit. Alii autem dicebant: Quomodo potest homo peccator hæc signa facere? Et schisma erat inter eos. 17 Dicunt ergo cæco iterum: Tu quid dicis de illo qui aperuit oculos tuos? Ille autem dixit: Quia propheta est.
And Jesus passing by, saw a man, who was blind from his birth:  And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?  Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.  I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had said these things, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread the clay on his eyes,  And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore, and washed, and he came seeing.  The neighbours therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.  But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.  They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened? He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe, and wash. And I went, I washed, and I see.  And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.  They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.  Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.  Again therefore the Pharisees asked him, how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and I see.  Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.  They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.
The Catena Aurea commentaries on these verses focus firstly on the issue of why people are born with disabilities and illnesses: is it due to the sins of their parents?
There is, of course, a sense that we all bear the sins of our parents: we all inherit the consequences of Adam's sin; and the genetic legacy and physical health of our parents affects a child even in the womb. But in this particular case, the man's blindness is part of God's providential plan to reveal Jesus' power, and act as a sign for his message:
AUG. For the blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: i.e. man is blind from his birth.
AUG. Was he then born without original sin, or had he never added to it by actual sin? Both this man and his parents had sinned, but that sin was not the reason why he was born blind. Our Lord gives the reason; viz. That the works of God should be made manifest in him.
GREG. One stroke falls on the sinner, for punishment only, not conversion; another for correction; another not for correction of past sins, but prevention of future; another neither for correcting past, nor preventing future sins, but by the unexpected deliverance following the blow, to excite more ardent love of the Savior's goodness.
The first reaction comes from the man himself witnessing to what had happened to his neighbours:
CHRYS. The suddenness of the miracle made men incredulous: The neighbors therefore, and they which had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Wonderful clemency and condescension of God! Even the beggars He heals with so great considerateness: thus stopping the mouths of the Jews; in that He made not the great, illustrious, and noble, but the poorest and meanest, the objects of His providence. Indeed He had come for the salvation of all.
Some said, This is he. The blind man having been clearly recognized in the course of his long walk to the pool; the more so, as people's attention was drawn by the strangeness of the event; men could no longer say, This is not he; Others said, Nay, but he is like him.
AUG. His eyes being opened had altered his look. But he said, I am he. He spoke gratefully; a denial would have convicted Him of ingratitude.
CHRYS. He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor afraid of the fury of the people, nor averse to show himself, and proclaim his Benefactor. Therefore said they to him, How were your eyes opened? How they were, neither he nor any one knew: he only knew the fact; he could not explain it...
AUG. Lo, he is become a proclaimer of grace, an evangelist, and testifies to the Jews. That blind man testified, and the ungodly were vexed at the heart, because they had not in their heart what appeared upon his countenance...
Some (though not all) of the Pharisees, however, reject the great gift because it had taken place on the sabbath! Do we likewise reject graces offered because they come at inconvenient times?
AUG. Some, not all: for some were already anointed. But they, who neither saw, nor were anointed, said, This man is not of God, because he keeps not the sabbath day. Rather He kept it, in that He was without sin; for to observe the sabbath spiritually, is to have no sin. And this God admonishes us of, when He enjoins the sabbath, saying, In it you shall do no servile work. What servile work is, our Lord tells us above, Whosoever commits sin, is the servant of sin. They observed the sabbath carnally, transgressed it spiritually.
CHRYS. Passing over the miracle in silence, they give all the prominence they can to the supposed transgression; not charging Him with healing on the sabbath, but with not keeping the sabbath. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? They were impressed by His miracles, but only in a weak and unsettled way. For whereas such might have strewn them, that the sabbath was not broken; they had not yet any idea that He v as God, and therefore did not know that it was the Lord of the sabbath who had worked the miracle. Nor did any of them dare to say openly what his sentiments were, but spoke ambiguously; one, because he thought the fact itself improbable; another, from his love of station. It follows, And there was a division among them. That is, the people were divided first, and then the rulers.
THEOPHYL. See with what good intent they put the question. They do not say, What say you of Him that keeps not the sabbath, but mention the miracle, that He has opened your eyes; meaning, it would seem, to draw out the healed man himself; He has benefited them, they seem to say, and you ought to preach Him.
AUG. Or they sought how they could throw reproach upon the man, and cast him out of their synagogue. he declares however openly what he thinks: He said, He is a Prophet. Not being anointed yet in heart, he could not confess the Son of God; nevertheless, he is not wrong in what he says: for our Lord Himself says of Himself, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.