A guest reflection from Father Brian Kenney, a local pastor -
The story of the man born blind, like most cycle A Lenten readings, is long. It's a clunky read, with lots of stops and jumps to other settings with side comments from the evangelist. What's more is that it can be exasperating to listen to, with its back and forth and re-coverage of facts that have already been established. It also happens to be my favorite among all the Lenten readings. In fact I think the long form of this reading should always be read. What? You might be asking. Allow me to explain.
At the very beginning of the reading, the handicap of the man born blind is equivocated to sin. The fact that he was born with it suggests that it is specifically representative of original sin, which the Catechism tells us is an "inclination to evil" inherited from our first parents. Jesus shows us that this original sin is able to be washed away as easily as the mud from the eyes of the blind man in the pool of Siloam, calling to mind our Baptism with water.
But there is another blindness - another sin - presented to us that is not so easily cured. The reading becomes exasperating as the Pharisees ask over and over again how the blind man came to see, despite having already received the answer. This highlights the obstinate refusal of some to accept what is plainly before their eyes. While the blind man's handicap is easily washed away, the blindness of the Pharisees is never cured during the time frame of this reading. It is a blindness that they have chosen, that they refuse to be healed of.
There is sin that is due to weakness, and then, there is sin that is due to pride. Sins that are due to weakness are easy to absolve as long as they are recognized as coming from weakness. Sins of pride are another matter because they usually bring with them an insistence of self-justification, and thus the blindness of any need for absolution. I think this is a particularly enlightening reading for an era that has broadly dismissed the Sacrament of Reconciliation as being an antiquated and largely unnecessary practice. It is also a reminder that we must use the sacrament to recount our own sins, rather than the sins of others in an attempt to justify our own actions. Let us all pray for the gift of humility which allows us to walk by the Light of Christ.