Better spiritual vision this Lent: clear sight of the soul leads to belief in Christ

Shawn Reeves

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)/March 26

1 Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a; Psalm 23:1-3a,3b-4,5,6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

When I was younger, I was fascinated with the biology of the human eye, so much so that I adopted the topic for my junior high science fair project. I was captivated by the precision with which the ocular pigments responded to light and worked in partnership with one another and the harmonious design of the two specialized bodies that produce vision, commonly known as rods and cones.

In brighter light, the cones became the powerhouse of sensitivity to color, and in dimmer light they would shut down entirely, permitting the rods to take the stage, granting us the shadowy vision of the photopigment Rhodopsin. If we quickly move from bright light to darkness, we initially see only the dark, because cones cannot function in the dark and the light has bleached out the pigment of the rods. We are momentarily “blind” until the rods regenerate their pigment.

If we move quickly from dark to light, we momentarily see nothing but white, because the rods are flushed with light and the cones were previously inactive and cannot immediately adapt. After a few moments, the cones become excited to the point of clear vision, but until then the eye’s perception is blurred and dull in color. Vision, it would seem, is a delicate balance of many things working together.

And so it would seem our spiritual vision harbors a similar balance.


Flushed with too much of Christ’s light, the Pharisees’ spiritual eyes cannot articulate to their souls the identity of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage. Burdened with the darkness of their antagonism to the Lord, the eyes of their souls were unprepared for the light of Christ’s healing power, and their perception is blurred. The healed man, however, had allowed his spiritual vision to adapt. It is clear to him that Jesus must be a prophet. The evidence is irrefutable. His observation is so obvious to him, that he even seems utterly baffled by the Pharisees’ lack of clear spiritual vision, uttering, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.” The opening of the eyes of his body had radically opened the eyes of his soul.

While the poor spiritual vision of the Pharisees prevented their clear perception of Jesus, Jesse’s poor spiritual vision prevented him from even entertaining the possibility that David may be God’s chosen king in the first reading. Though he presents all of his other sons, he doesn’t even bother summoning “the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” His vision was not yet aligned with God’s.

But God had instructed Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature” — do not judge with ordinary vision but with spiritual vision. And when God announces, “There — anoint him, for this is the one!” Samuel immediately responds in faith and anoints David, “and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” Clear sight of the soul leads to a response of faith. Poor sight of the soul leads to missed opportunities for grace.

When Jesus meets with the man he healed, the man still seems not entirely aware of Christ’s identity. But once he is told “You have seen [the Son of Man], and the one speaking with you is he,” he immediately responds, “I do believe, Lord.” Clear sight of the soul leads to belief. Poor sight of the soul leads to spiritual stubbornness and a darkness to God’s ways.

In this Lent, then, perhaps a petition for better spiritual vision is in order so we may “live as children of light.” “For everything that becomes visible is light . . . and Christ will give you light.”

SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family are members of St. Malachy Parish in Rantoul.

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