The Wrong Sunday for John 9?

John 9:1-41

The gospel for this Sunday is John 9:1-41. My Orthodox friends tell me that we’re reading this passage on the wrong Sunday. They read from Matthew, Mark and Luke during Lent, and from the Gospel of John during the Sundays between Easter and Pentecost. Commenting on John 9, the Orthodox Study Bible says:

This healing is the sixth sign in John’s Gospel. Of all the miracle stories in the Bible, this is the only one in which the person was blind from birth. The blind man is symbolic of all humanity: all need illumination by Christ, the Light of the world. This sign is an illustration of baptism, which is also called “holy illumination.”As Pascha (Easter) is the traditional day to receive catechumens into the Church, the lessons following Pascha reflect a baptismal theology. Thus, this passage is read on the sixth Sunday of Pascha.

I have a friend who is a deacon in the Orthodox Church who describes their practice something like this: The purpose of the synoptic gospels is catechism, basic instruction in the Christian faith. The synoptic gospels lay out the basic teaching every catechumen – every convert to Christianity – needs to know before they are baptized. The purpose of John’s gospel, however, is mystagogy. “Mystagogy” is a combination of two Greek words, “mystery” and “to lead”. And “mystery,” here, doesn’t mean an unsolved puzzle. It pertains, rather, to a sacred experience that words can’t fully describe.

It is the great privilege of the baptized to know the light of Christ, to enter into the divine life of the kingdom here and now. The gospel of John, who sees the life of Christ in the sacraments and the sacraments in the life of Christ, is instrumental in leading us into that light.

I suppose that when the church reads John 9 in worship is not a matter of eternal significance. I find it enlightening, though, to meditate on this text with an Orthodox eye, and to consider why our Orthodox brothers and sisters read this text when they do.

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