The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 9:1-38
If you were given the choice between having your physical sight or having your spiritual sight, which would you choose? Imagine if you could only have one or the other. Another way to look at it is, which is more preferable, to be physically blind or spiritually blind.
We take our 5 senses seriously and perhaps it’s true that we don’t take any one sense more seriously than the sense of sight. Physical sight allows us to perceive and examine the world around us. It would be quite difficult to imagine life without our eyes. But we don’t often think about our spiritual sense of sight. We rarely if ever think that there is such a thing as spiritual blindness. Our society has become so “tolerant” and “accepting” of so much that it is hard for us to fathom that in fact there is such a thing as blindness that is not physical.
We know this is true because we see it in today’s gospel passage. This story is remarkable not only because it deals with a man born physically blind, who miraculously receives his sight. Rather the real magnificence of this passage is that it clearly deals with the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and leaders of the Jewish people, the people who were supposed to know God. Surely these men would recognize the work of God when they saw it! Surely they would bow to their knees and honor the one capable of such great miracles. Surely they would recognize that all of their hopes and dreams in a Messiah would be fulfilled in this Jesus of Nazareth.
But we notice that a funny, rather, a tragic thing happened. They could not see the Lord Jesus for who He was. They refused to see Him as He was. Rather they preferred to see Him through their sinful ways. Why did they not recognize Him? Because they chose to trust in themselves and in their own righteousness and not in the Lord. In our own society this is what has happened with Jesus. We are told that growing numbers of people do not go to church and by the way, if you choose to stay home most Sundays, you are part of the growing problem in this country. If the exercise of your faith is optional and casual, it is likely that your children will not exercise faith at all.
In our day and age, everyone you meet has an opinion on Jesus Christ. But our opinions on the Lord are tainted. They are deeply affected by whether or not we are trying to live lives of holiness and purity. Our opinions are also affected by whether we are prepared to be corrected by others. When I meet people who leave Christianity to study Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam or atheism, I often see people who refuse to be corrected, who refuse to be accountable, who refuse to be taught by Christ. I see people who would rather change who they worship than change who they are and how they behave. Being a faithful Christian is harder and more demanding because Christ demands more than formal religious practices. He demands my heart.
This is what I see in the example of the Pharisees in this passage. No matter what they see. No matter how many questions they ask. No matter whether they hear personal testimony. No matter whether they question direct witnesses to the miraculous events. Nothing will change their perception of Jesus Christ. In the Psalms it is written “With the pure, You show yourself pure, but with the perverse, you appear to be perverse” (Psalm 18:26). It is because the Pharisees were impure, that Christ appeared impure to them. And it was ultimately because the blind man was pure, that he truly recognized Christ as the pure one, the Messiah. What are my thoughts about Jesus? What do my thoughts about Jesus actually say about me?
Another point in today’s reading is how we look at the difficulties or tragedies of life. The disciples saw the tragedy of a man born blind and they wanted to know only one thing; “Who is to blame?” “This man was born blind. Who is to blame, his parents or him?” Yet the Lord offers us another way, a better way to deal with tragedy and the difficulties of life. In essence He tells His disciples “Don’t try to blame anyone for the bad thing that has happened, instead recognize this as a chance to witness God’s work.” And this is really true. Would we recognize and give glory to God if life was always smooth sailing? I don’t think so. But when things become difficult, when life becomes too much to bear, when we are forced into a certain amount of desperation we find that God often provides a way and He prepares our hearts to receive it.
We spend so much time blaming others when things go wrong. The Lord wants us to rise above that level. He wants us to see that whatever difficulties arise, whatever tragedies and circumstances may come our way, He has allowed it and He can resolve it in due time.
In the history of the world there had never been a man born without eyes who was miraculously healed! God did the impossible because He can create out of nothing. And if the Lord can create out of nothing, He most certainly can create out of something, even if that something seems like a terrible thing. This is the way of the God of love. The God who does not blame us. The God who does not condemn us. The God who goes out of His way to provide healing because He was merciful to the blind man and He is merciful to us. Tragedies happen because the world is fallen. Our Lord Jesus Christ heals and restores because He has overcome everything difficult in life, even Death itself.
May we have faith in this merciful God and His only begotten Son and may we be granted healing of our own blindness and rejoice with this blind man “I once was blind, but now I see!” And glory be to God Forever AMEN.