SUNDAY OF THE BLIND MAN
What an amazing miracle, and what a multitude of important lessons to be learned! Today we see a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus if he is blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents. Jesus answers “neither.” Then Jesus says he is blind so that the Light (which is Himself) might be revealed, not only to him, but to the whole world. After that, Jesus fashions two new eyes for the man out of clay. We know that because the holy fathers declare it and the texts to the services confirm it. Next, the blind man is sent by Jesus to wash in the pool named Sent, and miraculously, his newly-created eyes can now see! And what happens immediately after that? The formerly blind man is questioned, disbelieved, questioned again, challenged, his relatives hounded, badgered, harassed, and his healer denounced. In other words, he is persecuted, persecuted, persecuted! In the end, though, he is consoled, and with both his physical eyes and his spiritual eyes wide open, he sees God and exclaims: “Lord, I believe.”
I think that all of us can see in today’s Gospel the journey of “every Christian soul that is weary and in need of God’s mercy and help.” We are all of us born blind. Why? Because we are all born mortal, we are all able to get sick and suffer injury, and worst of all, we are all born with an inclination to sin. This is blindness, real blindness, because it is blindness toward God. This came about due to the ancient, ancestral sin that occurred in the Garden of Eden. Then what happens? Christ comes to us, not only just in history but He comes to each and every one of us. He comes to re-create us. He comes to make us new. He takes new clay and makes us over again. He sends us to the font of holy baptism to give us a new birth. And along with this new birth comes new, spiritual sight. Did you know this? Baptism, from ancient times, was called “holy illumination.” And, a newly-baptized person is called “newly-illumined.” The priest even says to the newly-baptized person. “Thou art justified. Thou art illumined. Thou art sanctified. Thou art washed: in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.” It means “we have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith!” This “illumination,” this light of Christ applies to our thinking, our reasoning, our perception, and therefore, everything that we need to read the Bible, to understand the fathers, to discern the Holy Mysteries (see 1 Corinthians 11:29), to authentically participate in the feast days, in other words, everything that we require for salvation! If we insist on using our fallen equipment, our corrupted minds, our twisted thinking, our damaged reasoning, our faulty logic, none of the things of God will make sense, and we will drift further and further away from salvation and further and further away from the kingdom of God.
So, we have the grace of holy baptism. We are encouraged by the Apostle to continuously “re-kindle” that grace (see 2 Timothy 1:6). He admonishes us to avoid conformity to this world, and to constantly refresh that renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) that came with holy baptism and holy chrismation. Why? Because Jesus said “In this world you will have tribulation. The Greek word is θλῖψις.” It means persecution, affliction, distress, or tribulation. What happened to the blind man as soon as he left the pool? Persecution, trials, tribulations. What happened to Jesus as soon as He was baptized by John and left the Jordan river? He was afflicted and tested by Satan. For all authentic Christians, there will be persecutions, whether small or great. For those who hide their light under a bushel basket, those who allow themselves to be perceived as just another person conforming to this world, and its thinking, they may avoid some discomforts in this life, but they won’t in the next. We should, all of us, be imitators of the blind man in today’s Gospel. St. John Chrysostom says of him, “He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor did he fear the wrath of the people, nor did he decline showing himself in public, that he might proclaim his Benefactor.” Our personal testimony, our personal story of how God has healed us, or delivered us, or helped us, is more powerful than any discourse on theology, or recitation of church history could ever be in opening the heart of another person to the good news of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament Septuagint, God says through the prophet Isaiah, “Be ye my witnesses...saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am He: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none” (Isaiah 43:10 LXX). What does this mean? It means that we are the modern-day blind men, or women at the well, or the paralyzed people by the pool. Each of us has a story to tell, a miracle we’ve witnessed, or a gift of grace that we’ve experienced. We should be eager to share those stories, no matter the embarrassment or the ridicule we might face. Like the blind man we must choose to be bold and say along with him “Lord, I believe!” Amen.