May 24, 2020; John 9:1-38
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is Risen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, today’s Gospel reading can basically be divided into three sections: #1 the discussion between our Lord and His disciples about why the man was blind; #2 the miracle itself and how it came about, and #3 the harassment of the formerly blind man and his subsequent encounter with Jesus. This morning I’m just going to begin speaking on the first section, the first 3 verses of chapter 9 of the Gospel according to St. John.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (Jn.9:1-3)
Why would the disciples even ask Jesus such a question? Well, don’t be so quick to judge them. Many of the Jews believed that guilt and punishment for sins would be passed down to their children. Why? Because of the Second Book of Moses, Exodus 20:5 which says: “I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations to those who hate me.” (LXX)
The Lord Jesus utterly rejects this notion, as do the Church Fathers. St. John Chrysostom points out that even God Himself, through the Prophet Ezekiel refutes this idea when he says:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, what mean ye by this parable among the children of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers have eaten unripe grapes, and the children's teeth have been set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord, surely this parable shall no more be spoken in Israel. For all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son, they are mine” (Ezekiel 18:1-4 LXX).
And later in Ezekiel, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Children will not suffer because of the sins of their parents, at least not from God. This is the clear teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel. That’s not to say that children won’t be affected by the sins of their parents. St. Paul says: “Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). St. John Chrysostom rightly asks: “How will you be able to correct your son…if you yourself behave so badly?” And in another place he says: “When harmony (between husbands and wives) prevails , the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down” (Homily 20 on Ephesians).
The truth is that our God is a loving God, and not One to torture us or wreak some cruel generational punishment upon us. In fact, quite the opposite is true. David, in Psalm 102 sings: “the mercy of the Lord is from generation to generation upon them that fear him, and his righteousness to children's children; to them that keep his covenant, and remember his commandments to do them” (vs 17-18).
And again: “If thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? For with thee is forgiveness” (Psalm 129:3-4).
No, the blind man was not guilty, his parents were not guilty, neither were his grandparents guilty. He was blind, but his blindness was not without meaning. His blindness that day was for the manifestation and revelation of exactly that, God’s abundant and merciful love for mankind.
The blind man was instructed to go to the pool named Siloam in order to be healed. Siloam means “Sent.” And why was he “sent” there? Because…
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).