Sunday of the Blind Man
Let us be attentive!
At that time, as Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know. "They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes? "He said, "He is a prophet. "The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be Christ he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him. "So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner. " He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. "They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.
Though I was blind, now I see!
Christ is Risen!
During His earthly ministry, Jesus met, spoke with, enlightened, and healed a vast number of people, every single day. As St. John says, if each and every one of His encounters were written down, the world could not contain all of the books that it would require. So why did the Holy Spirit guide the Evangelists to record those specific events, those encounters, which we find in the Gospels? What is it about them that make them somehow special? As most of you probably know, it is because those encounters that are recorded for us are universal. In 2000 years, while our technology and science are exponentially beyond what it was then, people are still people- as a species, we really haven’t changed. And those people about whom we read in Scripture, well, they are us - in some way, they represent all of us, both collectively and personally. And the lessons that their stories impart are just as applicable to us today as they were 2000 years ago. Today’s Reading, that of the Blindman, is a classic example of this.
As with all of Holy Scripture, there are many lessons for us in each Reading - what I’d like for us to consider today is the cost of discipleship, and the example of how best to deal with that cost. As you all realize, being a disciple of Christ, being a Christian, as we are, is no easy task. And one of the most difficult things required of us, as Christians, is obedience. I think that many adults fall into the trap of thinking that obedience is something with which only children must learn to live, but in reality, all of us must be obedient, each and every day, to any number of laws, codes, standards, requirements, and policies. And, perhaps due to our Fallen Natures, none of it is easy - obedience does not come “naturally” to us. The Blindman about whom today’s Reading focuses was not healed instantly- he had to go stumbling off to find the Pool of Siloam and wash in it before he would be healed. This was no great exhibition of unparalleled faith- without any reason to believe that he would be healed, it was simple, mundane obedience.
And when it comes to our Faith, we, too, are expected to be obedient, not only to the great Commandments, but also to the small, mundane things- praying every day, fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, coming to church for Vespers AND Liturgy (by the grace of God, not too much longer until we can do so!). But, even if it was a rather mundane task that our Lord commanded in today’s Reading, still, travelling across the crowded city was no easy assignment for a blind man. Likewise, for us, even something as mundane as fasting on a Wednesday or Friday can at times prove to be difficult, and it usually doesn’t feel like some important act of faith. But what it is, actually, is a small enactment of obedience, a quantum of faith – taken by itself, it does not amount to much. But taken week after week, month after month, year after year, it grows into a life of faith that we offer to Christ, our Savior.
Of course, as a disciple of Christ, we must accept the fact that this obedience may sometimes make us appear foolish to the rest of the world, like stumbling blindly around town with mud and spit on your face. The Blindman’s lesson for us, brothers and sisters, is that we should never allow our fear of other people’s judgment of us, because of our obedience to Christ and His Church, to become a cause of our own stumbling.
Because we know what happened to the Blindman, after he demonstrated his obedience, his willingness to appear the fool rather than disobey Christ - he was healed, and nothing was ever the same again. As many times as he was questioned about it by the Jewish authorities, interrogated, threatened, thrown under the bus by his own parents, expelled and cast away, it didn’t matter, none of that mattered - “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The Blindman couldn’t have made it any clearer. Though I was blind, now I see. Nothing that the Pharisees could say or do to him could change that fact. And at this particular point in the man’s life, nothing that they could say or do mattered much to him at all. Though I was blind, now I see, and all else pales in comparison.
Brothers and sisters, don’t you want that to be you, being able to say that? This is what our Lord offers to us - to limit our understanding of salvation to only the forgiveness of sins is to miss out completely on the opportunity to grow in our relationship with Christ, in His Likeness. To cure the blindness of our souls, so that we see that Christ is, indeed, within every person we meet, that He is everywhere, filling all things, including our very selves. This is what makes those mundane obediences, the prayer, the fasting, and the rest, worthwhile- though I was blind, now I see! This is how we come to understand that it is in those everyday obediences that Christ is found, so that we come to perform even the most mundane tasks with joy, and anticipation of encountering Him. This is why our fulfillment of these tasks may cause us to appear foolish to those of the world, yet we do them, just the same, like saying grace in public before you start to eat any meal, regardless of whether you’re in your own home, or out a restaurant.
But in our fulfillment of these Christian obediences, we run the risk of being treated differently, even by people that we thought we knew. In today’s lesson, the Blindman’s own parents didn’t know what to make of his new found vision, and would not even stand beside their own son before the Pharisees. Being a Christian, truly being one, can make even those people who are close to us act differently toward us. This is a risk that we run in the practice of our faith, but any risk is worthwhile, because, though I was blind, now I see. And it was Jesus Christ Who healed me - the Blindman never hesitated in proclaiming Who it was that healed him, and this is another lesson we must learn ourselves, as well. Why do you have the faith that you have? Why do you do those tasks, required by faith- the prayer, the fasting, coming to Services, reaching out to those around you, helping those that you can by being willing to sacrifice for them? Why? Because it was Jesus Christ Who healed me. Why are you even willing to be obedient? Why, when, at times it makes you look foolish? Why, when, at times, it makes those who are close to you treat you differently? Because, though I was blind, now I see, and it was Jesus Christ Who healed me. Brothers and sisters, we live in an age and a society in which everyone and everything is vying for your time, for your commitment. It is important that, when we do set aside our valuable time for prayer, for fasting, for helping others, that we remind ourselves why we do these things- though I was blind, now I see, and it was Jesus Christ Who healed me.
And then, what happened at the end of the story we read today, after the Pharisees mocked this man, no longer blind, and cast him out? Scripture tells us that Jesus sought him out. Jesus went and found him. When the world mocks us, and casts us out, for our obedience to Christ, for our trust in Him, He will seek us out. He finds us, and makes us aware of His presence, and when that happens, nothing that the world can do to us really matters at all. The realization of God’s presence in our lives, brothers and sisters, is ultimately, determined by our faith, by our obedience to His commandments… in other words, it’s up to us. If you want to experience God in your life, be obedient to the little things, and He will bring you spiritual sight, where you’ve never had it before. And you will see Him, in your own selves, your own beings, for the Kingdom of God exists within us.
We will see Christ in everyone around us, because He is, indeed, everywhere, filling all things. We will see Christ, and then we should not hesitate to follow one last example set for us by this formerly blind man- with all of our hearts, all of our minds and all of our strength, we must fall down and worship Him, to Whom is due all glory and honor, authority and dominion, together with His Father-without-beginning, and His All-holy, good, and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Indeed He is Risen!
Fr. Gregory Czumak
Four Evangelists Orthodox Church
UOC of the USA
Bel Air, MD