Sunday of the Blind Man
Today is the Sunday of the Blind Man. In today’s Holy Gospel we hear the account of the healing of a man who had been blind from his birth. The disciples asked Christ whether this man’s blindness was a result of his sin or the sins of his parents. Christ replied that ‘neither this man, nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him’. Our Lord had pity upon him and, taking up some dirt, He spat upon it to make mud and administered this mud onto the eyes of the blind man. The man was instructed to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, and when he had done so, he experienced the miracle of the gift of sight, seeing the light and the world and people for the first time in his life.
As the Gospel goes on to tell us, he was then subject to intense questioning from the Pharisees – who were trying to calm the excitement of the people over this obvious miracle and who were incensed that such a work would be performed on the Sabbath Day of rest. The Pharisees pressed the man who had been blind to denounce Jesus as a sinner for having done this work on the Sabbath and the man replied, ‘Whether he be a sinner or not, I do not know: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.’
There are many things to appreciate and learn from this Gospel account… We see once again the attentive and compassionate mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. We learn that illness cannot be assumed to be the result or manifestation of sin. It is true that illness and death are present in this world as a result of sin, but when someone in particular is afflicted with illness we must not rush to judgment. God may allow illness to visit us in order to wake us up, to facilitate our salvation - so that, as it says in today’s Gospel, ‘the works of God should be revealed’. When illness or some suffering comes to us, we should not ask ‘Why Lord?’… it is better for us to ask: ‘To what purpose, O Lord?’
On this Sunday of the Blind Man, having heard the Gospel account of the healing of the man born blind and witnessing the interrogation of the Pharisees… we must ask ourselves: who is shown to be blind in this Gospel account?
Christ has performed an astounding act of compassionate love and has, as many Gospel commentators indicate, formed healthy eyes out of the mud of the ground – just as he did at the time of creation. And the Pharisees, whose self-righteous legalism closes their eyes to this miracle, stand in judgment… unable to see the glory of God which stands right in from of them.
Let us ask ourselves, how often are we blind to the many blessings of God which we experience in this life? We may be lacking in some things, but we must thank God for what we do have. As the old saying goes, do we look at our life as a glass being half empty or half full? So often we complain about the glass being half empty, when we would do so much better to thank God and appreciate the glass being half full. And should that glass only have one quarter full, well then let’s be grateful for that. And should there only be a drop in our glass, let us thank God for the drop. And should our glass be completely dry… well then now we have a glass that is completely empty, providing maximum capacity to be filled with new and living water! Let us give thanks to God in all things and not be blind to God’s blessings in our life.
And still, there are other kinds of blindness which we may suffer… quite often we may be blind to the needs and sufferings of others. So often, we are too busy, too preoccupied with our objectives and our expectations of others to stop and see into the heart of those around us. This is the blindness of the lack of compassion.
Our vision is usually 20/20 when it comes to noticing the sins of others, but we do not have such clarity when it comes to recognizing our own sinfulness. This kind of blindness to recognize our own sins does not allow us to see ourselves as we really are and does not allow us the humility to repent and improve.
What must we do in order to begin to see things more clearly?
The best and most concise statement that tells us how to improve our vision was given to us by Christ Himself in the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ If we wish to have the scales of blindness fall from our eyes, we must work toward purifying our heart.
We purify our heart through prayer, through fasting, through striving to return to a simple and trusting faith – a faith filled with hope and with love.
This purity of heart is demonstrated by the man born blind in his words and attitude when brought before the Pharisees. The Pharisees questioned him over and over again attempting to get him to renounce Christ. But the man born blind remained focused and simple… he had experienced the healing grace of God, he had received his sight and no-one could take that away from him. He refused to enter into arguments about whether Christ’s healing violated the Sabbath laws or not. When the Pharisees pressed him about this, he simply stated, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a fine example for us of how we should witness to Christ and the truths of our Orthodox faith. The strongest and best position for us to take when defending or discussing our Christian faith, comes from the calm and quiet assurance of having experienced the grace of God. Having encountered and experienced God’s mercy and grace, we may come from a standpoint of having nothing to prove and everything to simply and humbly share. With this in mind, then, our task is to immerse ourselves in the abundant grace and sacraments available to us through the Holy Church. We may draw from our experience of the radiant joy of Pascha, the quiet beauty of the candlelit church at Vigil, the revelations God gives to us through scripture, the consolations we receive in prayer, the many small and great miracles that occur in our life and the lives of others, and through the ultimate and most personal encounter of God in Holy Communion. As St Seraphim of Sarov stated, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousand around you will be saved.”
May God help us in striving to acquire that purity of heart which will remove our blindness and allow us to see God and hold these things in our heart, standing firm in His holy truth.