Sunday of the Blind Man
In today’s Holy Gospel we hear the account of the healing of the man who had been born blind. This man had been blind from birth and spent his days begging at the gates of the city. 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 were splitting hairs over lesser regulations and missing the point of the miracle of Christ’s power and love in giving this man the wonderful gift of sight. They pressed the man who had been blind to declare that Jesus was a sinner and the man replied, ‘Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.’
The simplicity and guilelessness of his statement is based upon the irrefutable experience of his restoration of sight by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! What need did he have to enter into debate with the Pharisees? God grant that we would also have this confident assurance in our faith based upon the living experience of knowing Christ our Lord! For without this living experience and relationship with God, we stumble through life in blindness.
Today’s Gospel speaks to us of several kinds of blindness. Let’s take a look at these examples…
First of all we have the example of physical blindness. Many of the Church Fathers indicate that when our Lord reached down and mixed His spit with the dirt, He was actually forming eyes from the mud – a reflection of the creative process when the body and organs of Adam were created from the dust of the earth. Christ placed this mud into the eyes of the blind man and then instructed him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. It was only after his obedience to these very physical instructions of Christ that his eyes were opened and he began to see.
God heals our whole being, and we are beings comprised of body, soul, and spirit. It is only when each of these aspects of our being are healed that we can become whole and transformed into that which God desires for us to be.
The man born blind suffered from physical blindness, but in that second level of our mind and soul, our psyche, we certainly see and experience the sorrows of blindness. The world around us is so often blind to the higher truths of religion, of nobility and dignity. Life in popular culture has become incredibly crude and carnal – glorifying and preoccupied with youthful looks, sensuality, violence, pride and all the rest. Our vision is pulled down to the physical realm and barely glimpses the higher realms of soul and spirit.
When the eyes of our soul and mind are opened, we begin to perceive the beauty of higher things, of things worth suffering for. This is a great and wonderful thing. But, while it may enrich us and make us cultured, it still does not make us whole and fully healthy.
The Pharisees we encounter in today’s Gospel were undoubtedly highly cultured and devoutly religious men. We can say that the eyes of their soul and mind were opened and alert. And yet, something was seriously lacking in them… something which made them blind to the wonderful mercy and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their spiritual eyes were blind… they were so preoccupied with the pride of their mind which stumbled over the rules of the Sabbath that they missed the miracle standing there before them.
The eyes of the soul may be opened and appreciative of the beauty of good things, but if this perception does not penetrate deeper into the interior depths of our spirit, then we can remain as impotent and untouched as the Pharisees. We may love the beauty of the church services, the otherworldliness of the icons looking down upon us, the chanting of the choir pleases our ears and elevates us… all this is good and enriches our soul. But until our spirit is pierced with the recognition of our exile from Paradise, with all that we have neglected and forsaken… only then do the eyes of our spirit begin to awaken.
And this awakening of our spirit has the effect of both breaking our heart open and also of watering the seed of salvation within it. Our heart breaks at the recognition of how much time has been wasted on vain pursuits, on selfish preoccupations and fears, on all the opportunities we have missed to be of comfort and service to another. We come to ourselves as if awakening from a deep sleep and say: ‘What am I doing?’
When the spirit awakens, we hear the voice of our conscience, we begin to perceive that all of our life is lived in the presence of God, and the hunger and thirst for righteousness stirs within us. We begin to perceive that all those things which stand before our sight, those million and one things which we think we have to accomplish, may be nothing more than distractions… may be keeping us so busy that we are blind to the simple reality of what God calls us to embrace and to be.
And what is it that God calls us toward? He calls us to purity of heart… ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.
This is the cure to our ultimate blindness… simplicity and purity of heart. This is a call so contrary to our modern inclinations… We want to be in charge, to know what next thing we must do, what next thing must we work toward in order to achieve that next rung on the ladder of salvation. Well, my fellow ambitious ones… more often our job is to simply raise our mind heavenward, to warm our heart with love, and to tame our stubborn and selfish will… to surrender, to have the humility and the trust to be as simple and pure-hearted children before the presence of God.
May God grant us the clarity of sight to open the eyes of our soul to look above the distractions of this world toward the beauty of God. And having caught a glimpse of His majesty, may the eyes of our spirit awaken and have the humility to behold His majesty and to gather as children before His grace and compassionate mercy.