Questions and more questions:
Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parent, that he was born blind?
Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?
How were your eyes opened?
Where is he? (the one who sent you to the pool of Siloam?)
How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?
What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.
Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?
How did he open your eyes?
Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?
You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?
And the question that spoke to me: Surely we are not blind, are we?
The disciples start all this questioning, asking "Rabbi, who sinned, this man
or his parents, that he was born blind? For the blind man, did the birth
defect mean that he had somehow sinned in the womb, or was he the
victim of his parents' transgression?
The disciples saw what they had been taught to see -- a man who was
being punished by God. They obviously knew something of his story -- that
he had always been blind. So they raised a question already answered for
them in the Book of Job: Remember Job's so -called comforters who
attempted to convict him of sin as the reason for his misfortune?
It has been said that the world we live in is created for us by our
perceptions -- by what we take in and what we filter out, by how we
interpret the data we receive and by how we choose to respond to it. The
writer Anais Nin said "We do not see things as they are. We see things
as we are."
Jesus asks the man, after he washes in the pool of Siloam, "Do you believe
in the Son of Man?" and our friend, who has just received his sight, says:
"Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him." Here Jesus gives
an explanation that I think is worthy of our reflection:
Jesus says" You have seen him and the one speaking with you is
he….I came into this world …. so that those who do not see may see,
and those who do see may become blind.
IN OTHER WORDS, THOSE WHO HAVE MADE A GREAT
PRETENSE OF SEEING WILL BE EXPOSED AS BLIND!
The man may have received his sight, but there were some powerful
people who were not interested in receiving theirs. It's at this point that we
see the comedy of shallow human comprehension! They all thought they
knew just how the world worked, and they weren't about to change their
perceptions or their beliefs!
This was, in a sense, a messy situation! For the Pharisees it was easier to
know how to handle someone's blindness --as being the result of God's
judgment. But, now, when blind people get miraculously healed -- in God's
name, ---- now this Jesus was here again, complicating their nicely "put
together theology." What if this healing had really happened? There must
be some other explanation!!! Or at least we'll create another reason.
They could try and get a confession from the blind man -- maybe get him
to admit that he wasn't really blind -- it had all along been a hoax. Or maybe
they could get the parents to admit that their son wasn't really blind - get
them to contradict their son!
It would seem that too many had decided in advance what was the truth
and then they had to make the facts conform to their own prejudices,
or fears. Do we sometimes catch ourselves deciding in advance what
is the truth before we listen with an open mind?
Then there is the community, who have probably seen this particular blind
man around town, since his birth and of course known about his blindness?
One says, "Isn't this the man who used to sit outside and beg?"
Some say "Yes", but others say "No, he just looks like the same
It takes them awhile to get around to asking the man himself :
"So how were your eyes opened?"
"A guy named Jesus made mud, spit on it and rubbed it on my eye,--
told me to go wash in the pool and I did. Now I can see."
Not the act of healing which most physicians would choose to imitate today.
And the parents? They simply answer, "yes our son was born blind --
but as to how he can now see, we have no idea -- ask him." But we might
ask them -- Was the fact that he was born blind such an embarrassment
that you rejected him AND HE'S NOW FORCED TO BEG?. Were you
tired of neighbors wondering what you had done to bring such punishment
on your son?
How did the blind man see himself? Well, after a life of nothing but
rejection-- how was he supposed to feel?
But then comes the touch of Jesus! Jesus saw someone in need and he
didn't use that person's plight to develop a political or moral agenda. Jesus
took the opportunity to demonstrate God's act of mercy! WHERE ARE
WE IN THIS SCENARIO? Which question are we asking? Or on which
belief are we stubbornly fixed?
This brings us to another important question: Was BLINDNESS the only
marker, the only characteristic, by which this man was identified?
What about those in our community for whom we see only by the markers
or labels, with which they have been forced to live? What about those who
stand on the street corners - how do we decide whether to help or ignore?
What means of justification or judgment do we use? What about some of
those veterans who have come home only to discover that there is no work
for them,…..sometimes no home, or loved ones to welcome them home.
Vets with PTSD! many of them homeless on our streets! Are they
identified as "NOT DESERVING?" How are we influenced by these labels
under which they have been forced to live?
What about those young people -- out there on the streets who have "come
out" to their families and are rejected and forced to live on the street?
There are many questions in our community for us to consider this day!!!
SURELY WE ARE NOT BLIND ARE WE?
I was reminded of the words of Isaiah: "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest
upon him; The Spirit of wisdom and understanding; The Spirit of
knowledge and fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes
see nor decide by what his ears shall hear…"
HE SHALL NOT JUDGE BY WHAT HIS EYES SEE NOR DECIDE BY
WHAT HIS EARS SHALL HEAR!
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound ….I once was lost, but now am
found; was blind, but now I see! "All I know," he tell the authorities, is
that I was blind and now I see"!
Those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great
pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind."
Remember, a few weeks ago when the Rev. Douglas Travis said that
people want to know God not things about God?
We are called to be intimately connected with one another, to serve as
priest to one another. That's what the "priesthood of all believers" means!
God is deeply implicated in our lives, in every place and moment and
person in our human experience……In the book
Down and Out in Providence, the former bishop of the Rhode Island,
Geralyn Wolf who lived as one of the homeless, says this:
It was from the cross that Jesus made the new family.
To John he said, "Look, here is your mother" and to Mary,
"Here is your son." In the shelter, Bishop Wolf continues,
it's not about class or race, schooling or jobs; it's about
staying with someone when they are dying inside.
As Gregory of Nyssa said long ago, "human life is not directed toward a
static goal….but a continual process of stretching and being stretched
out toward God."
We are called to open and to stretch our hearts and minds, to serve as
priest to one another. We cannot stand above anyone in the presence
of God -- only are we to stand along side one another!
Surely, we are not blind, are we? I once was lost -- but now I'm found,
I was blind -- but now I see!