Reflection on the Healing of the Blind Man
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear of Christ healing the man who had been born blind. This story is familiar to us. Christ spits on the ground, makes clay and puts it in the man’s eyes, and instructs him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man does as he is told and his sight is restored. He returns, not to find Christ, but to face others who question how this miracle could have occurred. Some people even doubt that he is the same man, for never before had it been known for a man blind from birth to be healed.
Eventually he is brought before the Pharisees to recount what happened, but the Pharisees, doing what Pharisees do, seem more concerned about somebody having the nerve to heal on the Sabbath day than about the great miracle which has occurred in their midst. When Jesus first encounters the blind man, his disciples ask him whether it was the man or his parents who sinned to cause his sorrowful condition, but Jesus explains that neither the sins of the blind man nor those of his parents are responsible for his blindness, but rather that he is in that condition, so that the works of God may be revealed in him.
And indeed, with his healing those marvelous works shine forth and amaze the crowd. Yet the Pharisees are unimpressed. They are so weighed down by their own concerns, with some trivial infraction of their laws, that they miss entirely the wonders of God revealed in the working of a previously unfathomable miracle. And in that sense, perhaps the Pharisees in this reading are much like you and I in our day to day lives. How often do our prejudices or judgmentalism keep up from truly appreciating small wonders of God’s glory shown to us every day? Maybe somebody has offered you a great mercy, but pride prevents you from accepting it. The neighbor who offers to fix your broken sprinkler system so you don’t have to call a repair man. The co-worker, who offers to pitch in on a project that is going to keep you at the office until midnight. Oh, we politely thank them and turn down their offers, because these are things we can handle on our own. We don’t need their help. The need to be self-sufficient in all things is prized so highly in our culture, that those whose good works are pleasing to God become an offense to us, rather than a revelation of the glory of God! Or maybe it is our own pharisaical tendencies. That new lady who offered to help teach the Sunday School class, she has a tattoo! She’s defiled her body; we can’t have her teaching in the Church. Sure, John cuts the grass every week and makes sure the parish property is kept up, but everyone knows he doesn’t tithe! When we elevate our personal laws to such a level that we can no longer see the beauty and wonder of anything that does not strictly meet our personal legal standards, like the Pharisees, we miss out on the works of God happening around us every day.
But in this lesson there is one person who did not have any problem proclaiming the glory of God: the blind man. The Pharisees tested him, over and over, but he never backed down. He never denied the miracle that Christ had worked. When they urged him to give God the glory and reject Christ, who they called a sinner, he refused. He would not judge. “Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know” the healed man says, “What I know is that though I was blind, I now see.” And when he is cast out of the synagogue and vilified by the Pharisees, Christ comes to him and asks him “Do you believe in the Son of God?” Now this man did not know that the person asking him this question was the same one who healed him, because Christ sent him to wash in Siloam, and was gone when the man returned. But the man does not hesitate. “Who is He, Lord” he asks, “that I may believe.” And when Christ humbly reveals himself to him he falls down before him and proclaims “Lord, I believe!”
I suppose it should not be surprising that one who has received such a precious gift from God should proclaim his belief without hesitation. Is our own reticence to see the works of God in action in the world a result not having had such an encounter with Christ? If this is what holds up back, what binds us with pride and prejudice, we need only to look a little deeper into today’s readings to see that like the blind man, we too have been equipped with the personal encounter with God’s work to proclaim God’s glory as the blind man did. Blessed Theophylact writes “Every man is blind from birth” as a result of being born into this fallen world, and that “from the moment we were punished with mortality . . . a thick cloud covered our eyes like a cloak of flesh.” As the spit dropped into the dirt to create a healing ointment, the Holy Spirit descended on the Virgin Mary and the greatest healer of all was made incarnate and dwelt among us.
Like the blind man, we have been healed. We have been washed in holy baptism, like the blind man washed in Siloam. We have been tested by the endless temptations of our modern age, as the blind man was interrogated and challenged by the Pharisees. Is God’s mercy and love for us not as great a work of majesty as the restoration of the blind man’s sight? The cloak of sin has been lifted from our eyes. The chains of death have been broken for us by Christ’s glorious Resurrection. We are restored; we are healed. Let our vision not be clouded again by the petty concerns of our fallen world or by our prejudices or fears. Let us not be caught unaware of the wondrous works of God surrounding us and lifting us up. Rather, let us be like the blind man healed and proclaim, Lord I believe!