Saturday, 2 April 2011

Blind, or just can't see?

GospelJohn 9:1-41 

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’
Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
  His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.
  They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’
  So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.
  Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
  Jesus said:
‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’
Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:
‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.

Bless John, never one word when several may do. This story of the 'man born blind'  reads like the transcript of a trial. And in many ways, it is. Jesus' disciples have been with him all this time, have seen all the works that Jesus has done; have listened to all the words of forgiveness and justice; and yet they still cling to the idea of a 'scapegoat' ; that there are people within the community who are guilty of nothing more than fulfilling a need for someone, for anyone, to be the 'other' the 'lesser'. And who can blame them because that is how the society worked and even the scapegoat believed it.

Jesus didn't believe it. He didn't seen anything wrong with being blind, or lame or a leper; what bothered him was the judgement that went along with it. That there were people, rites and traditions that  decided who was 'in' or 'out' when his Father looked at everything and pronounced it, him, her, them - 'Good'.

When the disciples ask the question 'who can be blamed for this disability?' it must be hoped that they are beginning to think twice. But they still want a cure- for the man to made whole in their eyes so that he can be accepted. With a delightfully creative gesture Jesus turns to the good earth for the healing. And, without even asking, the man is given his sight; returned to his family; his assumed 'sin' is washed away in Siloam's water.

But there is still a scapegoat here; Jesus. It seems that that someone can look godly; act godly and speak godly - but that doesn't make them godly. Not if you have already made your mind up. Which some of the Pharisees have - any friend of his is no friend of ours - and for how long have the Jewish people relied on their clerics to inform their lives? Why should they not trust them now?

Only half way through Lent, yet this is the real trial, more important than the display in Jerusalem; which is simply a matter of dotting 'i's and crossing 't's. John's account is a travesty of justice; of understanding. 

You can say 'we see' but you don't have to be looking the same way.You have to play by our rules; you cannot heal on the Sabbath; you cannot heal at all without there being a price; you cannot take away sin without sacrifice. You cannot, in a position of authority, allow yourself to be proved wronged; outwitted; challenged.

Sanctity must be preserved - the sanctity of the 'status quo'. what 'was' must be what 'is' - except it shouldn't.

The world travels at one thousand miles an hour; even when we are standing still - how can we ever believe in preserving the 'status quo', unless it is through fear.

It's said, to conquer fear is the start of wisdom. There is a litany against fear; taken from the science fiction book 'Dune'. I doubt that Jesus ever would have needed such a thing but I have used it and invited God in at the end, knowing I cannot do it on my own.
"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain."   And so the journey can continue.


Jade said...

How enlightening! A wonderful reflection on what it means to see. How blinding fear and arrogance can be...and how faith and humility through Jesus can renew our sight.

Joanne said...

I love this. There is so much Blindness around us and even though we are believers we are sometimes blind too.

Margaret said...

As the mother of a disabled child, I value what you say of wholeness as being separate from ability. We tell my daughter all the time that God may you the way your are so you are who you need to be and you have the gifts you're supposed to have. But it is a hard world for the people with physical and mental challenges, alas.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all,
and Margaret - yes oh yes - whoever are we to judge? I hve worked in special needs schools often and been humbled by the childrens enthusiam and giftedness for life. I spent six weeks in a children's hospital with my son two years ago (the Getting Personal blogs) when he went from a seemingly 'perfect' child to someone who lives with Crohns disease and is all the more 'perfect' for it. May your daughter be all she can be and know herself loved and beloved. m+x

claire said...

Yes, there is much blindness and how much in me?

I very much like your litany against fear. I am journeying this Lent with fears. Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Fear and anxiety to conform and fear of the so called authorities who hold the power over us.
Jesus cuts right through it and I wish I could rid myself of the fears I have too. Another Great post. you write beautifully.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Philomena and Claire - When I read these posts back I realise how much I am often writing to myself.
I first read the litany from Dune back in the 70's - it has been an inspiration for a loooong time. blessings all m+x