37 - TO SEE AND TO LIVE IN THE LORD, June 6, 2021

Acts 16.16-34

John 9.1-38

When we remember to read the Gospels for these Sundays of Pascha as signs of the mystery of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, it’s like coming with St John into the LORD’s empty Tomb and seeing, suddenly, the Scriptures opening up before us to reveal the ‘mystery of God hidden from the ages, the mystery of Christ in you,’ Christ in the ‘tomb’ of your heart, knocking, waiting for you to open it that He may enter and fill your darkness and your death with the Light and Life of His Holy Resurrection! (Jn 20.8; Col 1.26, Rev 3.20)

In this light, we see the healing of the blind man this morning as a sign of the blindness that is healed in the resurrection of Jesus when one ‘comes out of the city’ to enter, in the humility and contrition of faith, the other side whose gate is found in the realm of the invisible, in the heart, where we come upon the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us.

Our Gospel this morning begins with Jesus’ answer to the question of His disciples: ‘Neither this man sinned nor his parents. This man was born blind so that the works of God would be manifest in him,’ so that even if one doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God, one may believe and know, from His works, that God the Father is in Him (Jn 10.38). And what is this work of God of which the healing of the blind man is a sign? It is the healing of the soul even to the point of raising those who receive Christ Jesus in faith from death to life.

That is, this man was born blind to become a Theophany, that is, a saint, a man who carries the fragrance of God in whom God is seen and heard; and the hour has come for that Theophany to shine forth in the LORD’s Holy Pascha.

What if this is the purpose for which each one of us is born? For, in fact, all of us are born blind. That’s why Holy Baptism is our ‘Illumination.’ Holy Baptism is when the supreme work of God is made manifest in us, when the eyes of our soul are opened and we see God in an unseeing way by becoming partakers of God (2 Pt 1.4); for we receive the Living Waters of His Heavenly Spirit when we receive His Flesh as our food and His Blood as our drink and we who were dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph 2.1) are filled with life, not the life of the world, but the divine, uncreated Life of God (Jn 6.53).

Do you see now that the sight given to the blind man this morning so that he can see is a sign of the divine, uncreated Life of God that the LORD Jesus wants to give to us if we would but desire Him and come to Him, seeking Him (Pro 8.17), or if we would receive Him when He comes to us, knocking at the door of our heart (Rev 3.20), as He comes to the blind man this morning, as He came to the paralytic by the pool two Sundays ago, as He came to the woman of Samaria last Sunday?

That means that the man’s blindness is an image of this life of the world that we live on this side of the grave, the life that is generated out of the so-called ‘living waters’ of sexuality. That life is blindness because it ends in death when the eyes ‘open’ but see no more. And since all of us are ‘alive’ in this life that comes from the dust and returns to the dust, this life that is surrounded on all sides by the dark ‘waters’ of death, all of us are ‘alive’ in blindness.

We are blind because we cannot see the mystery of God hidden from the ages that is Christ in you, the hope of Glory! We cannot see it because we don’t go seeking for it. We make little if any effort to come out of the city with the myrrhbearers and with St John to the LORD’s Tomb that is within us. We make little if any effort because we love the darkness, because, as the LORD Himself says to us: “Our deeds are evil.” (Jn 3.19) Greed, self-love is the root of all evil say St Ephraim of Syria and St Maximus the Confessor; so, following them, our deeds are evil because they are deeds of greed and self-love.

Now, the LORD says to the disciples, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents,” and yet the man was born blind. Well, if neither the blind man nor his parents sinned, that means that they kept the Law of God, they were righteous. Now we see the man’s blindness as an image of the Law that could not raise the saints to life. In the Law, the saints of the OT could have a profound experience of forgiveness and even the cleansing of their sins. They could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for a time. Through the Law, they experienced God’s mercy and kindness. In Israel’s history, they saw God’s works of deliverance and blessing, and they rejoiced in them; but in all of this, the Law could not raise them from death to life.

In the root of their heart, they were still blind; in the sin of Adam, the door of their heart that opened onto God was closed and they could not open it. In their heart, they were enslaved to death; the Way to the Tree of Life was blocked. They could not enter Eden to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. They lived with all mankind in the mountains ‘opposite Eden’ (Gn 3.25 LXX). So, even if they did not sin, they were still blind, they were still imprisoned in death. And those who did sin, who did not keep the Law, if they didn’t confess their sins and seek forgiveness by returning to the Law, they eventually forgot God, then they became ignorant of Him which is to say that they became completely blind, dead in their sins and trespasses.

I believe this gives us the meaning of the LORD’s word to the Jews at the end of this morning’s Gospel: “If you were blind,” He says, “you would have no sin.” That is, if you would confess your blindness, if you would confess your sins, the LORD, in His Mighty work of destroying death by His death, would be faithful and just and, in His Resurrection, He would pour out the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit over you and not only forgive your sins; He would heal your blindness, He would raise you from death to life. But, “because you say that you see, your sin remains.” That is, because you say that you have no sin, you make God a liar, and so the Truth is not in you. Vision is not in you. You cannot see. Your blindness remains. (1 Jn 1.5-7)

For Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became flesh and clothed Himself with our death and so He has become absolutely one with us. And, in His union with us, He has given us His own divinity to wear as our garment, if we would but put it on. In the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit, He refashions the earth and makes the earth ‘sacramental,’ He makes it ‘mystical,’ He fills it with the Mystery of God hidden from the ages. Through the sacraments of the Church—they are the earth of Christ’s Body and Blood—God gives us Himself as our food and drink, He gives us His flesh as our Manna from Heaven, His blood as the Living Waters of His own uncreated, divine Life, and in His deified and transfigured flesh and blood in which He has destroyed death and given life to those in the tombs, to us, He not only forgives us our sins but He cleanses us from death. He creates in us a clean heart, He puts in us a new and right Spirit. He brings us into His empty Tomb and there, in our heart within us, with St John, we are given to see and to believe and to understand the Scriptures, so that now we can see that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and die and to be raised from the dead on the Third Day.

Why? So that we could become partakers of God’s own divine nature, so that we could eat and drink Him who is the True Light in whom is the Life of the world, so that He could come to see Him, that is, to know Him because we have been made to become one with Him. It is the Life of His deified flesh and blood that lives in us, not the life of the flesh and blood of this world. It is His Life living in us that is destroying the death of our life in this world every day, every hour, every moment.

Blindness is a wonderful image for our life in this world that is fundamentally dead. We think we are living because we eat and breathe, just like the Jews believed they could see because they weren’t ‘blind’. But the life we live in this flesh is the life of death because it is not the life of God; and, just as we cannot make blind eyes to see, so we cannot make ourselves to live the Life of God. We must present ourselves to Him by following His commandments, and in that obedience, we wait for Him to act; for until He acts, we remain blind, we remain dead. In Christ’s Holy Resurrection, let us therefore confess our sins and acknowledge our blindness and present ourselves to God in the humility and longing of faith to see and to know Him. Amen.