|39 - Sixth Sunday of Pascha - The Blind Man, June 9, 2013|
God permitted this man to be born blind, the Lord says to His disciples, not to punish him for sin but to manifest His work in him. I hear the Lord telling us that each of us is born not to be punished but that the work of God might be manifest in us.
And yet, the man was born blind; and we are born into a life riddled with all kinds of sicknesses and misfortunes, ending finally in death. What is this work of God that was meant to be made manifest in this blind man, and in us?
St Paul writes that no one is made righteous from the works of the law. (Gal 2:16) It is clear that, in Holy Scripture, to be righteous is to be alive in God. And, to be alive in God is a different thing than to be alive in the biological life of the world. We can be alive in the world but spiritually dead, as St Paul tells us in Ephesians. (Eph 2:1) To do the works of the Law, such as observing the Ten Commandments, can make us moral persons, but it cannot make us alive in God, because it is still the biological life of the world that lives in us that ends in the grave.
But even the “righteous” die, do they not? The Gospel presents us with this “riddle”. In this world, we are dead even though we are alive. In this world, says the prophet, we live in the shadow of death. (Isa 9:2; cf. Mt 4:16) Another biblical riddle, which speaks to the same puzzle of our worldly existence, is acted out in this morning’s Gospel. In this world, we can be blind even though we can see. In the same way, we can be deaf even though we hear; we can be dumb even though we can speak. The riddle is answered, of course, as soon as we “see” the biblical teaching that the world came to be and man came to life by a word – a logos, a principle – and a life that are not of this world.
I take St Paul’s argument to be that the works of the law cannot make anyone righteous – i.e. alive in God – because the works of the Law are rooted in the life of the sacrificial blood of goats and bulls. The life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev 17:11), the blood is the life (Dt 12:23), it says in the Law. The world, says St John, is passing away (I Jn 2:17), and so is its life; for the life of this world is taken from the dust and to the dust it returns. (Gn 3:19)
But – to quote the prophets – let us “hear the word of the Lord.” The world did not come to be, and man did not become a “living soul” by the works of the law. Man became a “living soul” by the breath, the life, of God – the Holy Spirit; the world came to be by the work of God’s hands: His Word, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit.
The work of God is the creation of the world and the fashioning of man and making him alive by the Life of the Holy Spirit. You see how the work of God is creative and life-giving. We hear in the biblical vision how the world came to exist not in itself, and how man became a living soul not by some worldly principle but by the Word and the Breath of God. The life that lived in Adam was not the biological life of the world; it was the life of God: if you will, it was the “blood” of God.
So, when man turned away from God in disobedience, he turned away from the life of God that had made him a living soul, and he fell into the world’s “circle of life”, which is really a “circle of death” because it comes from the dust and returns to the dust.
In the biblical view, no religion and no medical or biological science of man has the power to make us “alive” in the biblical sense, i.e., alive in the life, the “blood” of God; because the life of God is not of this world. Religion can make you moral (if it doesn’t make you loopy), but it cannot make you alive in the Spirit of God who is not of this world. Science can make you smart, but it cannot make you alive in the Wisdom of God who is not of this world.
The life of God cannot be seen by the eyes of this world. The mind of this world cannot comprehend it. And yet, we are meant to live the life of God by nature.
The work of man to live in the life of God that is not of this world is the work of God that the man born blind was meant to manifest in himself, and which each of us are meant to manifest in ourselves. This work of making us alive in God is the work of the Father that the Lord Jesus Christ came to complete and that He finished on the Cross, when from the blood and water that poured from His side – the life of God, the living waters of the breath of God – He “watered” the dust of the ground and made it into moist clay that could be re-shaped again in the Image and Likeness of God and breathed on to become a living soul.
This work of making man a living soul and establishing him in the life of God through the love of God, this is the mystery hidden in God from before the ages and that was made manifest in the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the opening of the blind man’s eyes, and which is meant to be made manifest in each one of us. This work of God is what we were made for; it is why we exist: to live in God.
The opening of the blind man’s eyes is a resurrection, a re-creation. Just like the risen Lord, the man born blind was not easily recognized after the Lord opened his eyes. “Some said, ‘This is not the same man who was sitting and begging;’ others said, ‘No, it is he.’ Still others said, “No, it is not the same one but someone like him.’” (Jn 9:7-9) Speaking like the risen Lord Jesus to His disciples, the man born blind said to his family and friends: “It is I!”
Brothers and sisters, by the mysteries of the Church we have been re-created, raised up from spiritual death as children of God so that the life of God now lives in us. Beloved faithful, how are we living; how are we walking? Do we still sit begging like those sitting in the shadow of death, or have we taken up our cross to follow Christ through the wilderness and into the opened heavens of His Holy Ascension? That is to say, what life are we living in our words and deeds, in our secret heart: the life of the world or the life of God that is not of this world?
Brothers and sisters, is it noteworthy that the risen Lord Jesus always appears outside the sacred centers of the world, starting with the tomb, the “sheep’s pool” of the paralytic, the well of Jacob; and, this morning, is it not striking to you that the Lord (the risen Lord, because we are reading this Gospel in the liturgical season of Pascha) does not appear to the blind man inside but outside the synagogue? The Lord Jesus Christ, and so also His Holy Church, because the Church is His body, is not be found among the dead. “He is not here! He is risen, as He said!” His Resurrection, which is the life and light and wisdom of the Church, is not of this world. The Christian Faith is not one of the religions of the world. The Christian Faith is the very life of God, the life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, which is not of this world!
It is clear in the words and behavior of the blind man that once his eyes are opened, he is no longer living the life of this world. He is clearly in another world – another kingdom. This is clear from the fact that no one could understand him anymore. He had become an enigma, even a scandal, the cause of division among the people as they tried to “figure him out”. Not even his parents could figure him out, anymore. They say: “We see that he is our son.” That much they can say, because that much is part of the “old world” that they knew. But as for “how he now sees, we do not see; or who opened his eyes, we do not see. Ask him! He’s of age. He can speak for himself.” (vv. 20-21)
And so, the Pharisees do ask him – they represent the religious intelligence of the world’s religions and philosophies – but they can’t understand him, either. The Pharisees say: “We see (know) that this man [Jesus] is a sinner.” The blind man says, “I do not see” if He is a sinner.” Who is blind? Who sees? The Pharisees speak from the wisdom of their own opinions, studied as they are. The man born blind speaks from what He knows, from what He has seen – but consider that up to now, the man born blind has never seen Jesus, while the Pharisees have seen Him and have spoken to Him, many times already!
The man born blind speaks from what he has seen; that is to say, from what he has experienced, and what he has experienced is not of this world. “I know only one thing,” he says: “I was being blind, now I see, and it was Jesus who opened my eyes”. “We know,” he goes on to say, “that God does not listen to sinners. Not since the beginning has it ever been heard that the eyes of a blind man were opened!” In other words, this is a work of creation, of raising to life. It is a work of God.
Beloved faithful, it is the work that was meant to be made manifest in us. It is the work of raising us to life in the life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection that is not of this world. It was accomplished in us when we were washed in our pool of Siloam, the font of our baptism, and anointed with the oil of Holy Chrism and refashioned, made new again. By the living waters of His Holy Spirit, our souls again have become moist clay. We have become malleable again; we can be shaped into the image and likeness of God if we continue to immerse ourselves in the waters of His Holy Spirit every day, every hour, every moment through prayer, fasting and acts of worship. So, with what images are we feeding our eyes, our ears, our minds and thoughts, especially when no one is looking? How can we expect to see Christ if we are washing our eyes, our ears, our hands and our feet, filling our minds and hearts with the desires of the world? Let us live the life of God that lives in us! Let us drink the waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit and walk in the light as Christ is in the light, so that we who are spiritually blind might see, and we who were spiritually dead might live in God; and so might we taste and see that the Lord is good! Amen.