It is one of our greatest weaknesses as humans that we tend to harbour grudges and store memories of the bad, rather than the good….when we encounter someone who has changed their life, and come closer to God – our world tends not to accept them – we might respond with – “I’m not buying into their message of conversion – I remember when they did this or that, or behaved in this way or that”….we judge them, and then hold onto those past memories because, like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, if we accept that these people have changed and have grown, then we have to accept the message that we are called to change and grow; and for many of us, that message is one we would rather not hear because it demands a response.
In the cultural thought at the time of today’s Gospel, it was common to see a physical ailment or tragedy as a sign of God’s lack of favour or God’s displeasure – a curse; not only the Pharisees, but many would have seen someone being blind from birth as having some judgment from God visited on them. And yet, Jesus is quite clear that God is not judging this man or his parents, by ‘making him blind’ – instead, God visits this man in his disability to demonstrate His love and mercy, and to show the authority of Jesus; nowhere in the Old Testament is it recorded that anyone blind from birth was given their sight; this is truly a powerful and visible miracle that Jesus has worked ; and the man is brought to the authorities to show them this sign from God and to invite them to come to know Jesus. Just like last week’s Gospel with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus visits the outcast and sends them to the community as His messengers – but what a complete contrast in responses we see; the people of the Samaritan village accepted Jesus’ invitation from the woman at the well despite her past, and without a visible sign; compare that with the response of the authorities in this passage; the blind man, also an outcast delivers Jesus message, this time with a visible sign- but this group of Pharisees, locked in on their idea that this man is a sinner and therefore incapable of delivering God’s message, refuse to hear Christ’s invitation – the blind man’s past history prevents the Pharisees from seeing his potential.
Have you ever wanted to share something you have experienced or learned, with someone else, and they weren’t interested in hearing about it or discounted it? Then imagine how the blind man felt – he could see for the first time, and is sharing this with the authorities – and rather than rejoicing with him in his healing and God’s blessing and mercy, they try to condemn Jesus for performing a miracle on the Sabbath.
They don’t want to accept this healing, this opening up to the light of Christ, because if they accept that, then a response is demanded of them.
They either have to accept Jesus and allow His teaching to change their lives and transform their thinking, or they have to reject Him despite this demonstration of His authority and power. They have to accept that God can use the outcast and the broken to deliver His message, or they have to reject that God is all powerful and can use whomever He chooses to be His instrument in the world. They have to accept that God’s will is not theirs, or they have to reject the notion that God is all-loving and merciful.
Not only do they end up rejecting Jesus, but when the blind man proclaims Jesus as Lord, he is cast out from the synagogue. This would have put him completely outside his community – he would no longer be able to participate in the social routines of his town and family. This very incident prefigures what will happen to the members of the early Church in Jerusalem about fifty years later; for proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, they too will be cast out from the Temple and no longer be allowed to participate ‘as usual’ in their society or culture. It foreshadows what happens quite often today, when messengers of the Gospel are shouted down, discounted, ridiculed and rejected by our society.
But despite this rejection, we have yet another sign of Jesus’ compassion and caring and faithfulness to His promises; that even when we are cast aside, He does not abandon us.
When Jesus hears the man is cast out, Jesus looks for him and finds him, and reveals Himself further to him; not only curing the blind man of his physical blindness; but overcoming his spiritual blindness; giving his soul insight into who Jesus really is;
Rather than simply curing the blind man and leaving him to fend for himself, Jesus seeks him out when the world has rejected this messenger. What further evidence would we need of Christ’s love for those who accept His light, His teaching, and carry it into the world?
And, it is not only to the lost and lonely that God extends His mercy and His love; it is also through the unexpected, the broken, the stained that God issues His invitation to us to come back to Him.
For each of us, it means making a decision when someone offers a message of conversion, an invitation to turn or return to God – perhaps someone who invites us to participate in a prayer group or an apostolate – an outreach to the suffering;… maybe someone who needs our forgiveness…and rather than looking at the person who is asking us, and weighing our response on our past encounters with them; we can look beyond the person to see how God is using them to draw us closer to Himself…in essence “seeing” how they are messengers of Christ to us.
Just like the blind man, Jesus seeks each of us out and finds us where we are all the time; when we feel rejected by the world for delivering His message; when we want to hold onto our past grudges or hurts; when we feel judged or victimized; He seeks us out and draws us to Himself; offering healing to our own spiritual blindness; to our biases; to our past regrets – a perfect time and opportunity to experience this, is by participating in thesacrament of confession….allowing Christ to find us in the sacrament; a chance to cleanse ourselves of those preconceptions and hurts and to take that step in growth and change and open the eyes of our spirit to become messengers of God’s forgiveness and love to the world, knowing that Jesus will always be there with us no matter how the world responds to us.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!