The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (9:1-38)
The disciples came to the Lord Jesus Christ after seeing a blind man and they asked a difficult and poignant question “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It is really quite the question. What is beautiful about this question is that they brought it to the Lord Jesus Christ. They trusted Him. They knew that He would provide the correct answer. In our own lives, where do we go when we have questions? Do we run to study the words of Holy Scripture? Or do we run to other sources, to google, to facebook forums? They went straight to the source and we should do the same with the big questions of life. Our Lord Jesus will give us an answer to those big questions, and His answer will be truthful.
Now back to the question that was presented by the disciples to the Lord. “Who sinned that this man was born blind?” We as humans, have this need to find a way to explain the difficulties we encounter in life. Perhaps this is not more true than when we see someone suffering tremendously. Sometimes we are even that person who is suffering. And we begin to look for reasons for the terrible thing that has happened. In January, we began to hear of a virus that was causing some suffering and sickness and death in China. Within a few weeks it was at our doorstep. We began to look for people to blame. We began to look for a cause. Some said it was China’s fault for allowing their people to travel. Others said that it was the president’s fault for not shutting the borders sooner. Yet others blamed the virus on a Chinese lab, and others on the wet markets where the poor people go to eat a meal that they can afford.
In the aftermath of this virus, we shut down much of the country, jobs were lost, and people have suffered greatly, financially, emotionally, spiritually. Still we look to place the blame as if doing so will help us come to grips with the situation. As if knowing who to blame will help us feel better. Some blame the governors and some the federal response, and some blame the right wing and others blame the left. But none of that will actually help us feel better, because blaming people won’t actually bring us healing.
Our habit of blaming others is actually a sign of our own lack of humility, our pride. St. John of Kronstadt said “Every man on earth is sick with the fever of sin, with the blindness of sin and is overcome with its fury. As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner: we add malice to malice by our anger, we oppose pride with pride. Thus, evil grows within us and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.” So we have to find a better way forward. A way that is gracious and merciful.
Our Lord Jesus Christ went above and beyond any answer that the disciples had in mind. They gave two options, but He raised their minds to a better response, with gracious and beautiful words. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” Wow. The Lord never stops surprising us with His teaching. They wanted to blame sin. They wanted to blame the blind man or his parents. But the Lord Jesus Christ refused to put the blame on them. In replying the way that He did, the Lord also corrected the misguided thinking of the disciples. God hadn’t done this as a punishment. Just because someone gets sick or something terrible happens to them, it doesn’t mean that it is karma or divine justice. The martyrs of Christiant history died horrible deaths. This was not because of anything they had done to deserve it. It was to glorify God, whose Only Son was put to death in the same manner.
God wasn’t punishing them. That is not the God who is love. God hadn’t punished this man…what kind of a God would we worship if He acted in such a way? Yet the Lord said to the disciples that this was allowed by God so that His wonderful work could be made manifest in the life of this poor blind man. I wonder if we ever think this way when we are faced with difficult situations and trials? How many of us say to ourselves “this is a chance for the work of God to be manifest in my life?” When we see the world in that way, it means that we have God given eyes to see reality. Our blindness is taken from us and it is replaced with true and clear sight.
Don’t spend your life looking for people or things to blame for everything that is wrong and difficult and inconvenient and uncomfortable. Blame won’t make anything better. Actually, if anything the desert fathers tell us to blame ONLY ourselves. Saint “Antony said to Saint Poemen, ‘Our great work is to lay the blame for our sins upon ourselves before God, and to expect to be tempted to our last breath.”
Don’t use every difficulty in life as an excuse to become the judge of others. Instead, when we see difficult situations, it is a chance to look at our own shortcomings and to give the entire situation to Jesus Christ. We do this when we come to the Lord with heartfelt prayer, from the depths of our being. We say to the Lord, “Lord, you see this situation and Lord Jesus, only you can resolve it. Only you can provide healing.” That is our reality. Until we see this, we are truly more blind than this poor man. But when we finally begin to put trust in the Lord, we begin to see His work through this pandemic, and through every difficulty. We may even find a way to thank God for all that He has allowed to happen in our lives. We may see that our difficulties were gifts, that they helped us to grow and to trust in God and that God used the magnitude of our trials and difficulties to show that His greatness knows no measure at all.
There are no limits to what God can do in our lives. On this last Sunday of Pascha, never forget that even the worst situation known to man, that is death, looks insignificant in the light of what God has done, and we are His children. What the Lord conquered in His resurrection, He freely shares with each of us. This is our reality, this is our belief, this is the faith that upholds the universe. Christ is risen!