Lent 4A March 22, 2020 John 9:1-41
In one way or another everyone, except Jesus, is blind in this long story we have before us today. First there are the disciples, then there’s the blind man himself, after that you have his neighbors and those who knew him, and finally there are the Pharisees. So, let’s talk a little bit about each of these. The disciples start out by asking who it was that produced this man’s blindness. Through their eyes they see a simple cause and effect world. Everything happens for a reason. Someone has to be responsible for this, is it his parents or is it the man, himself? Their blindness leaves them looking for answers. Their blindness doesn’t allow them to see him in light of the power of God. So, they ask the wrong question. Instead of asking why he was blind they should have asked what the love and grace of God can do to help him.
Don’t we do the same sometimes? One of the commentaries I was reading this week asked the question, “who sinned that this single mother is without affordable health care?” And it doesn’t stop there does it. We may ask who sinned that the homeless have no place to live or the hungry have no food to eat or the poor are held captive by their poverty? We ask the who and why questions, but it seems like we never get enough vision … enough sight … to ask the more important question. The question what can the love and grace of God do to make a difference in their lives?
Next, we have the blind man, himself. Blind as a bat from birth, he spent a lifetime learning how to maneuver and manage in a world of complete darkness. And he must have been pretty good at it because it seems like he could find his way to the pool of Siloam without any outside help. He was physically blind but that didn’t stop him from seeing with his hands and feet and memory and senses. And maybe because he could see in so many different ways other than with his eyes it was easier for him to see with the eyes of his heart who Jesus was and believe in him.
How often does our physical sight get in the way of seeing by faith? I look at how the stock market has been doing lately and my anxiety climbs. I see all of the hording people are doing and how selfish we can be, and I lose hope. My eyes try to comprehend what is yet to come in a time of pandemic and I am afraid. Fortunately, I have people in my life who can see much better than I. They show me the outpouring of generosity and sacrificial goodwill being bestowed. They show me that it isn’t always bad to slow down and conserve our resources. They help me see that as God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, God will take care of all my worries too.
I find it interesting in this story that when the blind man comes back from washing his eyes and getting his sight, his neighbors don’t recognize him. And even after they argued about it and he told them that it was really him, they still had a hard time accepting it. They couldn’t see the man in a new way. They could only see him as a blind man.
And aren’t we often the same? Don’t we tend to define those around us in terms of their shortcomings and challenges and situations? I know I’m guilty of doing that. I let those things get in the way of seeing people the way God sees them. I see someone and the first thing I see is there condition, I see a woman with cancer, I see a man who lost his job, I see a disappointment, I see a disability. And when those situations change, it’s hard to let go of those impressions and see them in a new way. And I do it to myself. I let the mistakes I’ve made and the faults I have define me and it’s hard to see myself through God’s eyes. Lord, help me!
Perhaps the blindest of them all are the Pharisees. First of all, they never saw this man born blind that they had to walked past everyday as he sat at the entrance of the temple begging. All those years they never learned his name … they never listened to his story … they never noticed him. To them he was invisible. They were blind to his existence. And then, when they were confronted with him no longer blind, they couldn’t see the hand of God at work in his life. They couldn’t believe this man’s saving story … they were blind to the holy at work in their midst, and so they chase him out of the temple. And here is what I think is pretty cool. Upon hearing about this, Jesus went and found him and asked him if he believed … he offered this man born blind the gift to not only to see physically, but to see spiritually as well. The man believes and worships him. His new sight was complete.
Such sight, I believe, will carry us through these troubling times of change. And what does such sight look like? Well, among other things it may look like a song and sound like singing. This week Kathy Redig shared these words from Father Richard Hendrick. It’s a portion of a poem he wrote entitled “Lockdown”:
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Holy and divine sight such is this will help us get through this together. I’m sure of it. Yes, I am. I’m sure of it.