Today’s Gospel reading comes from St John’s Gospel and tells us the story of the blind man. Ironically I forgot about this blind man, thinking instead that the Sunday of the Blind Man referred to the story of Bartimaeus.
This evening at Vespers, this hymn struck within me a poignant chord:
To himself did the blind man think and say, Is it, I wonder, for the sin of my parents that I was born without eyes? Have I become an example because of the faithlessness of the Gentiles? I cease not from asking, When is the night, when is the day? My feet have no more strength from the impact of the stones; for I have never seen the sun shining, nor, have I seen my Creator in any form whatever. Albeit, I beseech thee, O Christ, God, to look upon me and have mercy upon me.
One of the things about St John’s articulation of the story is that the question on everyone’s mind is “Who sinned that this man was born blind?” St John records the question coming from the mouths of Christ’s disciples, likely representing what all of the townspeople asked. The hymnographer of the Church suggests that the question of causation and fault torments the blind man himself. The blind man has made the people’s question his own.
Being blind was a pretty terrible thing, assigning one to a lifetime of begging. This blind man never knew the light of day, but probably sought healing in every way possible. His search for freedom led to a desperate searching for the God who formed him. He viewed himself as a scandal, likely beyond healing, and a little more than a scandal responsible for the doubt of the Gentiles. What began as a physical burden became a spiritual burden. He knew his need to encounter light even as one trapped in unrelenting darkness.
The blind man’s healing comes in two parts. First, Christ smears his eyes with mud. Second, he washes in the waters. Christ makes the mud in an interesting way, spitting on the ground and forming the mud with His own hands. Again and again, we encounter a dirty Christ who gets involved with our situation. We encounter Christ Incarnate in the simple act of making mud for the blind man. Christ coats the man with some of the mess of being fully human in order to grant the man healing. And Christ commands Him to wash in appointed waters. Christ anoints these waters with His command in order to grant healing to those who seek it. So not only do we see Christ’s identification with us through His messy incarnation, but we also see our identification with Him through the baptismal waters. After receiving his sight, the blind man bears bold witness to who healed him, offering an example so powerful that some of the Pharisees approach Christ to ask Him if they too are blind. Their guilt remains as they refuse to admit their spiritual blindness.
I think spiritual blindness proves much more enduring than physical blindness.
Yet what does it look like to encounter our Creator with all forms of sight restored? Can we acknowledge our perpetual blindness, even amongst the scandal of those who assert direct causation to our own actions?
O Lord Jesus Christ, shine the Light of Your Resurrection deep into our heart, mind, soul and strength that we may see Your face and live lives empowered by the mystical workings of Your abundant power.