Sunday of the Blind Man
Today’s Gospel reading and church hymns describe to us how the Lord Jesus Christ healed a man blind from birth. The Lord saw the blind man, spat on the ground, made clay from this spittle, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay, and then told him to go and wash his face in the pool of Siloam. The blind man obeyed the Lord, went away, and came back seeing (John 9:1-7).
The issue was as clear as day. That same Jesus, Whom the scribes were ready to stone as a blasphemer, had performed yet another great miracle. It only remained to acknowledge Him, repent of their blindness, and give glory to God Who had honored His people with such great signs. But for that they had to humble their pride and have their spiritual eyes opened – which was precisely what they did not wish to happen. Even the blind man, if he had not obeyed the Lord and had not gone to the pool of Siloam to wash his face, – would not have had his sight restored. Most importantly, though, the blind man began seeing not only with his physical eyes, but also spiritually.
Several times the Pharisees and the scribes interrogated the former blind man about what had taken place, summoned his parents, and demanded that the healed man acknowledge his healer as a sinner, so that finally he lost all patience with them; the former blind man then rebuked and lectured them on the fact that God does not listen to sinners, but listens to those who honor God and act according to His will. Not seeing and not wishing to see the truth of these words, the scribes and the Pharisees did not know what to reply to him, but expelled him instead, using violence in place of words.
Hearing of his expulsion from the synagogue, Christ Himself found him and strengthened his faith. “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” – He asked the seeing man. – “And who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” Then followed the merciful reply: “Thou hast both seen Him and it is He that talketh with thee.” Seeing the divine image standing before his seeing eyes, the former blind man joyously exclaimed: “I believe, Lord!” and worshipped Him.
If this question were addressed to us, how many of us would have said “I do not believe?” We are all Christians and belong to the true Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church. But which one of us can say that his faith in God is firm, unshakeable, living, active, attested to by his entire life and works? “Show me thy faith from thy works” – says the Apostle Paul in one of his epistles. In truth, which one of us truly believes in God, the Almighty Creator, Master over all, i.e. is convinced that his life, as it had come from God in the beginning, so remains at all times in His omnipotent will?
A certain man came to confession to one of our native ascetics, who was engaged in spiritual endeavor near Kiev. After hearing the man’s long confession of all his personal sins, the ascetic said: “I can see that you are repenting of your personal sins, but you have not said the most important thing – do you love God and do you believe in His word?” The man was quite surprised by such a question and said: “O venerable father, how can one not love God, pray, and why should one not believe in His word, which consists of total truth and holiness?” The ascetic then replied: “If you loved God, you would be thinking about Him incessantly and with heartfelt pleasure, while for you the contemplation of God represents hardship and boredom. If you were convinced and believed beyond any doubt that there was eternal life beyond the grave, with retribution for all earthly deeds, you would be thinking about it constantly, and you would be spending your life on earth as a stranger preparing to leave for his homeland. Yet your thoughts secretly run along the lines of “who knows what will come after death?” Thus the cause of disbelief in God is lack of faith, and the cause of lack of faith is lack of conviction, and the cause of lack of conviction is a refusal to seek true knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. In other words: it is impossible to love without believing.”
Let us think a moment about this. Let us try to ponder this more deeply. It is hard to ascend the ladder of virtues, but such an endeavor comprises the feat of our salvation. Even the blind man did not remain as he had been, but was included among Christ’s disciples; he multiplied the faith and the commendation which he had received from the Lord for the glory of God.
This ardent faith of the former blind man caused Christ to speak a homily on spiritual blindness: “I have come into this world to judge, so that the unseeing would see, and the seeing would become blind.” It turned out that when the true Light appeared, bringing enlightenment to every man, only those who were regarded as ignorant and blind were able to see Him, – all those poor in spirit, who in the simplicity of their hearts fully accepted the Lord; and on the contrary – those who in their pride imagined themselves to be seeing and all-knowing – turned out to be pitifully blind.
Unfortunately, such spiritual blindness is widespread even now, and is being further spread primarily among those classes of society which believe themselves to be people of reason and learning. In their blindness such people now think to re-educate the whole of society and the entire world. A tree is known by its fruits, and we see their fruits every day in the anti-religious education they are promoting, which is based exclusively upon worldly knowledge.
Let us become church-bound, dear Orthodox brethren, and not only through external churchgoing, but primarily through inner development. Let today’s Gospel narrative convince us of the unreliability of earthly knowledge, which seeks enlightenment for itself only within its own limited reason and not in divine reason. Therefore, all of us – both educated and non-educated – should appeal to the Lord together with the Holy Church, that our spiritual eyes be opened and that life-giving faith be preserved within us as an indubitable pledge of eternal life: let us fan the flames of this faith within us by prayer and the reading of the Word of God, fulfilling God’s commandments earnestly and faithfully, and the Lord will not abandon us, as He had not abandoned the blind man, for “God will not despise a broken and contrite heart.” Amen.