March 7, 2016
The alternate (Year A) Gospel reading yesterday told the story of the blind man healed by Jesus, and the Pharisees' indignation toward Him for healing on the Sabbath:
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
We all have blind spots in our lives: things that we fail to see, sins that we fail to recognize, blessings that we fail to notice. When our lives begins to fall into certain patterns and routines, our perspective can sometimes become limited within the realm of those habits, and we forget that there are other things that need our attention as well. Maybe there are weaknesses we need to work on, situations where we need to take more initiative, or areas where we should be more charitable. Every so often, we need to assess our blind spots. This requires us to make ourselves uncomfortable, to turn around and take a look at the places that are difficult to see instead of just cruising along and glancing at the rearview mirror. But in order to keep moving forward, we have to stay aware of our surroundings; we have to take responsibility in all areas of our lives. We have to acknowledge that we can't see the whole picture from where we're standing, and ask for God's help to reveal the things we can't see on our own.
Jesus is able to heal the humble, unpretentious blind man. He restores his sight and, in His mercy, covers the man's deficiencies. Many people wonder whether this man was truly blind to begin with, and he tells them, simply and powerfully: "I was blind and now I see." Jesus is unable, however, to heal the spiritually blind Pharisees who refuse to even acknowledge their blindness, let alone ask Jesus for help. Jesus shows us time and again in the Gospels that He is merciful and tenderhearted toward those in need, but He doesn't force Himself upon us if we don't welcome Him in. He answers our pleas when we acknowledge our weaknesses and ask for healing.
Through the healing of the blind man, Jesus also reveals that, in contrary to the understanding of the Jews at that time, suffering is not just a punishment for sin. Everyone had assumed that the man was blind due to either his sin or the sins of his parents; from an Old Testament perspective, physical ailments and disabilities were seen as a direct result of prior sinfulness. But Jesus's sacrifice turns this perspective upside down. Because He shared in our suffering and would redeem it on the Cross, the sufferings we experience in our own lives are no longer punishments but gifts. They are opportunities to share in His glory through the Cross. He didn't get rid of suffering in the world, but He gave it deeper meaning. So we don't need to hide our weaknesses and pretend, out of pridefulness, that we can see clearly when we can't—because our blind spots aren't necessarily anything to be ashamed of; they are part of our human condition. We are dependent on God to illuminate the darkness, and He intends for us to need Him in that way. When we experience trials, we can take heart in Jesus's words:
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Jesus warns us that we will have to endure periods of blindness and times of suffering, but He also tells us that these will occur so that the works of God might be made visible through our blindness. And that happens when we place ourselves before Him for healing, asking God to work in us and open our eyes to truly see.