Tuesday, 25 March 2014

4th Sunday of Lent - Year A

1 Samuel 16;1.6-7.10-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

They say miracles always happen to someone you don’t know – and you always get to hear about them from someone who wasn’t there. Of course, this saying is usually quoted by those who don’t believe in miracles but those of us who have faith are not fooled by such shallow cleverness. We know that miracles happen every day and many of us have experienced what we often refer to as our ‘personal’ miracles.

There are, of course, shrines and holy places where miracles are attested to and verified by the most highly qualified doctors and scientists on the globe. Exhaustive tests and enquiries are made before a particular healing or event can be declared a miracle. To be declared a saint it normally requires more than one such miracle to be confidently attributed to a candidate for canonisation.

If the man in today’s gospel, the man who was blind from birth, had been alive today he would have needed x-rays and CT scans and certainly an ophthalmologist report or two. But two thousand years ago things were a little different and all the real evidence for his cure boiled down to a very emphatic: I only know that I was blind and now I can see.

As to how the miracle came about the man born blind was equally clear: The man called Jesus ... made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.

I washed ... I could see.

The miracle causes immediate bedlam. It is almost as though a blinding flash of light had gone off right in the eyes of those who stood by and who are now themselves apparently (and ironically) blinded.
  • Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?
  • Yes, it is the same one.
  • No, he only looks like him.
The man himself said, ‘I am the man.
  • How do your eyes come to be open?
It is obvious from their questions that there is much at stake, indeed, an entirely new reality has invaded their lives and they are not going to leave the old reality without making sure of the challenger. In the end it all boils down to the next question: Where is he? Everything leads to this question; it always does. Where is Jesus?

So now they bring the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It’s a natural instinct for ordinary people to bring their problems to the ‘panel of experts’, the leaders. These men, too, had felt the shockwave of the explosion of new light which burst unexpectedly into the status quo.

Instantly it is clear that the Pharisees are especially challenged by these events. However, for them it is not about the miracle, it is about Jesus.

Jesus had said: I am the Light of the world; and had dared to shine this piercing light into the peculiar darkness of false religion. Each time the Pharisees had found themselves caught in the beam.

When a person who does not believe in God, who has an entire worldview to defend, is confronted by a miracle which calls that worldview into question, he can only deny it. Some do so gently, others mockingly, and other with violence. In a strange way the Pharisees were no different. Their grasp on religion, to put it very plainly, was wrong. They had misunderstood. They had ‘got it wrong.

Confronted by the light, they now faced a choice: either repent of their misunderstanding or extinguish the light. Sadly, they chose the latter option: This man cannot be from God...

The blind man had no such problem: 'He is a prophet,' he saysAnd then mischievously he goes on to ask the question which the gospel also directs at us here today: Do you want to become his disciples too?

It’s a peculiar characteristic of error that it cannot abide those who do not subscribe to it. Not only does error reject the truth, it rejects all who dare to follow it. And so: they hurled abuse at him; and called him: a sinner through and through; and: they drove him away.

It would be rather sad if this were the end of the story but, fortunately, it isn’t. Let’s conclude with the wonderful grand finale of the drama:

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

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