Man born blind

Standard

If a blind man gaining sight Jn 9:1-41 isn’t an eye opener, listen to that conflict building between Jesus and the Pharisees. In the healing of the “Man born blind” there are two story lines taking place. One is of Jesus heling that man, and the other is the Pharisees accusing Jesus of going against the laws of the Sabbath for preforming that miracle. The man healed says little, he occasionally answers some questions presented before him. The story tells little about the wonderful experience of vision, it mentions little about seeing the world for the first time. The majority of the story is prosecutor and defense. There is a question that is asked at the beginning of the narrative and it would be a shame to let that question to become lost in the argument. The question the disciples asked Jesus is: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” That question contains some important details. The first is that the man’s blindness us the result of sin, the question wants to determine where the burden of sin lies. Is it from the parent, or the son? The question was not unusual for the time period, infirmaries were commonly considered to be a curse from God. It was a retribution for a sinful act. If this writer recalls correctly, according to the Torah a parent’s sin was not passed on to the children. According to the law if someone bore the curse from sin, it was through their own fault. That is not the answer Jesus gives. His answer is an emphatic neither, the blindness is not the result of a sin committed. To Jesus it is not even a curse. That might not seem to be a bold statement in the light of today’s medical advancements, but in the first century it went against a fundamental structure of society. People would have stood back in puzzlement. Religious leaders would have a furrow in their brow, they would have been challenged by the response. Jesus response would have been met with disapproval. The problem is that Jesus healed the man born blind, the gauntlet was thrown to the ground. Now there is a duel.

In the narrative a lot of detail is presented describing the scene. The first bit of evidence is the mechanism by which this man regains sight, but first notice the man does not ask to be healed. Why? I assume since he never knew sight, he accepted his handicap. But Jesus does open his eyes, and here is the quote on how: When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes,” I know in the bible there are a few references to ointments for the eyes but in that quote one thing stands out. Jesus spit on the ground and made clay. Jesus made something out of dirt or clay, and he infused it with something of his own. He formed it with the dirt of the earth and his spittle. The description sounds awfully crude, but how were we formed? God formed us from clay, and infused us with his breath. Man and the ointment are both ordinary dirt and something divine. Call it a divine breath or sacred spittle, they are the same.

Is it difficult to miss that connection between God and man? Suddenly the God of the Old Testament gets much closer, or was the LORD ever that far away? There is a change in perception that happens here. Eyes were opened in more way than one. Jesus certainly does challenge the Old Testaments view of the relationship between God and Man. Jesus opens the eyes of many, but he also places anger in the eyes of quite a few. He is challenging the teachers, and they question his authority.

Jesus challenges the teachings of the authorities, and this places the anger in their eyes. Don’t forget the initial question about whose sin was responsible for the man’s blindness, and don’t forget Jesus response. Jesus said the blindness was not caused by sin. Jesus did tell the man to wash in the pool of Siloam, and those pools frequently were used for ritual cleaning. The Pharisees did not marvel at how the pool of Siloam cured the man, they were angered that the LORD healed that blind man on the Sabbath. They knew the source of the cure, and that angered them. Most of the rest if the argument is an attempt to discredit Jesus. They try to discredit him for healing in the Sabbath. They suggest that the blind man was in collusion with Jesus, and finally they suggest that the man was never blind. All of their attempts are discredited.

The blind man healed does see Christ differently than the authorities, at first he sees Jesus as a prophet. Jesus engages that man about who Jesus is. Jesus tells him, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Throughout the narrative Jesus gives hint of His nature, and of His mission. Here Jesus say’s I am the light of the world. In other parts if the discussion Jesus states “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” As that blind man gains his vision, a vision of Jesus Christ also begins to appear. This causes rejoicing among some, and they become disciples. While some rejoice, anger builds up in the eyes of others. They preach and plot and malign themselves against the Lord Jesus Christ.

It can be called anger in their eyes, or delusion, or a lie. It is not the truth. I see the same thing today, it is a conflict that continues. Some see that light of Christ clearly and follow His way. Ohers, they cannot accept His Good-News for whatever reason, and journey towards a darkness. Some follow fads that sometimes glitter on the horizon. Today it is a commonplace New-Age philosophy. Others, weakened by their own frailties, fail to accept His forgiveness. Stubbornly they continue on their own way. They fail to heed his advice and bathe in that pool of water, the pool of forgiveness. That man born blind? He welcomed the LORDS intercession and gladly accepted His action. That blind man realized who the Christ was, and what he had done. That blind man was thankful for that light he had received, and then let that same light guide him on his way. The contrast between the man born blind and the Pharisees is as clear as night and day. The man born blind clearly enjoyed basking in that light of day, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 31

1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Eph 5:8-14

Jn 9:1-41

the seventh Sunday of ordinary time

Standard

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well. Mt 5:38-48

This brief little saying can take on different meanings at different times. True, its truth is timeless and unwavering. Its circumstances or what the statement is gauged against continually change. Some days the eye and tooth are personal. Some days it is an individual that punches you. Some days it a street fight, and others it is a world war. Eye for eye can be a personal choice or national policy. What does that statement mean, and what is it intended to mean?

To many it is a statement of vengeance or revenge. If someone causes you pain, by right you have the right to retaliate. The statement though is not simply a justification to let fists fly. It is a statement of measure. If someone causes harm eye for eye limits the extent of retribution. In a legal sense the punishment must fit the crime. Eye for eye sets a limit on when an issue is resolved. It brings a conflict to a conclusion. But does it really solve the problem?

As I said this passage is interpreted differently at different times. Today I see the passage in the news and I read of it being applied not far from where the statement was written. In some parts of the world eye for eye is law. This law is dispensed exactly as written. Let’s offer an illustration. There was a woman who was blinded because someone tossed acid in her face. The court sentence was for the perpetrator to be blinded by acid dripped into his eye. An eye for an eye. That’s a true story. For the thief the amputation of a hand. The law is distributed without tolerance, it is prescribed exactly as written. Order is maintained by fear of retribution, but is anything resolved?

To Jesus, the answer is no. For a sin, a sin is returned. To Jesus evil is not met with evil. Evil can be confronted and defeated with truth. Sin is defeated with grace. Turn the other cheek. Fight evil with good. Injustice can be confronted with forgiveness. Ignorance with instruction. Brutality with kindness. To turn the other cheek, what does that mean? On one level it can be taken literally, it can simply mean turn the other way. It can imply a type of tolerance. In another way turn the other cheek can imply two sides, to look at both the good and bad. It can be to prosecute and also defend, to look at both sides and all angles. That is to approach an injustice with wisdom and understanding, not quickly or blindly.

With Christ is the radical philosophy that good always triumphs over evil. Always, always, and always. It is not the fastest way to resolve an issue, and the Jesus approach does not always serve as a deterrent. Jesus does not offer retribution, but instead solution. What good is accomplished by blinding the ignorant fool, especially if the punishment is not accompanied by education?

A blind fool is still a fool and a fool can always recruit another. For that woman that was blinded by a fool who behaved with cruel indifference in a society that often condones such actions. Certainly by treating him with the same, eye for eye, his faults are visible to others; but who else has benefitted? He offered injustice for injustice, just as the court has dealt out to him. That crime occurred in a land known for honor killings. It occurred in a land known for social injustice and wide spread poverty. It occurred in a land known for intolerance, a land known for dictatorship. It is a place where human rights violations are committed without the retaliation of government and often endorsed as tradition. Eye for eye occurs where one life is valued much higher than another. Places where fear rules and there us a fear of education, places where ignorance is perpetrated. It is where eye for eye is the law if the land, and that law is perpetrated through ignorance. It is a law that serves man and not God. When Jesus says turn the other cheek, people should listen. In that gesture is a defining characteristic of the Christian. It sets Christians apart. Yes, there is a bit of political commentary here.

The truth is that the law was intended to curb injustice and not perpetrate it. It is a law that was intended to allow for a better solution but ignorance and indifference, and hatred never let that law get beyond its eight words. There is the reason for Jesus’s speech, it helps  us to expand ones vocabulary. Jesus allows compassion, and truth, and charity, and forgiveness, and empathy, and resolution, and justice, and tolerance, and education, and love enter into both the conversation and the solution. To Jesus it is more important to give sight to the blind, rather than further disable someone who cannot see clearly. It is more important to cure the cripple than to hobble them further, to restore the withered hand and not simply remove it. All of these come from examples of Christs healing and they all challenge an eye for an eye. Taking an eye for an eye is easy, any fool can do it. Restoring sight to the blind, that’s another story.. .

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Standard

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,sat by the roadside begging.

Since Pentecost, I have not written much. I have thought about writing, and I have read the daily readings, but I have not been able to put anything to paper. The season that ended with Pentecost, Lent and Easter, was a long one and I thought it ended abruptly. Did I miss the Pentecost octave that had been eliminated? I think so, I think I needed more of a transition back into ordinary time. The readings also had not provided me with that transition, that is until today. In today’s reading Jesus leaves Jericho, and I leave the Easter season. In the gospel Jesus encounters s blind beggar, and I view that blind beggar in the light of Easter.

Had this reading come a month later, I would have placed my focus on Jesus actions and what in this encounter He was trying to teach both his disciples and myself. I would have scrutinized Jesus interaction with His disciples on the scene, and His interactions with the beggar. I would have studied Jesus  words and gestures, I would have looked for the disciples mistakes. I would try to find the lesson. I also would have ignored the blind beggar. I would have ignored him for what he is as I searched for what he represents. Today though I look at that blind beggar in the light of Pentecost, in the light of an Easter Christ. I can see that person for what they are, first a person. That beggar is  clothed in the same body as Christ. The beggar is not first define by blindness, but by humanity. Their begging does little more than describe their struggles and hardships. Being blind, and being a beggar does not make them less than human. It gives no one the right to rob them of their dignity. That is  exactly what Jesus’s disciples were doing when they told that beggar to be quiet. They used their power to push another person down. As those disciples rebuked the beggar, Jesus rebuked them.

The most meaningful part of this gospel account is that this scene is reenacted constantly around the world today. One does not have to search long to find someone begging on the streets. Poverty and human suffering are common encounters even today. The  question though is what do I see when I encounter them, do I view them as less than human? When they beg do I rob them of the little dignity they have left? Do I act as crudely as those early disciples, or do I listen to that Holy Spirit He sent me? Am I obedient to that Spirit of Pentecost?

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Chickens

Standard

If anyone should happen to notice the new badges appearing at the bottom of recent posts, they describe a current challenge that is going on. That challenge is to do a post-a-day until Christmas, and for that challenge there is a topic given that has to be incorporated into the theme of the blog. This day’s post-a-day topic is Chickens! The theme of the blog revolves around the Mass Readings of the Roman Catholic Church. Chickens as they relate to scripture. Question: why did the Chicken cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side. Question: What do Chickens have to do with today’s readings? Answer: I don’t know yet.

Today is the Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231). Elizabeth was the daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary, and the wife of Duke Louis IV of Thuringia. Being the daughter of a King and the wife of a duke, Elizabeth led an obviously privileged life. An abbreviated version of her story is that she was the good wife of the Duke, who also had a natural inclination towards the sick, and the suffering, and the downtrodden. She was a religious person, more specifically and important; a lay person. Question: What does this have to do with Chickens? Answer: I don’t know yet! In 1227 Elizabeth’s husband was killed during the crusade, and following that death Elizabeth became a tertiary Franciscan. Her story tells that she did not receive the inheritance due her, and these times were one of personal suffering. As a vowed tertiary Franciscan she took on the role of caring for the sick, going so far as to convert some property she owned into a hospital while herself living in a hut. Throughout her life, from wealth through poverty, Elizabeth always cared for the concerns of others. She placed other before herself in service to God. Question: why did the Chicken cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side.

The gospel reading today is of the blind man at Jericho:
As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,

Question: What do Chickens have to do with today’s readings? Answer: The blind man was not a chicken. He had the nerve to call out to Christ and ask for help. All of the people around him told him to keep silent, but he wished to be cured of his blindness. He had the courage to call out to God, he was not held back by fear, and he wasn’t a chicken. It’s not always easy to make that decision when society pressures you into something else. That is a valuable lesson for today: don’t be a chicken and follow Christ! For Elizabeth she had the desire to serve God by serving the poor and the injured. She had the courage to serve God when she was a member of Royalty, and she had the courage and strength to serve God when she was an outcast from Royal society. Elizabeth wasn’t a chicken either. Her faith gave her strength, her story serves as strength for others…..

3-Chickens

Laetare Sunday,4th of Lent

Standard

A reminder of this Sundays rose vestments, even though I did not see them. The gospel of the healing of the  man born blind (JN 9:1-41) is interesting in the many varied ways that I have heard it described. It tells of how the blind man gradually came to recognize Christ, while at the same time others closed their eyes to him. As much as it is a gospel of healing, it also is a gospel about a journey; how fitting that it is read on a Sunday marked by those specially colored vestments. The story does highlight that journey of discovering who Christ is, and a persons vision of Jesus does change through time. That journey after all is a learning experience. As Christ opens his eyes, his vision of Christ is changes. I think though as his view of Christ develops, perhaps what more immediately changes is that blind mans vision of who God is. It is God who becomes visible, and God becomes present everywhere that blind man looks. For the others God remains invisible and distant, never to be seen.

The conflict between those who refute Jesus healing of those people, and those who turn a blind eye towards Him, builds up throughout the weeks readings. It is that conflict of not only between the old and new testament, but also between the ancient world and the present age. In that ancient age God, or the gods, were removed from creation and resided outside of it. In Jesus that God is ever present throughout creation , and it is a God acceptable to all , and who wishes all to thrive. It is through Christs reestablishing that relationship between God and man , that those healed begin to see Christ as the light of the world. While that light ignited a passion in many, it also fueled a fear or hatred in others. While one can witness the healing, the conflict too should not be missed.