As he passed by, Jesus saw a man blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped Him.
John 9: 1-38 (Gospel of the Sunday of the Blind man)
Today’s Gospel is very lengthy. It tells the story of a man who was born blind who was healed by Christ. He wasn’t healed instantly. Jesus made clay, and put it on his eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, which was some distance away. The man made the difficult walk, probably faced a good degree of ridicule as he walked with clay on his eyes, and he washed in the pool of Siloam and received his sight. Rather than people rejoicing at his good fortune, he received consternation from the leaders of the temple who were indignant that he had been healed on the Sabbath. They could celebrate that fact that he had been healed.
The big “takeaway” from this story, however, is the question posed to Jesus by the Disciples: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the words of god might be made manifest in him.”
Many times in life, we will be confronted with the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Who is the cause of our misfortune? Sometimes the answer is obvious. If you drive too fast and crash your car, you are at fault. If someone else is driving too fast and crashed your car, you have some place to put the blame.
“Natural disasters” (which are not natural, but the result of a fallen world) cause floods and famines, tornadoes and earthquakes, blizzards and droughts, hurricanes and volcano eruptions. In every part of the inhabited world, there is the potential for “natural” disaster.
However, there are tragedies and struggles that seem to make no sense. Why does an innocent child have a serious illness or struggle to learn? Why do people suffer from poor self-image? Why do we make innocent mistakes that still get us in trouble? The answer to these questions is “the human condition” which I define as that “we are equal sharers in an imperfect nature.”
If a few people are in a room, breathing perfect air and having perfect conversation, and someone comes into the room and sprays a bunch of aerosol, the people didn’t change, they didn’t consciously do anything wrong. Their environment got polluted and each shares in that environment equally. However, their response to that environment might be different for each of them. One might get a runny nose, and another will cough and another will get a headache. They are equal sharers of an imperfect nature which will affect each, but in a different way.
And so it is with us. We are equal sharers of an imperfect nature. This is why some people have learning disabilities and others can’t do math, and others have low self-esteem and still others have big egos. There are two pieces of VERY GOOD NEWS though that come out of our imperfect nature. First, no one’s imperfect nature can keep them from the Kingdom of God. Anyone can become a Christian. Anyone can come to know Christ and come to salvation. And second, the works of God can be manifest in anyone, even in a bad situation. God can make something good happen out of something bad. For the blind man, God made a miracle, and that miracle brought hope to others. God doesn’t purposely afflict people with hardship. Only good things come from God. Hardships come from our fallen nature. But God can use our hardship for good. And when we work in concert with Him, we can make good things happen even in bad circumstances.
This is the day the Lord made; let us greatly rejoice and be glad therein. Pascha of delight! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha! A Pascha all venerable has risen for us. Pascha! With joy let us embrace one another. Pascha, the ransom from sorrow! Today from the sepulcher Christ emerged resplendently as from a bridal chamber, and the women He filled with joy, saying, “Proclaim this to the Apostles.” (Fourth Praise, Pascha, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Don’t lose hope when times get tough. Look for something good and in the good you will find God. Look for God and you will find something good.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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