“Christ our God, Sun of Righteousness, by Your divine touch, You gave light to the eyes of the blind man, who had been deprived of light since his birth. Enlighten also the eyes of our souls, and make us sons and daughters of light, so that we may cry out to You in faith: great and beyond words is Your Compassion towards us, loving Lord, glory to you!” (Vesper Hymn)
The paschal theme of light is the main point of this the 6th Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of the Blind Man. We behold Christ as the light of the world, “the real light – the Light that comes into the world and shines on all humanity”.
As the story goes, Jesus and his disciples were walking along somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem when they met a man who had been born blind. He must have been a well known man for they already knew that he was blind and that he was born that way. The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Think about this for a moment, was the man born blind as a result of his own sin, or as a result of his parent’s sin or neither.
Those are troubling questions but the most troubling of all is this: Why? Why is this happening? The disciples question is a common one still to this day. Many people believe that bad things happen as a direct result of a specific sin. They think that every suffering is a punishment for a particular misdeed.
It’s amazing how quickly things can change in life. A few weeks ago the word, “virus”, usually referred to a common cold, Corona was just a beer and Covid-19 would have seemed like the name of a far off planet in an old Flash Gordon comic or serial. Today all those things are an essential part of our vocabulary – but in addition to the word “virus” we have added the terms, “social distancing”, “shelter in place”, quarantine, pandemic and “wash your hands” etc.
Questions abound. What does this all mean? Will I get the virus?, will someone I know get the virus and die?, will our economy collapse?, will our children and grandchildren return to school?, will there be a vaccine?, will our churches reopen?, will we be able to travel?, will it come back in the Fall? What does the future hold for us?
Some today look at covid-19 and say, “See, God is judging our nation, our world, us!” It is true that we have become lax in our lives as Christians, for we are all sinners. We are constantly, however called by God to repentance, especially when a disaster strikes us like this.
But let us go on with our story and listen to how Jesus answered the disciples when they questioned him about the man born blind. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” You see Jesus makes it abundantly clear that this man wasn’t blind as a result of some sin committed by either him nor his parents. God had a plan and a purpose in mind when he allowed the man’s blindness. For now this much is clear, Jesus doesn’t allow us to connect the dots between a specific sin and something bad that happens in our lives.
When something goes wrong, none of us should think: “God is punishing me?”
And why shouldn’t we? Because my dear people, God already in real time two thousand years ago in history, took your sins and mine and the sins of countless people throughout the ages and placed them on His Son! “He himself, it says, “bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24) God’s justice is satisfied. Jesus went as the sacrificial lamb in our place.
Let us be clear, this doesn’t give us a pass so that we can sin freely. It doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for sinful behavior. On the contrary, for Jesus paid the price for all of our sins with his pure and precious blood. It says in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. God doesn’t condemn us for our sins. He doesn’t punish us for them either, He simply forgives them. All of them through Christ Jesus!
So you ask yourself then, why would God allow a pandemic, a huge world crisis like Covid 19. We are again reminded of His words, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. Again we ask, how did God display his works and make himself known through this man born blind? He healed him!
You see we know the end result of this gospel lesson, for the man born blind was healed and came home and was no longer blind. For the rest of his life he would be known now as the man that Jesus of Nazareth healed of his blindness! For the rest of his life he would share his story with his family and friends and tell them all the great things Jesus, the Savior did.
For the rest of his life he would be a living and breathing, walking and talking witness to the power and glory of the one true God! You see through the Word of this lesson, the once blind but now seeing man gives us a window into the glory and the grace of Almighty God.
God to this day still uses trouble and trial to teach lessons and bring blessings upon His people. For it says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”. (Romans 8:28) Jesus performed a miracle, but God most often does his work in a somewhat less miraculous way, by revealing his grace and glory though the things that we do in his name, in the words we speak and the actions we take, for we become his hands, his helpers.
My dear people, we have an opportunity as God’s Church, God’s people, “to let (our) light shine before others, that they may see (our) good deeds and glorify (our) Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16) There are many ways now during this pandemic that we can show our heavenly Father’s kindness and compassion to a sickened world.
We are called to be patient, helping those who are filled with anxiety and stress, listening with patience and love to their concerns. Remind them to cast all anxiety on God because he cares for us and our well being.
Be generous to those around us, sharing and caring for those who may be less fortunate and unable to provide many of the basic necessities for themselves. For it says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. (Acts 20:35)
Be thankful, yes, many of our earthly luxuries are temporarily stopped, but there are so many things that we can be thankful for; our health, our families, our fellow parishioners, our doctors, our nurses, our firefighters, our law enforcement, our truck drivers, our grocery store workers, our pharmacies, our convenience store workers, our mail carriers, our teachers, our neighbors, our fast food workers, those that take care of our water, lights, lawn maintenance, sanitation workers, our cell phone and internet techs, etc., who in spite of danger to themselves do it for us!
And most importantly to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who never stops loving us, caring for us and most of all forgiving us because of our doubts. As the Apostle Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” ( 1Thessalonians:5:18) Let us be thankful and spread the word (the good news) of Whom we are thankful too!
And finally let us be prayerful for as it says in James, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) The God who has made us righteous in his sight through faith in Jesus, hears and answers our prayers, for those prayers are powerful, not because we say all the right words, but because our Lord and Saviour knows the intent and how to answer us and comfort us.
He is always there even if we have been born blind, for His grace and mercy follows us each and every moment of our lives, even during this terrible pandemic. Yes for God will never forsake us!
But as we continue to endure this plague, with its frightening threats, and ramifications, remember God isn’t punishing us as was thought of by the disciples of the man born blind in our gospel lesson, no rather, let us rejoice for God is with us and that, “His good will endureth forever”.
Christ is Risen!