Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Blind Man

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

“Christ is Risen!”

This morning’s gospel lesson [John 9:1-38] centers on the man born blind who is miraculously healed by our Lord Jesus Christ. This is truly a wonderful story, but I’m going to skip over most of it today and focus on just one little excerpt. I want us to take a closer look at the question that the disciples posed to Christ at the very beginning of this passage. They asked Him, “Lord, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Clearly this was an uninformed question. It was asked at an early point in the disciple’s walk with Christ when their knowledge of God was still fairly underdeveloped, and thus it reflects a fairly primitive understanding of God. In essence, their assumption was that if something bad happened to someone it must be a sign of God’s judgment. It’s really not unlike how most of the world seems to think. Whenever there is an earthquake or tsunami or other human tragedy, immediately people start making accusations that God is mean and punishing people. People often impose their ideas and concepts on God, and most often these ideas are false and don’t describe the true God.

Obviously the disciples were mistaken about God and it led them to form false conclusions regarding His actions and purpose. Which one of us hasn’t done that as well? Sometimes we’ve misrepresented God to others; sometimes to ourselves. In either case in may have been quite awhile before we learned that we were mistaken about God and had wrong ideas. The important thing is to always be open to learning the truth about Him so that we won’t stay trapped in a prison of our own ignorance.

Something else to notice here is that the disciples, by misunderstanding God, also limited Him to just the few possibilities their minds could conceive. “Who sinned Lord, this man or his parents?” Well, neither actually. There is a third and somewhat grander alternative you missed, O Disciples. This man was born blind that the works of God might be manifested in him, that his eyes and the eyes of millions more would be opened to eternal life.

How much bigger is the real God than the often puny little “god” we might conjure up in our minds? God’s works are powerful and expansive and we nearly always underestimate them. How many times have we limited God to just the handful of possibilities that we imagined? “Lord, if I don’t marry this person, or get that job, or live in this neighborhood, or go to that school, my life will just be miserable!” Many times we place before God the only possibilities that we see (or perhaps the only ones that we secretly want), and demand that He come through for us. But by doing this, aren’t we shutting the door to His sovereign and almighty will, and more or less refusing to let God be God and reveal what He wants for us? Can we say that we really want to know God’s will, or for that matter, God Himself, if we do this?

But let’s return to this idea the disciples had that the young man’s blindness was a judgment for sins somebody committed. They were wrong, obviously, and had a lot of growth ahead before they could begin to comprehend that God acts out of love and mercy, not wrath and cursing. And it’s true that we too sometimes have mixed-up ideas about God until we grow to know Him as He truly is.

For example, for some people God is a projection of their unique psychology, perhaps a harsh and loveless figure, who is enraged at their every failure and dismissive of every attempt to please Him. Is this the true God, or one that’s been manufactured out of the deep fears and insecurities of the person himself? Other people see God as little more than an extension of their political or social views. They wrap Him in the flag of their country or the colors of their political party; He becomes a capitalist, a socialist, or the queen of the gay pride parade. God becomes what they want Him to be, reflecting the passions, bigotries, or even the immorality of the people themselves. Each of these “gods” is really just a projection of one’s own ego, together with whatever delusions are thrown into the mix.

To a greater or lesser degree we all do this and probably have attached ideas to God that may not be true. This was the case with the disciples. The God of judgment who would blind a baby to punish someone for unknown sins was not the true God, but it was the only “god” these men knew until Jesus revealed to them the Father and showed them the way to know Him in truth.

And the wonderful thing about this story is, that from there they grew into that true knowledge of God and became authentic and living reflections of Him. Let’s consider for a moment the writer of this gospel, St. John. He and his brother James were once known as the sons of thunder because they became so enraged at a Samaritan village that would not receive Christ, they actually asked the Lord for permission to call down fire from heaven to destroy the entire place and all the people in it! Years later this same man would be known by a far loftier nickname, the “Disciple of Love”.

How is it that John went from being a homicidal hothead who wanted to nuke an entire village to cinders, to becoming the serene and peaceful elder who wrote so beautifully of the love of God in his later epistles? The answer is that he left behind the false god of his youthful imagination and came to know the true and living God. In the process, his very life became a genuine reflection of this one true God and of His infinite love for mankind.

Here is an interesting thought for us to ponder. It seems that we can either create a god who is just a reflection of ourselves, or we can embrace the true God who created us, and become a living reflection of Him. So we have a choice: follow the god of our imagination, or come to know our Father who art in heaven.

Which would we rather do? If your answer is to know the true God and become a reflection of Him, then we can do this by fully embracing the life of the Church. From the worship services to the prayers we do together and at home, to being regularly exposed to the scriptures, the teachings of the fathers and the lives of the saints; from our participation in the grace of the sacraments and especially the confessional, along with obedience to the practical guidance of a spiritual father, to everything else that comprises the life of the Church, these things work together to reveal the Father to us, and to form and transform us into the true knowledge of God our Savior.

This is what they were designed by God to do. And we cannot pick and choose among these things, but must take them all together as an integrated whole. A person who wants to know God cannot be willful, deciding for himself what he needs to accomplish that goal and rejecting whatever he dislikes. If you like reading the bible but hate going to confession and rarely do it, well, good luck with that! Chances are your stubbornness is not going to help you know God in the way that you could. We can’t make up our own god and we can’t make up our own rules, if knowing the one true God is our goal in life.

And I hope that this is the major goal in life for all of us. That’s why we’re here in the Orthodox Church; there is no other reason. May we not lose sight of that.

+To the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


At 5/29/2009 9:42 PM , Blogger Michael said...

+ Father bless

I just want to say thank-you for this homily. I have been struggling with something for sometime and I couldn't place my finger on it...

but God used this to drip wisdom into my empty head.

"....that the works of God might be manifested in him."


Lord have mercy on me a sinner

At 5/30/2009 5:56 AM , Anonymous Bruce said...

Wow Father.... I believe that this is exposing something in me! I will regularly say that "I want to be like Jesus". I'm realizing that I really don't. Well I do if it is going to be easy! But it won't be will it? God places all these possibilities (difficulties) in front of me to become like Him, but I reject them most every time. Thanks you for this wonderful Homily!


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