1Sam 16:1,6-7,10-13; Eph 5:8-19; John 9:1-41
The truth will set you free!
The gospel of today begins with an account on the encounter of Jesus with the man born blind. All his life, the latter had recognized people by their voices only. Now, with Jesus’ healing on him, he was able to see what human faces look like. Yet some people obstinately refused to recognize the fact that this man was blind, in the first place; then secondly, that he has been given back his sight; and thirdly, that Jesus is the one who has performed the miracle.
- SOME PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS
The 18th century British philosopher, David Hume, did not believe in God. He did not believe in miracles either. He said that if he actually saw a dead person coming back to life, he would still not believe. He would rather conclude that his eyes deceived him, since his reason (mind) would still be telling him that it was impossible for a dead person to come back to life.
Something similar was the unhappy lot of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage. They saw the man who had been born blind seeing. They asked the man if he was really the same person who had been born blind. They ask his parents. They all said the he was the same person. The man told them how he had come to be able to see, that it was Jesus who had made it possible for him to see. They were not convinced. Jesus could not have done such a thing, and particularly not on the Sabbath, since that would have entailed his having to work on that day, thereby breaking the Sabbath. No friend of God would break the Sabbath for whatever reason, including giving sight to a blind person! Only a sinner could do such a thing! Therefore, if indeed Jesus gave sight to the man on the Sabbath, he must have been a sinner. It was left to the man who had been born blind to point out how unreasonable their position was: “…if this man were not God, he could not do such a thing”, least of all, give sight to a man born blind.
- THE BLINDNESS OF THE PHARISEES
At that point, it was no longer the man who had been born blind that was blind. Jesus had given him sight. It was the Pharisees who were blind, refusing to see the TRUTH. Although they had their eyes wide open, they were NOT SEEING with them. Something had blinded them. That thing is called ENVY. That thing is PREJUDICE. How could Jesus do such a thing that they themselves could not do? Against all available evidence, they had to convince themselves that Jesus did not do it. They tried to convince everyone else—the man who had been born blind, his parents, and perhaps the onlookers as well—but they failed. The evidence was too glaring to be ignored or wished away.
This is not the first time Jesus is suffering the blackmail and hatred of the Pharisees and leaders of the Jews, in their bid to stifle THE TRUTH. They could not admit their error at any stage in life, and therefore Jesus called them “blind leaders of the blind” or “Blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). They even accused him of working in partnership with the devil. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Mk 3:22, and Lk 11:15). The Jewish religious authorities of the time showed that they could go to any length to get Jesus convicted. They even recruited people in the streets to give false testimony against Jesus. They manufactured charges that were totally untrue. For instance:
- a) Once, they tried to trap him about the payment of taxes and Jesus outwitted them: In LK 20:24-25, Jesus tackles them: “Show me a denarius. Whose face and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But later the Jewish leaders paid people to testify falsely during the trial of Jesus: “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (LK 23:2).
- b) Again, remember in Jn 6:15, “Realizing that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” Jesus runs away from being made king, but at his trial, you have a crowd testifying that this man has been trying to usurp power, by becoming king. Jn 19:12 “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a KING opposes Caesar.”
The Jewish leaders are ready to go at any length to deny or distort the TRUTH.
- DENIAL OF THE TRUTH IN OUR DAILY LIVES
We can still see the behaviour of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders being replicate to this very day. Quite often, we meet people who see the truth and deny it for their own selfish reasons. Maybe they do not like the person who has done something good/great, something commendable, and they have to lie that he did not do it, or if he did it, his motive was less than wholesome. Or perhaps it is something that they would like to able to do themselves, but they cannot do it, because they do not have the brains or the resources to do it. Or perhaps they have been awarded financial or material benefits in order to deny or misrepresent the truth!
But the truth is very stubborn; it does not go away. Sooner or later it will surface to haunt those who tried to suppress it. That was the bitter experience of those Pharisees who tried to deny the truth that Jesus had given sight to a man who had been born blind.
- THERE ARE VARIOUS KINDS OF BLINDNESS
We all suffer from different forms of blindness. People have many blind spots that are just as crippling. For instance,
- a) There are those who are actually PHYSICALLY BLIND like the man in the gospel. They have a problem with their eyes, but all other faculties are functional, and are on full alert. This type does not limit a person from learning, reasoning, interacting with others, and living an ordinary and happy life.
- b) There is SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS which stops one from seeing beyond the superficial meaning of things. It hinders one from perceiving things from God’s own dimension.
- c) Then there are those suffering from MAN-MADE BLINDNESS. It makes a person decide to deny the truth even if it is very glaring. Such blindness manifests itself in people who deliberately turn their backs to the truth, regardless of all the arguments and evidences presented in support of the truth.
- d) There is CIRCUMSTANTIAL BLINDNESS for people choose to protect their interests—for instance the parents of the blind man who cannot speak out for fear of the Jew. Many people choose to be blind because they fear for their employment and livelihood. They are protecting an interest which truth may jeopardize; they want to cover their backs. But when circumstances change, these people will conveniently accept the truth that they had denied before.
From the above analysis, one can see that blindness can affect a person in several ways.
- It can take the form of selfishness that blinds us to the needs of other people.
- It appears in the form of pride that blinds us to our own faults.
- There is greed for wealth blinds us to spiritual values.
- Prejudice blinds us to TRUTH.
- Insensitivity blinds us to the pain we cause other people.
Physical, Spiritual, man-made and circumstantial blindness are still the sad lot of all those who imagine that they can stifle the truth in our own time and get away with it!
The proud man also feels that God is not necessary in his life. With all his creative talents, money and power, he THINKS he can do whatever he wants by himself. Do you remember the huge British ship called THE TITANIC? (There is a beautiful movies acted on the story of that ship.) Its builder claimed: “Not Even God can sink this ship!” In 1912 when it started its maiden Atlantic voyage to the USA, it struck a large piece of iceberg which sank it to its watery grave. As the biblical Proverb puts it: “Pride goes before the fall” (Prov 16:18).
- THE SIMPLE NATURE OF PERSONAL WITNESSING
As a Christian, one does not need high-sounding words, or flowery terms to express the TRUTH. One may not be armed with loads of scripture quotations, nor have answers to every conceivable question, yet a Christian does not have to remain silent. All one needs to do is to share one’s experience in a simple manner, expressing ‘the truth, and nothing but the truth’.
Take the case of the man in today’s Gospel text, whose sight Jesus restored. He shares his testimony in a simple and straight-forward manner, yet very convincing. The Pharisees tell him: “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” Now listen to the man’s simple and beautiful response: “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” You see, the man does not worry about what he cannot answer. He simply testifies to what he has seen and knows to be true. In a like manner, Jesus does not ask us to “teach theology”, when testifying about him and his deed in our lives. He simply asks us to testify about our relationship with him. He is not asking us to “propose theories”, but he asks us simply to tell the truth. We can learn much from this man. Our simple expression of what Christ has done in our lives will impact those around us on behalf of the gospel.
St. Paul has something to tell about this spiritual blindness or darkness. In the second reading, he tells the Ephesians, “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.” This text expresses the reality of our daily lives! Living in light is related to living in truth. As children of light, we must be a sign of hope to the world. Our light produces goodness which can be a source of inspiration for others. It is only by accepting the DIFFICULT TRUTH that one can find true peace. The advice of Jesus to us today is simple. In Chapter 8 of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to the Jews who believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE” (Jn 8:31-32).
May the season of Lent help us to eradicate our spiritual blindness, see our limitations and accept our weaknesses, so we can be cured and grow spiritually.