There is definitely an element of fear connected with darkness, whether that darkness is physical or spiritual. It is comforting to remember however, that there is never darkness so deep or so powerful that we cannot be liberated by God’s grace. Helen Keller, in her autobiography, The Story of My Life, described her own experience of liberation. She wrote: “I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded me and forgot that it had ever been different until she came---my teacher Anne Sullivan. From that sacred moment I heard a voice which said, ‘knowledge is love and light and vision!’”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals the man born blind, an action that reveals God’s great love that impels him to initiate healing. In first-century Palestine, blindness was regarded as a sign of sin, either of those blind or of their parents. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know who had sinned, the blind man or his parents. Jesus responded by healing the man’s blindness, an action that visually illustrated a statement made earlier in John’s gospel: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark. That one will have the light of life.” That is exactly what the blind man did---follow Jesus. By his faith he came to know Jesus as healer, as prophet, and finally as Messiah, the one sent to bring light to the world.
The blind man’s faith stands in direct contrast to the Pharisees who refused to believe, and revealed their increased stubbornness by rejecting the man’s claims about Jesus. These Pharisees had eyes but did not see. They had the law, the prophets, and great knowledge of Scripture, but they didn’t hear or heed the message. By training and experience they were the spiritual leaders of the time, but they were blind to what was revealed in their midst.
The man born blind experienced not permanent darkness as punishment, but darkness used as a special opening for God’s saving power. That is often the way God works using our sinfulness to heal us. We too experience spiritual blindness, and are offered sight through the love of Jesus. The man who was once unable to see, saw what the spiritual leaders of the day did not see. Jesus told his disciples: “This man was born blind so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Depending on our choices, the same could be said of us. We have been baptized into the light and have been called to walk in that light following Jesus no matter where he leads.
We are the disciples with whom God bets the future. At times our arrogance blocks our vision especially when God acts differently then we expect. We may think we are lost, but our blindness is only temporary. Take heart, because that is often the condition that allows us to be susceptible and open to Jesus’ call. Let us hope that as we continue our journey toward Easter, our vision will become 20-20.
~ Deacon Wilson Shierk