Today’s gospel is one that is the kind of story that you could study in school where teachers are telling you all this symbolism means something and you find yourself scratching your head saying “where?” This means that today’s gospel needs to be really intensely studied to see the deeper meanings.
First, you can take a superficial look at the account and decide this is about Jesus showing his power and angering the Pharisees in the process. Yet, if you want to look deeper you need to read it again. The key to the whole passage has to do with the question of the apostles to the Jesus, “Who sinned to make him blind?” Jesus says, neither he nor his parents, but that he could glorify God. Sin does not cause physical deformity unless it is directly related to the sin. If you become crippled because you crash your car into a tree while driving drunk, well sin caused physical deformity, but that is a direct relationship. God does not punish you by making you crippled.
Then we see where sin does cause blindness. The man is healed, but the Pharisees refuse to accept it and they come up with all kinds of excuses of why either the man was not really blind or that Jesus could not have healed him. If he did heal him then Jesus is not healing in the name of God. Their sin makes him spiritually blind. His blindness sets him free by introducing him to the Messiah, their sin makes them slaves that blind them to the Messiah.
Now, we can look at it again and see what is happening on a different level. When Jesus arrives on the scene, he begins his preaching by saying The Kingdom of God is at Hand. Now imagine Al Qaeda saying to us, the Kingdom of Allah is at hand, how would you take it. My guess, you would take it as the words of revolution and their attempt to overthrow our government. Jesus begins his ministry with a similar statement. Yet there is something unique here, the Kingdom of God is already at hand, after all the Jews are God’s chosen people. Then which government is being overthrown here. The answer, the government of sin. The Pharisees have turned themselves over to sin. They have blinded themselves to the truth in order to protect their own interests to such a point that they cannot see the God they serve when he is in their midst. To use a common American colloquialism: They would not know God if they bumped into him, which they in fact did. Jesus elsewhere tells them that they are the Devil’s children. He is overthrowing the Kingdom of which they belong. The kingdom of Satan, which has no power in the face of God.
In fact, there is another element here and this is the most important element when you are engaged in spiritual warfare, which this passage is. This is an example of light shining into darkness. Jesus’ action reflects his light that shines into the darkness and reveals the darkness among the very people who God called to be angels of light. The light shines into the darkness. Remember this tactic when engaged in spiritual warfare. Do not pray for the defeat of those with whom you are warring, pray instead that God’s light will shine in the darkness and those who are not spiritually blind will see evil and know the truth.
There is a great example of this happening on the internet. A college student did this powerful undercover investigation in which he called abortion clinics in several states posing as a racist man who wanted to make sure that black children are aborted. So he offered to give a donation that would go to the abortion of black children exclusively. The abortion clinics were open to accepting the money even though he explicitly said that he would donate the money so that his son would not have to deal with black children getting ahead through affirmative action, it. The light shined in the darkness and revealed the racist nature of the abortion industry.
Likewise, what we see is Jesus revealing the truth to his people. Yet, the blind remain blind to the same truth. Notice something else, this is written by the community of the Apostle John many years later. Here they are seeing the evil as it is portrayed from this account. Yet, do not forget that the people who are being shown as evil would be the same people that the average person would look upon as holy and above reproach. I hope this story sounds familiar. If you want a modern version of this, then think of this man being mocked as he tries to proclaim the truth as a victim of priest abuse. Imagine him being mocked as he tries to tell the truth. This scenario happened. It is the same evil in our own times. Now if the bishops are not immune to it, neither is anyone else.
One of the principles that Jesus teaches is that if your light is in darkness, how dark will your darkness be. If the Church is in darkness, how dark will the darkness be in those areas that reject the Church? Do you see why each and every one of us must be people of light so that the light shines on in darkness. For everyone of us who might be in darkness, so much more dark is that element of our society that embraces darkness.
This is where sin which is easily dismissed as something that old fashioned and silly because like uncontrolled bacteria. Suddenly this virtually invisible thing because very visible and touches everything. What is worse is not that it can be seen, but that the effects of it are intense.
What was the sin of the Pharisees? it was the same sin of the bishops: Idolatry—trying to the protect the synagogue and Church more than trying to protect the message of within them. Why do you think the sin of idolatry is the first one forbidden by the ten commandments? It is the worst of sins and when the people of light practice it, the people in darkness end up in even worse darkness.
This brings me to the final point I want to show in this passage. Jesus does not protect the man from the harm he suffers when he is bullied by the Pharisees. He allows him to walk right into their darkness. Indeed, notice the gospel says this all happens near the place called sent. The man is sent into the jaws of evil. Yet, he is sent as an agent of light. God does not prevent us from suffering from the attacks of evil. Indeed, if Jesus did want to prevent the man from suffering at the hands of the Pharisees, he could have simply not healed him in the first place.
We suffer for the kingdom in all different ways. Jesus did not come to take away our suffering that builds up the kingdom. He did come to take away that suffering that undermines the kingdom. He warned we will be persecuted, we will be harassed, we will suffer in many ways, but that if we persevere, we will be saved. Why? Because the only way he can bring down the Kingdom of evil is for us to at times suffer for being agents of light. There is no other avenue. We Catholics have suffered since 2002, but that suffering has brought darkness into the light, everyday. Those in the light can see the darkness and know where it is. We here in Massachusetts are undergoing an intense trial as forces that reject everything we stand for have taken over our government. Yet many of those who are part of those forces attended our schools, were baptized in our churches, attended our schools, something went terribly wrong. We can work to try to fix the problem in our churches through prayer that we will be more faithful everyday. Yet, we have to know that many problems based on not taking the dangers of sin and evil seriously have put this all on our doorstep. This has been at every level of our church. Today is the day to resolve to be people of faith and live our faith stronger than yesterday. We need to prepare to be the people of light that we say we are at the Easter Vigil and we need to be passionate about or faith as we see the darkness and choose to be people of light.
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