In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is Risen!
Today is the final Sunday before Ascension, the Sunday of the Blind Man. In the Gospel today, the disciples inquire of the Saviour asking on whose account this man was born blind… was it because the man himself sinned or because his parents sinned?
The Saviour responds saying:
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The Saviour was then moved to compassion towards the man and, as we hear in the Gospel, he made clay from the dirt of the ground and anointed the blind man’s eyes saying to him:
“…Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”
After the man returned from washing in the pool, he recovered his sight, much to the amazement of all who knew him.
The Gospel then recounts how this man, blind from birth, was questioned by the Pharisees concerning the recovery of his sight. The Pharisees said:
“How were thine eyes opened?”
The blind man recounted the details of his healing to the Pharisees who sought to convince the man who had recovered his sight that Jesus was a sinner saying:
“Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.”
The man formerly blind answers very wisely saying:
“Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
The man continues saying:
“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”
The Gospel concludes with the man being cast out by the Pharisees only to be found by Jesus who says to him:
“…Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”
Thus, the Gospel concludes not only with the man blind from birth receiving his physical sight, but also receiving his spiritual sight as well, as evidenced by his saying, “Lord, I believe.”
In many ways, the account of this Gospel resembles that of the other blind man healed in the Gospel known as the Blind Man on the road to Bartimaos who attracted the Lord’s attention by calling out continually as the Lord passed by saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” As we know from the Gospel, those who stood around this man attempted to quiet him down but he called out all the more saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus, again being moved to compassion, approached the blind man and asked him:
“What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”
The blind man answered, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
In reality, all men are born blind, like the man in today’s Gospel, though this “blindness” is a spiritual blindness rather than a physical one. Each of us finds himself unable to see clearly as a result of the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve… the Fall resulted in a distortion in the powers of man resulting in our spiritual will being made subject to our minds and bodies.
In this way, today’s Gospel truly relates to each of us, regardless of the quality of our vision… This is very well expressed in the troparion for the Sunday of the Blind Man in which we hear the following:
“Blinded in the eyes of my soul, I draw nigh unto Thee, O Christ, like the man blind from his birth, and in repentance I cry to Thee: Thou art the exceeding radiant Light of those in darkness.”
Before Holy Illumination, each of us was in darkness, unable to see our passions, unable to appreciate the extent of our fallenness. In the Holy Mysteries of the Church, however, we have all been granted the gift of spiritual sight. Just as in the example from today’s Gospel, where the Saviour used clay to heal the eyes of the man blind from birth, the Saviour has ordained the use of apparently ordinary material things to accomplish our healing within the Church: the waters of baptism, the sacred oil in Chrismation and, of course, the Bread and Wine that are transformed into the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We must ask ourselves, though… is it enough to simply receive this healing? Is it enough to receive our sight from the Saviour and then resume our passionate lives? Is it sufficient to be baptized, to become Orthodox and then continue to live as we lived before we were joined to the Holy Church?
No, we must truly bring forth the firstfruits of repentance to our Saviour, lest the second fall be greater than the first as the Saviour describes elsewhere in the Gospel. We must learn the lesson from the other blind man on the road to Bartimaos and continually call out to our Saviour from the depths of our souls saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” If we do this, and continually wash ourselves from our sins in Holy Confession, the Saviour will continually bestow his grace upon us, he will grant us the gift of His Most Holy Spirit and our spiritual blindness will be healed.
-Sermon by Fr Jonah Campbell, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Sunday, May 20th, 2012