Religion as a form of blindness

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 9:1-38

The miracles of our Lord God and savior Jesus Christ are often seen in the gospels as something of a litmus test. Each and every person will respond to the miracle in a slightly different way. Some will respond with an even greater sense of faith in God. Others will look suspiciously on such work and claim that it is the work of the devil. Yet others will question why this work happened at such a time and to such a person.

In today’s gospel the Lord acts in a powerful way to heal a man who was born blind. Perhaps even, born without eyes. In His powerful work we see the faith of the blind man and the utter refusal to believe by the Pharisees and the Jewish authorities. In this we see the truth with which the evangelist St. John is trying to feed us and give us life; It is better to see with one’s heart than to see with one’s eyes. True sight is to recognize the Lord and His work in the world and in your life. True blindness is to refuse to acknowledge the presence and the work of God in your life.

Why do some refuse to acknowledge His presence and His work in their lives? Often it is because people want to be their own masters and lords. In addition, people will refuse to acknowledge the work of God in their lives because that work does not fit neatly into their concepts of what God can do. God is never bound to work according to our ideas or imaginations. Often God works in unexpected ways. We are regularly given the choice to accept this work or to ignore it. God does not impose His opinion on us because He loves us and in His love He has allowed us complete freedom to choose how we live and what we will believe in our hearts.

We cannot also help but notice that those who have the most serious problem of unbelief are in fact the most “religious” people of the day. It is the Pharisees who were well known for their religiousity and their keeping of the Jewish customs and the teachings of the Mosaic law. Yet time and time again we see that the way that God acts in the world has completely escaped their understanding. It should give us pause my brothers and sisters. If we come to the Church and if we live lives where we go through the motions of Orthodoxy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve come to a genuine knowledge of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. Every believer is given the daily opportunity to reflect on why they go through the motions, what is the purpose of what we do, do we really believe, do we really hold this faith as sacred? And if so, how does our practice of the faith translate to tangible love for God and love for our neighbor.

In today’s passage we notice that the Pharisees did not simply discount the miracle when the blind man was questioned. They questioned the honesty of every witness who came forward including the blind man’s parents. But they went even further in their utter denial of the amazing work of God. They denied that the miracle was the work of God and they ascribed it to the demons. Finally, they treated the man who could now see for the first time in his life, not with mercy or with amazement, but with contempt bordering on utter hatred. In this they demonstrated that their religious practice and belief was unto death and condemnation and not unto their salvation. They used their religious practice not as a tutor that would bring them to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, not as a way to glorify God and praise Him for His mighty acts. They used the law of Moses to judge, to condemn and to punish. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke rightly when He said to them “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’.”

What about us? Do we recognize the work of God happening in our own lives and all around us? Do we glorify God for everything or do we find little reasons not to joyfully give thanks to God? God is alive and moving actively. We have so much for which to be thankful. I don’t want us to miss out on the joy and the blessings by being blind to the work the God is doing. I don’t want us to miss out because we have a narrow definition and understanding of what God can do. He is doing much more than we can imagine.

But what is required of us? We have to understand that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world just as He states in this passage. We must then fall humbly and ask the Lord to remove all of the blindness of our hearts and illumine us with His divine light. We have to commit to Christ Himself as the way. Pray, “Lord replace the darkness of my heart, which was caused by my own sins, with Your glorious light. Remove O Lord, all of the blinds and pull back the curtains of my heart and allow me to see You through the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Once the Lord visits us, we will be the opposite of what we once were. Instead of doubting and disbelief, we will be renewed in our faith and blessed to see His hand in everything in our lives. May the Lord grant this to us through His grace and love for mankind. Christ is risen!

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