By: Bernadette Moore-Gibson
Sunday, April 2, 2017
In John’s Gospel last week Jesus tells a parable of blindness and sight. For some it is a simple re-telling of the miracle of sight given by Jesus to a person blind from birth. And it is.
And yet, as one follows the arch of this story, less focused on…Jesus, than this blind man once pitied, a thought stirs in the depths of my heart, that the person with the clearest spiritual vision will recognize dimensions of trust that are invisible to our physical senses.
It is not always easy to be led spiritually because it takes some humility and dependence on God. As many of you know my two-and-half-year-old nephew Benedict was born with 13-Q deletion syndrome at birth and over the past years has also endured a cancer journey in which he lost eyesight in one of his eyes. My sister Sarah and her husband Clint are wonderful and devoted parents to our sweet Ben. We as a family are only beginning to understand Ben’s journey of special needs. Often we are overcome with worry and the challenges to secure the resources needed for Ben on his health journey. Humility and dependence on God are constant lessens of our faith as a family. As I read the Gospel today, I can’t help but think about the many disabled children I have met on Ben’s hospital stays. Like the blind man from our Gospel today, somewhere between the overwhelming need of the disabled and… the self-protective hearts of the able-bodied, desperate, poor and broken people fade from sight.
The blind man in todays Gospel was so defined by – viewed through – his disability that his neighbors who’d seen him beg every day did not recognize him. This blind man was… invisible. There is something very powerful about the simple phrase, “I see you”. Jesus saw this invisible, blind man. So fixed were the eyes of Jesus on this man that the disciples were stirred to look a little closer. Imagine this man’s experience every day since birth; being led by the hand everywhere and be seen as a drain on society.
And then, perhaps worst of all, to sit with his other senses attuned to how others saw him; a man at best worthy of pity, at worst deserving of the darkness. Notice that John wastes no words in describing this miracle. He puts it as briefly as possible: “He went and washed and came back seeing.” Obviously he is not calling attention to this physical miracle; there is something deeper here. When you notice that John points out the meaning of the name of this pool to which Jesus sent this man (he says it means “Sent”), he obviously is indicating that these strange actions of Jesus – spitting on the ground, making clay, anointing the eyes with the clay, and then sending the man to the pool to wash – is a symbolic action that is teaching something deeper than the mere opening of a man’s eyes. We must understand it in that light if we want to get at the deeper meaning of this miracle. This is clearly a parable in action. Jesus is not merely interested in restoring this man’s physical sight. There is a deeper insight involved, and it is brought out by the symbols he employs. Jesus is trying to restore spiritual sight.
Like the disciples, I struggle to see my nephew’s blindness through the lens of Jesus. “This happened so that…the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus is not saying that the blind will see light; no, Jesus is saying this mere human being will be the light! In a single sentence, the reader anticipates the mind-blowing good news not only that Jesus notices the blind man, not only will he heal him to see light, not only will he no longer be invisible but… he will be a light for others to see!
The process of healing our spiritual sight will involve a prolonged and difficult journey that will be filled with obstacles. It is only when we get into the pool of trust in God’s plan that our inner sight will be granted.
What I have witnessed through my nephew Ben’s journey is the pulsing wind of the Spirit stirring the embers of healing, and to see others join us as our gospel-witnessing flame. God is calling us, to trust, to step out in blind faith that he might heal our lives through encounter with our sweet Benedict. It is the nature of God’s amazing grace that restoration comes with much we don’t know or understand. The love of Christ sends us, because we have been the recipient of a love that has transformed how we see Christ, and how we see the world through Ben’s life.