May 24, 2020

Sermon – Sixth Sunday of Pascha 2020

Pastor’s Sermon
Sunday of the Blind man
by V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
May 24, 2020

Today is the Sunday prior to the Feast of the Ascension that will be
celebrated in our church with an evening Divine Liturgy this Wednesday evening ,
and live-streamed at 6:30 p.m. The eve of the Feast of the Ascension is the
conclusion of the festal season of Easter. Each Sunday since Holy Pascha, we
have been reading lessons from the Gospel of St. John, beginning with chapter one
on the night of Easter.

Today’s Gospel lesson is remarkable: The Healing of the Man Born Blind
was among the lessons read on the Saturday night of Easter, at the time when
Christian catechumen’s were baptized. It was chosen for the purpose of focusing
upon the themes of the Feast of the Resurrection, namely: washing, illumination,
healing, faith, conversion and salvation. The uniqueness of this miracle, chosen
among the baptismal lessons is that it highlights Christ’s work in unity with the
Father as a “new creation.” The unusual miracle that dumbfounded many was
unique because it is about a man whose choice was not to be blind. He was born
blind and the Lord worked a miracle.

All of us, like the blind man in today’s lesson, have contemplated at one
point in our life: who we are. We have perhaps tried to understand something
about what God intends for us to do – why we were born of a particular linage,
have certain predetermined traits, characteristics, dispositions, abilities or
disabilities. In all honesty, we don’t have all of the answers in this life. We are not
God, and may have to consider it a matter of “luck.” That is to say, live with the
cards that we have been dealt.

In a hymn from last night’s service we heard these words: The blind man
thought to himself and said: I wonder if I was born blind due to the sin of my
parents? Have I become an example of the faithlessness of the Gentiles? I cannot
stop asking: When is the night, when is the day? …I have never seen the sun
shining, nor have I seen my Creator in any form whatsoever. I beseech Thee, O
Christ God, to look upon me and have mercy upon me.

You may recall that in the Gospel last week, the paralytic had been
paralyzed for 38 years, sat at the edge of the pool – the pool that… and when the
Lord saw him he said, “Do you want to be healed?” At the end of the lesson we
are told that on another occasion the Lord found the man at the Temple and
admonished him to stop sinning in order that nothing worse would happen to him.
In contrast to the lesson we hear today, the paralytic’s illness we understood to be
tied and related to sins he committed. This was not the case for the blind man.

Today’s Gospel lesson is found within the full context of a section of St.
John’s Gospel where our Lord is teaching in the Jerusalem Temple courts during
the Feast of Tabernacles – following the Feast of the Passover. On the final and
most important day of the Feast, the Lord boldly declared that He is the only
source of living or life-creating water (7:37-38); that He is “the light of the
world (8:12); that He was sent by the Father (8:16); that the Jews who failed to
recognize him were not the true descendants of Abraham (8:39). And then if
that was not enough to anger His audience, at the end of chapter eight in St. John’s
Gospel, we hear Him state that “Before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). This
statement infuriated the Jews that they began stoning him because He used the
name of God for Himself; the name of God that was revealed to Moses on Mount
Sinai. Upon leaving the Temple, Jesus immediately performs the miracle that
demonstrates the truth of all that He claimed to be: He causes a man who was
born blind to see, and imparts something even greater: spiritual sight.

St. John tells us that “as Jesus passed by, He saw a man that was blind from
birth” (v. 1). Note that the man was not brought to Jesus. Nor did the man
approach Jesus asking for mercy. It is clear that in this case Jesus took the
initiative. The dialogue that follows between the Disciples and Jesus (vs. 2-3),
clears up a misconception that was a common superstition of that time: the belief
that the man’s blindness was a judgment upon him for the sins of his parents or the
result of his own sins.

In first century Palestine, the opinion of certain Epicurean philosophers was
very prevalent. The Epicureans believed that the soul had a pre-existence, and that
any sins committed in this pre-existent state then descended in an immaterial
manner into the body. Jesus, rejected such a belief and clearly stated, “Neither
this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed
in him” (John 9:3).

The belief of the Epicureans reminds me of some today who enjoy
captivating people’s attention, going around talking about their own interpretation
or superstition of what they believe God’s will is; especially when people are in
search for answers that are never easy, if even possible to find.

If you or I feel the need or have the desire to pray for someone, we should
do just that and never presume to know what God’s will is. There are times when
things of prayer are best never to be discussed with others. If God motivates you
to pray for someone, do that. Don’t talk about. Remember your conversation is
with God. You and I should never ever presume to know more than we do. One
who prays should not go witch hunting. Nor should you or I take upon ourselves
burdens which is not ours to carry. You and I are and will be accountable to God
for what are our own responsibilities.

In today’s lesson the followers of Christ were admonished to make use of
the day in working out their salvation, for the night of their death will come when
they will no longer be able to work. In verses 4 and 5 of today’s lesson we hear
Jesus say: I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day: the night
comes, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the
world. The Son of God is the light of the world. His work on coming into the
world is to enlighten every man (John 1:9). He must do this “while it is day”, that
is, as long as He is in the world (9:5). The “night comes, when no man can work”
is that time when Christ will be delivered up by sinful men who prefer darkness,
and He will go away. [Remember that later in the Gospel, at the time of Jesus’
betrayal, it was night, and at His crucifixion, “darkness fell over the whole
earth” (Luke 23:44).]

Just prior to performing the miracle, the Gospel records that Jesus spat on
the ground and made clay of spittle, then anointed the eyes of the blind man with
the clay (recall Genesis) and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This
instruction made by Jesus was not without purpose. First, remember that Jesus
had been at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Part of that feast involved
bringing a large urn of water from Siloam on the first seven days – but not the
eighth day, for the rites of purification. These rites were a figure of the true
purification, which is in Christ. St. John Chrysostom comments that Jesus
intended to prove that He was not estranged from the Law and Old Covenant.
Further, the significance of using water from Siloam was to commemorate the
Hebrews wandering in the desert when water miraculously came out of the rock of
Horeb, when by God’s command, it was struck by Moses (Exodus 17:1-6).

The remainder of St. John’s Gospel speaks of the blind man’s spiritual
healing. This part of the miracle can be best summarized by the church’s
Wednesday morning ode of the canon: When Thou didst open the eyes of him who
could not see the perceptible light, Thou didst enlighten the eyes of his soul as
well. Thou didst move him to glorify thee, for he had come to know Thee as the
Creator, who out of compassion did appear as a mortal man. The blind man goes
from his knowledge of experiencing the physical miracle to a complete conviction
about Jesus as the divine Son of God.

What follows is poetically described further in last Monday’s morning
hymn: Blindness [came upon] those who supposedly had eyes that saw, for
darkness seized their minds and souls and enshrouded their thoughts when they
beheld the man who was blind regain [his] sight. The Apostle Paul quotes the
Law and the Prophets in writing the Romans to describe God’s own doing. He
first quotes Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10 – God gave them a spirit of
stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this
very day. And then quoting David’s prophesy: May their eyes be darkened so they
cannot see, and their backs be bent forever (Psalm 69:22, 23). This, the Apostle
goes on to say was accomplished by God in order that those who were not Jews
would be saved (Romans 11:11), and also that those who considered themselves
“chosen” might be made envious.

The dialogue heard between the blind man and the Pharisees that follows,
not only confirm the healing. What happens is that the blind man affirms his faith
and conviction in declaring that the One who gave him sight does the will of God
and did something never done before: “He opened the eyes of one born blind” (vs.
30-32). He has “to be of God” (v. 33).

In conclusion, we have heard about a man whose choice was not to be
blind. He was born blind and the Lord healed him dumbfounding many, some
who willfully chose to be blind; those who could not accept the truth, having great
difficulty with what they witnessed and heard. Their minds rejected what is
difficult for them to acknowledge. Third, and perhaps, the most shocking of all,
we heard about God who prevented some from seeing and understanding. For it
was God’s purpose that those who were perceived as the ones condemned and
outside of the promise would not be excluded but those who were “chosen” and
ultimately saved.

O Christ our God, who by Thy pure touch did lighten the eyes of the man
born blind, illumine our souls eyes making us sons of the day amidst a world of
darkness. Illumine our hearts, O Master who loves mankind, with the pure light of
Thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to understand and to
practice your message of forgiveness that has been at the heart of this Paschal
season. Implant in us also the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling
down all fleshly desires, we man enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both
thinking and doing such things as are well pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the
Illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe
glory, together with Thine unoriginate Father and Thine all-holy and good and lifegiving
Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. A-men.