IN those days, Jesus, walking along, saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him Who sent Me while it is day, night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then the man went and washed and came back able to see.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” But he kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is He?” The man said, “I do not know.”
Then they brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about Him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man said, “He is a prophet.”
So the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know Who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether He is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” The man answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but He does listen to one who worships Him and obeys His will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven the man out, and when He found him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered, “And Who is He, Sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in Him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and the one speaking with you is He.” And the man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Jesus.
Christ is risen!
"Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Jewish understanding of that day was that if you were poor or sick, then you were a sinner, and therefore cursed by God. On the other hand, if we were rich and healthy, then it was a sign that you were righteous and blessed by God. This, of course, never held true, but people will believe what they want to believe.
Jesus answers His disciples, and says that neither the parents, nor the man sinned that he was born blind. And this is so obvious - we are only responsible for our own sins, our children do not answer for our sins. Unless, our sins involve addictions (smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex...), then our children feel the consequence of our sins, but they still are not responsible for them.
And how could the man be punished with blindness from birth for his sins? He could not have committed any sins while in the womb. Was he punished "in advance," for the sins that he would commit during his life? Then why all of us are not punished in advance? We inevitably sin (to think that we do not sin, even daily, is immature), if God punished for the acts that we have yet to commit, then there would be no hope for anyone.
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him." This is quite an astonishing statement. "He was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." Almost always, the first question when I read this passage, that comes to my mind is - did God allow the man to be born on purpose, only to reveal His works in him later?
Well, it's not that simple. Sickness, disease, disability exist in the world. We can blame God for them, but it won't change anything. Scientifically we know enough to say that most disabilities is a result of genetic disorder. Could God fix them all? Yes, He is all-powerful after all. But Christianity also teaches that all sickness, disease, and decay is the result of sin entering this world through human disobedience. Do we continue to disobey? Yes, we do. Plus, God has fixed things up for us. He send His Only-begotten Son to suffer, die, and resurrect for our salvation.
Christ never promised to relieve us of suffering in this temporary life. He promised the opposite, "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20). But He has made our suffering redeemable. Before, humanity suffered with no hope in the end. Now, we suffer knowing that Christ has suffered, and through His suffering He laid out a path for salvation for us.
"He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him." In some sense we are blind, either physically or spiritually. We are disabled because we are sinners. Sin is a disease, a disability that cripples us spiritually, and sometimes physically. Sinful nature is a genetic disorder (note: I am not making a scientific statement here) that has been passed down from generation to generation, starting with Adam and Eve. We are born with this disability of sinful nature, not because our parents sinned or because of our own sins, but so that God's works might be revealed in all of us.
Saint Paul quotes Christ telling him, "My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). God's power, God's works are made perfect in us, as weak and sinful as we are. God is all-powerful and He is able to work through us. We have sick and disabled people so that we would do God's work - take care of them, provide for them, be there for them. In this way, both we and them practice our salvation. I think it was Saint John Chrysostom who said that the poor and sick exist for the salvation of the rich - the poor allow the rich to take care of them, and in this way both achieve salvation.
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." It is true that Christ is no longer bodily present among us because He ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father. At the same time, paradoxically, He is present among us physically. We are partakers of His Body and Blood (physical Body and Blood), and through this partaking we are His light in this world. We do not become little christs or little gods, but we become His light, so that He might do His works in this world through us.
Why do the disabled exist? So that God's works might be revealed in them. Who will reveal these works? Our Lord Jesus Christ, through us, if we are willing to be His instruments in this world.
Yours in the risen Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest