As Jesus walked along, he 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. We 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 he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours 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.’ 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?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
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.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
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 Messiah 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?’ He 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 him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 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.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.’
The disciples asked Jesus: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
We live in a blame culture, a world in which we do our best to avoid accepting responsibility in favour of finding someone else to blame. As each misfortune pours down upon us we look about us in desperate need, the need to find who might be responsible for each and every circumstance or happening that does not fit well with the agenda we have set for our own lives. Students with disappointing examination results will blame inadequate teaching and poor study provision. The unexpected loss of a job will be blamed on poor management and unforeseen financial calamity. Those who are struck down with an untreatable illness will blame negligent medical care and even a vengeful God. We live in a blame culture that creates division, mistrust and hostility.
In today’s reading we hear of a man who had been blind from birth. The reaction of the disciples plays into the human default of needing someone to blame. For the disciples the man’s disability undoubtedly came from God but, they asked, who is to blame for God feeling the need to take such a terrible course of action, the man’s parents or the man himself? Jesus’ response should put our whole attitude towards ‘blame’ into its proper context. Jesus answered his disciples with these words: Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. In this response Jesus is urging us to understand that we are born as we are, with gifts and talents that are unique to us. In being born with our human positives and negatives, we are being formed in the image of God, in order that we might do his will in our own unique way. That which we might consider a weakness will always have a positive side in God’s eyes. It is for us to seek that positive agenda and proclaim God’s love, power and wisdom with all the strength and joy we can muster.
We do not know God’s plan for the man who was blind from birth, but we do know that he was there, in the right place and at the right time for Jesus to give him new vision and to proclaim that he, Jesus, is the light of the world. As we journey through times of challenge and darkness we are called to be ever ready for the moment when Jesus will give us new vision. The giving and receiving of that new vision, a vision that is illuminated by the light of the world himself, should be at the heart of our prayers every moment of every day. Let us pray that that light may shine into our lives, and that we might then share it with others.
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