We began this week’s theme of blindness with the healing of the man born blind. (see John 9.1-38) No matter how many times the man had given his witness to how Christ healed him, many refused to believe, even calling Christ evil because He healed on the Sabbath. The man’s parents and many in the crowd preferred to remain blind to God’s blessings rather than risk the secular comfort of their Roman society.
When we look into our mother’s eyes for the first time, we see her love and learn to trust that she is will protect and guide us through life. In the story of the man born blind found in the Gospel of John 9.1-38, God’s healing is revealed in our ability to see and believe in His Truth. Many in the Gospel refused to believe, just as many today work tirelessly to deceive us into not trusting our own eyes, but the Church is a mother we can trust to teach us the truth.
We’ve all heard the saying before, “seeing is believing”. Saint Thomas had to see Jesus raised from the dead in order to believe. The Myrrhbearing women saw Jesus and believed. The Apostles saw him and believed. Jesus appeared to hundreds after His resurrection, but still some never believed their own eyes. For many who are spiritually blind, seeing is not believing.
A friend of mine had a birthday the other day. After we joked about his age for a few moments, and I reminded him that he had “many more” years behind him than I did, he said, “May you have many more ahead of you!” It was a kind gesture between friends, but it caused to pause and think. I pray I have just enough to “get it right” before I die.
Today is the feast of the Prophet Isaiah who arguably was known as one of the great prophets who prepared the world to understand and recognize Christ when He finally appeared. The Church reads daily from Isaiah during Great Lent for this reason. We also get a glimpse of heavenly worship when we read the opening verses of chapter six (see below), which guides to understand that our Orthodox worship is a preparation for heavenly worship.
Many people are in search of something more in life. We look around and wonder, “Is this all there is? I wake up, go to work (or school) and return home, only to wake up the next day to repeat it all over again? There HAS to be more to life than just daily chores.” This void we feel is filled by all sorts of things differently for all sorts of people. But in the end, whether we fill the void with a social life out on the town, or by getting involved in various groups, we find often find ourselves thirsting for more.
For all of human history, people have gathered in “like circles” with “people of their own kind”. These tribes consisted, normally, of families who shared common lineage through birth. As tribes grew, they became nations (or empires, or kingdoms or whatever other political term you wish to use) and membership was often limited to those inside the family. Others were sometimes allowed to hang around and share in some levels of fellowship, but it was always clear they were outsiders.
On the night of Holy and Great Pascha we stood in our dark churches prepared to receive the “Light from the unwaning light” and begin our celebration. For those few moments our eyes were fixed on the candle coming from the Holy of Holies, spreading from person to person until the Church was ablaze with light. For those few moments we didn’t even notice the darkness outside the Church, and our hearts were lifted up into heaven as we sang Christ is Risen from dead.
I have always appreciated the freedom I have to preach on Sunday from the lectionary of the Church. I don’t choose which Gospel is read, nor do I choose which “theme” is emphasized on any given Sunday. If the Church lists the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman, that is the Gospel, and I will preach on it and so will every other Orthodox Christian Church in the world. I also find it quite freeing that I am not left to my own imagination when it comes to how the Holy Scriptures are to be interpreted. If the Church says it means something, then it means THAT, not what I think it might mean.
This past Sunday the Church spoke to us about healing, in ourselves and in others. We were asked, if we were paying attention, to open our hearts to the needs of others. How can we hear about a man lying paralyzed for thirty-eight years, and not be moved to compassion? How can we hear about a crowd that walked by him every day, and not feel convicted of the memory of the time (or times) we walked by someone in need? I believe I know the answer.