Sun, 2 June 2019
Sunday of the Man Born Blind
I strongly encourage you to spend time studying scripture. Not just reading it; it's not like a novel that is easy to follow or a textbook that lays everything out and then footnotes the hard stuff; it requires effort. And part of the effort is asking questions. We've talked about this before: the Bible, like Orthodoxy and everything else worthwhile, can handle scrutiny. Asking questions - not out of a desire to attack or discredit, but out of a desire to understand and even test – is the way our rational mind learns. Our subconscious mind learns through the repetition of ritual and story, but the rational part of our mind learns best from active and continuous dialogue. And here at St. Mary's we are creating a culture of safe, loving, and productive dialogue; so that we can fulfill the desire of God “that all be saved and come to the knowledge of God.”
I love this Gospel, because one of the obvious questions is asked straightaway; “why was this man born blind, is it because of his sin or his parents?”
Awesome. And our great teacher gives the answer, and he does it by stepping outside of their worldview and shifting it from sin to the power of God. It's a beautiful thing.
But there are other questions that come up to. And one of the most pressing and most obvious is; “if God has that power, and he used it on this random blind guy, why didn't he use it on …; why doesn't he use it on ….” And so on.
These are great questions. They are questions motivated by hearts that are broken with grief and a desire to bring comfort to people who are hurt and suffering.
There is an answer, but in order to give it, I need to come at it sideways, with a parable.
Why a parable? … Why make one up?
From our own experiences: the melt down on aisle four.
Hungry child. Knows what is required to end that hunger. Demands that the parent end the hunger. Now. There is food in the shopping cart; it is there so that dinner can be made. No; the demand is more insistent. In a toddler, it takes on the form of the melt-down. But what if the toddler had words? What would they look like? Love! Where is the love? A child in need! Feed the child! If you love, you must feed the child!
Some in the store may even support this: “please feed the child!!!”
But what happens if the parent gives in to the tantrum?
Greater long term success and and satisfaction is found in learning about self-control and deferred gratification (not to mention the fact that bad behavior has negative consequences) than in satisfying cravings and hunger pain as soon at they show up.
The good parent will soldier on, make dinner with the child (or while he sits in time out watching it being made), and then be reminded – at dinner – about the regular cycles of the household rhythm. Eventually, when the child is hungry, he will not need to be reminded that dinner will come, that the love of the parent is real and that she really will take care of the child. It will all be automatic. The refusal to disrupt the plan and rhythm of the good household around the short-term desires of the child will be understood as necessary, or at least, acceptable.
The parable isn't perfect, but it provides a good start to understanding why good healed this blind man, but doesn't answer every request immediately and in the way we demand. Even when we insist that love requires such a response.
God healed the blind man for the same reason he accomplished all of his miraculous healings: so that we would know that we could trust Him that dinner really would be shared with all who desired to eat once it was actually time for that dinner to be held.
God has healed our diseases; God has granted us all immortal life.
Right now, we're in Aisle Four and hungry; we seem a long way from home and forever away from dinner time.
That doesn't give us license for us to have a melt-down on aisle four.
Christ is Risen, He is ascended into glory, and we will join Him there when it is time.