Homily – The Blind Man, Mythology, and Tradition

The Man Born Blind – on mythology and truth (St. John 9:1-38)

I love mythology. I love the stories, the heros, their virtues, their flaws, and the different messes they try to work themselves out of. From the strength of Hercules and the passion of Achilles; to the asceticism of Qui-Gon Ginn, the optimism of Luke Skywalker, and the redemption of Darth Vader; I just can’t get enough.

There are so many lessons to be learned from myths and legends: how the sin of pride can ruin an otherwise faultless life, how perseverance and the support of others can get one through the darkest times, how serving the needy and protecting the weak makes nobility out of kings and paupers alike.

We learn a lot about these and other timeless truths through folk stories and fairytales.

There is a temptation to treat our faith in Christ – and the whole history of our our creation, fall, redemption, and perfection – as a set of stories that can guide us through difficult times. And Lord knows there are no greater stories than those contained within our Christian Tradition.

Think of today’s lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, how men used another’s spiritual abilities to make money for themselves and bring about her ruin and bring darkness to all their customers. How the Apostles brought an end to their selfish trade, and how the servant herself was willing to give up everything – to include a job that brought her renown – to do what was good and right. How the ruined businessmen lobbied the government to have the Apostles arrested; then how God used even that bit of treachery to bring more people to the truth. It’s a parable that seems designed to give discernment and encouragement to us today as we deal with news of all kinds of corruption in both business and government.

Think of the Gospel lesson on the healing of the Man born blind. It gives an answer to one of life’s greatest questions: “why do the innocent suffer?” It also retells the powerful metaphor of Plato’s cave – the journey towards enlightenment – in an even more accessible form than Plato did (that of an encounter between a blind man and the Incarnate Source of all light and vision). And again it shows that even those who find enlightenment will be hounded and blackballed by the authorities of this world.

There is something in these lessons for everyone.

But if we stop there, we are missing the greater point of these lessons; just as we would miss the point of the history of salvation.

We really can find strength by reading about the saints, about how they had the fortitude to endure all kinds of hardships – hardships greater even than our own – and how they even found joy in the midst of their suffering. But the real power here is not be be found in learning of or even imitating their valor, but in accepting the same God who gave them strength as our Lord and Savior.

The power found in the Gospel of the Healing of the Man Born Blind is not in its ability to tell us that God had the power to bring sight to the blind; its power is that the same Christ who manifested His Glory in the life of that blind man wants to manifest Himself in our lives as well.

The person who reduces the Gospel – and all of Christian Tradition – to a set of useful stories, is like the sick man who has his doctor read stories to him about how he has healed others who were even sicker. This sick man loves these stories and finds courage in hearing about how others have made it through illnesses even worse than his own. But then that sick man refuses to take the medicine that this very doctor used to heal all those patients, and that he is now offering to him for that same reason.

Don’t reduce God – the Physician of our souls and bodies – to a story-teller. He is not your advisor, He is not your coach. He is the God who created this world and is its salvation. He is the God who became man, suffered, died, and rose again to redeem you.

The Gospel is indeed powerful, but that power is not found in the beauty of its stories or even the truth of its words, but in the Truth of the redeeming Word – the Logos that is our Christ and Messiah – who makes those stories True.