Homily notes on the man born blind – Hope for the Hopeless

Homily Notes on the Man Born Blind
St. John 9:1-38

[Memorial Day weekend: self-sacrifice among soldiers, self-sacrifice in the family, self-sacrifice in the Church]

Meme in a demotivational poster:  It could be that [the purpose] your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

How are we supposed to deal with the fact there are so many problems in our lives? That no matter how had we work, the product of our labor cannot be sustained? Everything falls apart. Everything perishes. Nothing is immune to the apathetic and centrifugal nature of this fallen world.

God proclaimed this broken reality to Adam and Eve when He said;

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)

Solomon turned this demotivational meme into poetry that is part of our Old Testament Canon. Here is a sample of his meditation on this theme

(Ecclesiastes 2:4-14);

The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.  Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.  For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.  Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

When we see how this world works and the way it chews up the good and the bad with equal abandon, what are we to make of it? How are we to live?

We know that there are as many responses to this as there are souls, but there are three main ways the world teaches us to deal with the grievousness of life:

  1. Ignore it. Distract ourselves. Hide the realities of death, decay, and random misfortune. Bread and circuses. Ideology. The “Blame Game” (“who sinned, this man or his parents?”) Entertainment. Addictions. Most of our economy is devoted to selling this response. Religion often becomes a way to ignore the indifference of this world, imposing order on it with spiritual concepts like karma, reincarnation, and Ragnarok.
  2. Despondency. Pretty logical, given the data.
  3. Stoicism. Drive on. Preserve a sense of purpose and the dignity of the person, the family, and the community through good habits, hard work, and sheer force of will.

These are the basic solutions that the world offers. Of the three, stoicism is the best, but none of them are enough to stand against the darkness and entropy of a fallen world. All is vanity.

Or is it?
Let’s look at how the source of all rationality – the Logos incarnate – responded to this age old problem when He was confronted with the terrible consequences of this world’s brokenness: a real man who had been born blind – that is to say, who had grown within his mother’s womb without any eyes.

His disciples put the age-old question to Christ in their own language when they said; “who sinned, this man or his parents?” Notice that their question operates within the confines of ideology, religion, and the blame game. We use different words (e.g. how can you say that there is a loving God when such terrible things occur?!) because we operate within a different worldview, but Christ’s answer is so True that it forces us out of our own spiritual blindness:

Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (St. John 9:3-5)

Do you see how this washes away the need to ignore the world’s injustice, to be depressed by its amorality, or to simply endure the pain that it imposes? Jesus trumps them all, not with words, but with Himself: He came to bring solace to the grieving, strength to the infirm, and hope to the hopeless. This is the “work of His Father” that He is refering to!

He brings salvation to people who were being ground down to dust by a world that groans in sin. He doesn’t just talk about some future remaking when everything will be grand. That is the hope of religion. He brings the hope of a reality built on fact because He Himself is the answer and He is here:

  • He brings doesn’t just promise that there will be light – He is that light

  • He doesn’t help the blind man by helping him work with His affliction but by fixing the man’s eyes

  • The hope that He gives is not a hope founded on religion or ideology, but a rational hope founded on the presence of the living, loving God. He is powerful and we can be powerful in Him.

You may well wonder where that leaves us now. Forty days? What next? The answer is still valid now, in fact, Christ told us that the things that we will do will be greater even than those He did then (St. John 12). How is this possible?

Because He lives. Because He sent the Comforter. Because what we do here is not a religion, but our collective life lived in Christ and in His mighty power.

Do you believe? Then don’t just treat these things we say and sing as words or some sort of poetic solace; allow your faith to be the path that opens your life to a life lived in Christ. He stands at the door and knocks – answer it and allow His love to sustain you and His grace to transform you.

This is the Way of Orthodoxy.