Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen!!
Beloved brethren, in the Holy Gospel we read today, Our Divine Savior works an extremely great miracle – He gives sight to a man blind from birth. He did this in order to show clearly that He is indeed God, the God-Man, so that there could be no doubt about this. Just before this occurred, Our Savior shocked the Jews by this statement: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” In other words, He claimed openly to be the God of Abraham, the Creator of the world. So they took up stones to kill him. Yet even after this, He goes on trying to soften their hard hearts, trying to open their spiritual eyes, as He opens the physical eyes of the man born blind.
Our Holy Father Theophylactos says the following: “By this miracle He attempts to soften their stubborn disbelief, though they derived no benefit from it; at the same time, He shows them that He did not speak idly or boastfully when He said, Before Abraham was, I am (Jn. 8:58). Behold this miracle, the like of which has never been seen: others have restored the sight of blind men, but never of a man born blind. It is clear that Christ performed this miracle as God Who is before Abraham.”
You see how merciful Christ is. These people – the Pharisees and scribes – hate Him and wish to destroy Him, but he works a miracle to soften their unbelief. He keeps showing them Who He is, and they have to make a choice. It will be clear, ultimately, when they unjustly accuse Him and finally have Him put to death, that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, that He had told them clearly Who He was, that He desired to have mercy on them, and that they willfully rejected Him. Their terrible sin of the deicide ( of murdering God) has no excuse.
How does this apply to us today? What is the Lord telling us through the Gospel today?
First of all, He is reassuring us that our Faith is true: He is truly God and truly man, the God-man (the theanthropos). Very few today believe this: even many who call themselves Orthodox Christians waver in their belief, or even if they formally believe, they are indifferent and it does not affect their lives – they just don’t care. Our Lord reassures us that, no matter how few truly believe in Him, He is Who He said He is: the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. Like the man healed from blindness, who steadfastly confessed that Jesus had healed him even when the Pharisees were harrassing him for it, we have to go on confessing that the Lord Jesus is our God and Savior, no matter how lonely we are for doing this, no matter who persecutes us for this, no matter how badly others may speak to us or treat us when we try, in our own little way, really to live as Christians and not just say that we are.
Second, by His patience and persistence in teaching those who doubted Him, even those Who wished to kill Him, Our Lord is showing us how we must treat those who doubt our Faith: We must go on speaking clearly about Who Christ is, and that all men must believe in Him. Remember: He worked this great miracle to teach those who shortly before wished to stone Him to death! Likewise, we must humbly and persistently go on leading our Orthodox Christian life and attempting to share Orthodoxy with others, even if we meet with rejection and ridicule – even if others wish to hurt us. As Our Lord commands us, we must be merciful even as Our Heavenly Father is merciful. What can be a greater mercy than to try to share our Faith with those who do not yet believe, who are blind in heart?
Third, Our Lord is teaching us by the image of the man blind from birth that, spiritually and intellectually, all men are blind from birth. Because of the sin of our First Parents, my human mind is damaged to the extent that I cannot see clearly Who God is, or even what nature is, or who I am. Only the grace of God can enable the mind to know reality as it really is, and only the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, as taught by the Church, can lead the mind thus enabled by grace to the understanding of this reality. No matter how clever or educated someone is, without the grace of God and without the teaching of the Church, he cannot see things as they are; he is blind. Whereas, you can have a person who is simple and uneducated, like the humble fishermen whom Christ called to be His disciples, and they can rise to the heights of theology, they can understand all things, by grace.
We have to put aside our distractions and mindless entertainments, and we have to spend time in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, the Lives of the Saints, and the teachings of the Church, to understand Who God is, who we are, and what our real situation is. The world around us, from a purely humanistic viewpoint, is getting more confusing and frightening all the time. But we absolutely need not be frightened or confused. Christ, through His Church, teaches us even to this very day, this very moment, what we need to do to understand the purpose of our lives and to act on this understanding. We need only turn to Him. But this turning requires a daily sacrifice of our time to read and to pray very hard, with great desire, with agony of soul, for understanding. Those who “seek, ask, and knock” are given understanding – the Lord will enlighten them, and they will know how to live, they will know how to deal with all the evil and confusion going on around us. But those who do not bother to “seek, ask, and knock” will have no excuse.
May Our merciful Lord, “Who desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” enlighten us by His holy Word, which teaches us clearly that He is indeed the One Who created man in the beginning, Who desires to open our eyes to Who He is, and calls us to follow Him. May we receive the wisdom and strength to follow Him to the end, and receive the Heavenly Kingdom.
Christ is Risen!