On Guarding the Kingdom Within - A Homily on the Sunday of the Blind Man (2020)

May 24, 2020

On Guarding the Kingdom Within - A Homily on the Sunday of the Blind Man (2020)

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Introduction

We are in Paschaltide, and the Bright Resurrection of Christ is still emblazoned in our hearts. Although we proceed further from that saving event, day to day, week to week, and Sunday to Sunday, it’s presence remains through the chanting of the Paschal Troparion at mealtime, in the Divine Services, and during our private prayers. We continue to decorate the Church in white, and the clergy wear white vestments, the epitaphios remains on the altar. What is more, we greet each other with, “Christ is risen!”

Each of the Sundays following Pascha celebrates Gospel events which reveal Christ as the Messiah prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures - God in the flesh.

  • On the first Sunday after Pascha, we are taught of the Apostle Thomas, full of doubt regarding the resurrection of Christ, who learned of the condescending compassion of Christ when he saw the risen Lord and was invited to touch the wounds of His hands and side.
  • On the second Sunday, we hear that the Myrrh-bearing women were the first to bear witness to the resurrection and announce this to the Apostles.
  • On the third Sunday, the paralytic was a man whose infirmity was a result of his own sin (John 5.14), which was apparent to Christ, the God-man, who healed his paralysis and instructed him to sin no more or a consequence worse than paralysis would befall him.[1]
  • Last Sunday, following the comment, “I know that when the Messiah comes, he will tell us all things” (cf. John 4.25), the Samaritan woman, was the first to hear from the mouth of Christ, “I that speak unto thee am he” (cf. John 4.26).

Today is the Sunday of the Blind Man, and we have just listened to the reading of the Gospel of John chapter nine, where the Apostle describes Christ’s healing of a man blind from birth. In this narration, we have the juxtaposition of the physical blindness of this man with the spiritual blindness of the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees, who are continually seeking to condemn Christ. On this occasion, Christ reveals himself as the Creator and Messiah.

I. The Compassion of Christ

In introducing this event, the Apostle John, in the only Gospel to narrate this act, writes, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.”(9.1). The Evangelist draws our attention to the fact that the man did not seek Christ out; Christ sought him out. In other instances, we find that centurions come to him, [2] rulers in the synagogue,[3] a woman with a flow of blood for twelve years,[4] lepers,[5] the demon-possessed,[6] epileptics,[7] paralytics,[8] the mute,[9] the blind,[10] and many others. But at this moment, Christ came to this blind beggar. In the story of the paralytic, Christ also came to him, and also to the widow of Nain about which the Apostle Luke wrote, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her,” and then He spoke to her (cf. Luke 7.13). Today, Christ comes to the blind man.

II. On Physical Infirmities

Upon approaching him, Christ is asked by his disciples what the cause of this man’s blindness is to which Christ responds that this man’s blindness was due to no sin, neither his nor his parents. Instead, he is blind so that the works of God may be manifest in him (9.2-3).

And it is for thirty-eight years, the entirety of this man’s life, that he has been blind. Never was he to see the face of his father or mother or even his own countenance. Never could he see the food that he ate, the objects that he touched, the person who spoke to him. He was never a witness to physical beauty. He is the exception to what the Apostle Paul wrote when addressing the Romans saying, the invisible things are understood by the things which have been made, for this man sees nothing of the creation (cf. Rom. 1.20). However, the Creator of the world comes to him today.

As pitiful a state as this may seem, Christ answers his disciples that this man’s blindness is not a result of sin, nor is it a punishment because his blindness is not an evil. Instead, it is just the opposite – he is blind so that the works of God may be manifest in him. St. John Chrysostom comments on Christ’s response, noting that what people call evil may not be evil, and what they call good may not be good when he writes: “And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered his sight. As then the evils of this present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil.”[11]

III. The Virtue of the Blind Man

How did blindness harm this man? Are there evident vices in him that we can note in his interactions with Christ or with the Pharisees? No, but very much the opposite.

In their interactions, the blind man, at no time, blasphemes his Creator or blames him for his difficult life. This beggar does not complain about his lot in life or assign responsibility to another. When Christ comes to him, he does not contradict, he does not doubt, but wholeheartedly believes His instructions, and when told to go and wash his eyes at the pool of Siloam, he does and returns with his sight.

When he is brought before the Pharisees, although he knows nothing of Christ except that He gave him his sight, he considers himself Christ’s disciple.

When Christ finds the man after the interrogation by the Pharisees we see how receptive he is to Christ when Christ asks, “Do you believe in the Son of God,” and he responds by saying, “Who is he, that I may believe on him.”

Where is the evil in this blindness?

IV. The Vice of those Who Have Their Sight

In contrast, what gifts did the Pharisees not have, being the genealogical lineage of the Prophets and Fathers? They had the use of all of their five senses and not infirm in any of them. They had wealth and did not have to beg. They had positions of prominence amongst the people. What did they not have? But how did any of this benefit them because their spiritual blindness darkened their whole nature so what they have physically and financially were not to their benefit, but to their harm?

V. The Kingdom of God is within

What is external to a man is not what harms him, as in the case of this blind man. It is not blindness that ruins one’s virtue but sin. What harm was shipwreck, beatings, stonings, and perils to the Apostle Paul? Did he not glory in these instead? (cf. Rom. 5.3)

What harm did homeless wandering cause Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, who now helps the whole world?

What harm did the prison of Aiud do to Valeriu Gafencu, who received the glory of a martyr’s death?

What harm did blindness do to the virtue of St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia?

Never was it sight or wealth or country which benefits a man, but, as St. John Chrysostom writes, only “carefulness in holding true doctrine, and rectitude in life. Of these things not even the devil himself will be able to rob a man, if he who possesses them guards them with the needful carefulness.”[12]

VI. Conclusion

Today, the Light of the World comes to a man who lives in a world of night.

Today, the Creator comes to his broken creation.

Today, He who formed man from the dust of the earth uses dust to restore a man

Today, the Light of the world gives light to darkened eyes.

Today, the Son of Man is seen by the man once blind.

Today, God has revealed Himself and His creation worships Him.

My brothers, let us guard the Kingdom of God that lies within us and here store our treasure which cannot be corrupted.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

[1] The intereaction of Christ with the paralytic is similar to that of the Samaritan woman in that when the woman leaves the well, she finds her countrymen an tells them, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4.29). In the same way, Christ reveals to the paralytic that He knows the source of his paralysis and instructs him to not sin because a worse outcome would follow (cf. John 5.14). These events are comparative in that it reveals to the recipients that Jesus is the Christ.

[2] Cf. Matt. 8.5-13; Luke 7.1-10.

[3] Cf. Matt. 9.18-19, 23-26.

[4] Cf. Matt. 9.20-22; Mark 5.25-34.

[5] Cf. Matt. 8.1-4; Mark 1.40-45; Luke 5.12-16; 17.11-19.

[6] Cf. Matt. 8.28-34; Mark 1.32-34, 5.1-20; Luke 4.31-37; 8.26-39.

[7] Cf. Matt. 17.14-21; Luke 9.37-42.

[8] Cf. Mark 2.1-12; Luke 5.17-26.

[9] Cf. Matt. 9. 32-34; Mark 9.14-29.

[10] Cf. Matt. 9.27-31; 20.29-34; Mark 8.22-26; 10.46-52; Luke 18.5-43.

[11] Homily LVI in “Homilies on St. John” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series, Schaff, Philip, ed. (Peabody: Hendrikson Publishers, 1999), 201f.

[12] None can Harm Him Who Does Not Injure Himself, 273f.




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