In today’s gospel passage we hear so much about blindness and the miracle of the Lord to restore a man’s vision, his physical sight. As we have witnessed in many stories of the gospel, as we go through the passage we begin to understand that things are not quite what they seem. We learn over the course of the reading that the true problem isn’t the lack of physical sight of the blind man, but rather the lack of spiritual sight of the Pharisees. Spiritual blindness is more significant than physical blindness. I should be quite content to be physically blind as long as my heart and soul are not blinded as well.
What does spiritual blindness look like? It starts with each of us and our understanding of ourselves. St. John of Kronstadt said “Every man on earth is sick with the fever of sin, with the blindness of sin and is overcome with its fury.” So this blindness is caused by and is a direct result of sin. And it is coupled with pride. Pride justifies our behaviors and our failings to others and to ourselves instead of admitting that we struggle and fail and are in desperate need of God’s mercy and healing.
We begin the process of healing and of receiving our sight when we counteract our pride with the virtue of humility. This process begins when we can confess our sins. That doesn’t mean simply saying that you are a sinner, but really recognizing it from the depths of your heart because that is where the healing happens. St. Nikolai of Zicha writes, “It is of more importance to the Lord that a man acknowledge and confess his sickness and cry for help in his heart than with this tongue, for the tongue is capable of deception, but the heart is not.” As Christians we demonstrate our true heartfelt compunction and repentance by coming to a priest and confessing in his presence. This is a difficult thing to do because it requires humility. In the sacrament of confession we confess with our tongue but we must have a heartfelt desire to bring these sins to the priest. It requires us to bring our sins out of hiding in the depths and into the light where they can be exposed to the Son.
We are encouraged to come without shame but instead to be courageous in our repentance. We should have shame when we sin, and we are often bound with the sense of shame after we sin, but we should repent and confess with courage and the Lord will give us an increase of humility and courage to continue to struggle as warriors. St. John Chrysostom taught “Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent. Pay attention to what the devil did to you. These are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine. Just as there are for the body wounds and medicines, so for the soul are sins and repentance. However, sin has the shame and repentance possesses the courage.”
All that we have said so far is summed up in this verse from the Apostle John who wrote,
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1Jn 1:8-9
The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees was not limited to refusing to see their own sins and judging others. It was even greater. It was a refusal to acknowledge the works of God that had been revealed to them. How does this relate to each of us? It relates to us because we often lack gratitude and forget to see the hands of God working in our lives each and every moment of every day. If we understood even a tenth of a percent of what the Lord does to bless our lives and protect and provide for us, we would fall down on our faces in awe and wonder.
We can get stuck in our negative ways of thinking. We can be so focused on what we don’t see happening in our lives or what we don’t have, that we refuse to see what the Lord is actually doing and how He has generously provided for us. We can get stuck in way of thinking and relating to the world that is unenlightened, blind.
The Pharisees were so stuck in their preconceived thoughts and ways that they couldn’t see the hand of God when He was working right before their very eyes. Imagine the magnitude of missing out on what was happening right before them, and the One who had caused these things to happen. But the corrupt Pharisees went even further than to simply ignore what God was doing, they rejected Him completely. They believed in their own opinions and judged all who came to them without hesitation. They did not see Christ in the face of the man born blind, and since they had rejected him, it was only natural that they would also reject the Lord who had healed the man, restored his health and in truth, given him new life.
This is the God whom we serve, the God whom we love because He first loved us. He didn’t heal the blind man because He needed attention or acclamation, He did it because He desires to heal and to make all things new. Run to this Lord and God and cry out to Him. Let us not harden our hearts but in humility let us confess and ask the Lord to remove our blindness again and again so that we might see the gift of life that has been given to us and all of the ways that the Lord is continually working to care and provide for us. Then there is no doubt that we will proclaim boldly “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation!” Christ is risen!