“The blind teaches us to see”

“The blind teaches us to see”

John 9: 1-41

March 30, 2014
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

A Husband said to his wife: “Why did you give so much money to the beggar who was pretending to be blind?” “Didn’t you hear his good words to me?” The Wife replied. The husband curiously asked: “NO, what did he say?” The wife boasted: “He said that I was so kind, so pretty, and so young.” To which the husband submitted: O”h, I see, He’s really blind.”

Blindness can be physical as well as spiritual. These are what indeed we can learn from the Gospel this morning.

“As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'”.

It is important for us to remember that in Jesus’ day, most believed that all sickness and body deformities were the results of sin. The problem with this understanding is that it didn’t account for the sickness and suffering of the innocent, specially those who were born disabled or sick. What did they do to deserve this punishment? And to make their understanding fit reality they reasoned that birth defects were the result of the parent’s sin, or it was the result of some sin committed by the person in the womb. Imagine how people in history were killed, hanged and stoned because the religious people thought they have evil spirits in them? Do you know of a country today who still practice this understanding? Do you know of any group or individual who still believe that such deformities were results of sin? How many people hide and are afraid of being known to have such kind of diseases or feeling they are incomplete and less perfect? How many religious groups condemn them because of who and what they are? They speak of others but not of their own insufficiencies.

It would be a different situation If a mother takes drugs or drinks during pregnancy then her irresponsible acts may cause birth defects. But it is painfully clear that most illness or birth defects are not the result of sin. It would be inconceivable for God to make an infant blind because of some Irresponsible acts by the parents. And the idea that an unborn baby can sin is obviously ridiculous.

Jesus’ response to this question is one that every physically challenged person and every not yet physically challenged person needs to hear. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”(John 9:3) Then Jesus spit on the ground and made some mud from the dust of the earth and the water from his mouth. Next he took this mud and covered the man’s eyes with it. And he told the man to go to the pool and wash his eyes out. When the man had done that, he could see for the first time in his life. Now when you first read that, did you wonder why Jesus put spit in the man’s eyes? In essence that is what he did. The symbolic nature of that act is significant. In the beginning God had taken the dust of the earth and with the Divine breath breathed life into the first human. In the same way the Son of God took the dust of the earth and repeated this act of God to bring sight to a blind man.

Today’s Gospel however is really about spiritual blindness. The man’s physical blindness becomes an opportunity for God to help people see spiritually. Not only where his physical eyes made to see but our spiritual eyes are made to see because of him. The reality of Spiritual blindness remained however. The Pharisees are proof of that. The man’s physical blindness may not have been the result of sin, but the Pharisees spiritual blindness and our spiritual blindness is the result of sin.

If we come to think about it, the man born blind is a model for us to learn from. The blind man teaches us to see across and deeper than the superficial. Our adversities, our trials, our illnesses are not always punishment for sin. Occasionally they are. We need to be honest with ourselves when we bring trouble upon ourselves and confess those sins. I would argue that in the vast majority of cases our troubles are not the result of our sins. Rather these troubles are opportunities for God to be manifest, made known through us.

I had a patient who was born blind. You could just imagine how terrible it is to live without even seeing the beauty of creation and those who are around you. But such blindness did not prohibit this person to live a life that is joyous and worth living. I find her singing at times and enjoying listening to her favorite music. No amount of discouragement or depression will even take the joy away from her. What more to us who can see and have all our senses?

God works where He takes our incompleteness and turns them into advantages. He takes the negatives in our lives and turns them into positives. God takes our disabilities and turns them into opportunities. God takes our blindness and uses it to help us see thing much more important than sundown.

And so, the next time you see a man born blind, or a woman with no arms, or a boy with scoliosis, or a girl with Down’s Syndrome: don’t ask, “What did they do to deserve that?” If any human deserves punishment, we all do, because we have all sinned. Instead remember what Jesus said to his disciples; “It is not for sin but that God may be manifest.” And look at that person as a person, and allow God to open your eyes to wonderful truths you have always been blind to.

The next time you come face to face with your own disability, your own pain, your own sickness, or when your hair is vanishing: Don’t ask yourself, “What did I do to deserve this?” Odds are you are not being punished. Just lift your deformities and ills to the one who came to bring sight to the blind. He may cure you, like he did the man born blind, or he may let you stay as you are. But either way he will take your lack of abilities and lack of strength, and turn them into spiritual blessing for yourself and others.

Our health and wellness volunteers will be joining our Bishop Committee at a retreat on April 5. Part of their conversation is on how, we as a community, could be instruments of God in this vineyard? We are all called by God in this place for a purpose, and that purpose is to offer a space where hope and love is freely shared to all especially the poor, the physically and mentally challenged in this community. At the same time being able to forgive those who oppress others and let love lead us to where God wants us to be.

I ask you all to discern on what you can give to make a difference in our effort to bring light for all to see. Let me tell you that there’s more for us to learn and benefit than those whom we offer our services. For they become our own inspirations in life.

Jesus came to bring sight to the blind. He still works miracles and makes the physically blind see. But he knows that often the state of our souls is more important than the condition of our bodies. So sometimes he leaves us in a physically disabled condition to give us a much greater Spiritual ability. Come to Christ with all your physical and spiritual pain and let him recreate you just as he recreated that blind man’s eyes. Amen.


May I invite you to the well of the living?

Third Sunday in Lent

John 4:5-42

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Today’s Gospel takes us back to our early life experience on a well. Remember those times when you play around it, hide and seek with other kids while you’re waiting for your mom to fetch water? Do you remember the time when each member of the community will vigil to protect the well from any desecration because the well is our source of life.

The Metaphor, “Don’t spit in the well where you drink from” was derived from this experience.

Around the deep well, is a place where children play while their parents are lining up to fetch water. It is a place where stories of the day are heard and laughter sets the day for everyone. It is also a place where good counsels are whispered to those who are grieving. It is a place where you meet new friends. I still connect, to this day, with a friend I met at the well when I was 7 years old. It is a place where you can find Jesus making conversation with families.

I see that connection with the Gospel this morning. I would like us therefore to journey on the wonders of love set by our Lord Jesus Christ with the woman at the well. We will find out that Jesus broke every rule of old so that a new spirit of love will arise and make the things impossible become possible.

At the outset, it is very important for us to understand that during the time of Jesus, Jews do not associate themselves with the Samaritans. Samaritans were traditionally enemies of the Jews. The Samaritans and Jews did not mix with each other nor intermarry with each other. Jews and Samaritans had different centers of worship. The Jews believed that the center of worship was in Jerusalem; the Samaritans believed that the center of worship on Mount Gerazim. Jews believed the Scripture consisted of both the Law and the Prophets. The Samaritans believed the Scripture consisted of only the Law but not the Prophets. The Jews had their temple in which to worship the true God and the Samaritans had their temple in which to worship the true God.

Not only did Jews and Samaritans have no dealings with one another, even to accept a drink of water was the epitome of ritual uncleanness for a devout Jew. For a Jew to have any contact whatsoever with a prostitute only made matters worse. No wonder the woman was startled when Jesus asked for a drink and the disciples horrified when they returned. To find Jesus deep in conversation with this woman while sipping water from her pitcher broke all their preconceived notions about the relations of Jews and Samaritans. You can just imagine how a Jew then would try to avoid talking to any one from Samaria. Just like when you try to avoid someone whom you have a grudge with, or someone whom you hate to even see their shadows or smell their presence. Wrinkles begin to show on your forehead, your heartbeats start to run, you become irritated then the feeling of hate will start your day. Do you remember any of that?

Jesus broke the rule of non-association with sinners. He saw in this woman the opportunity to show the world that God is not contained in one tribe or one nation but rather God is the God of all nations and we are all His children. Jesus loved this woman at the well, and he wants us to love her as well. Jesus had compassion for her and Jesus wants us to have compassion for her as well. Jesus did not condemn her and Jesus doesn’t want us to condemn her either. Jesus wasn’t harsh with her. He didn’t put her down. He didn’t judge her. She would have been an easy mark being a prostitute or an outcast. It would have been so easy for Jesus to condemn her, to reprimand her, to say “naughty, naughty, naughty, mustn’t do that, woman.” Jesus didn’t say that. From the first moment Jesus was with her, he sensed tenderness towards her. He didn’t seem upset by her behavior. Closely examine the story for today and you will not find one hint of condemnation of her, not one single word of criticism of her. Instead, Jesus sense her tenderness, knowing her personal tragedies. Jesus did not have that judgmental spirit to his personality.

Do you know the people Jesus did condemn? The religious people. The Pharisees who thought that their sins weren’t as bad as the woman at the well. Those were the people that Jesus condemned. Not the woman at the well. Jesus loved that woman.

A story is told of three men who died and went to heaven. God was in a good mood and so he thought of giving each of them a chance to return to earth in any form they would like to be. So the first man said, “Lord, I want to go back just as I except that I would be ten times smarter.” So God made him return to earth as a man but ten times smarter.” The next one said, “Lord, I want to be better than the first guy, so make me a hundred times smarter.” So God made him return to earth as a man but a hundred times smarter. The third one said, “Lord, I want to be the best. Make me a thousand times smarter.” The Lord thought for a while and then he made the third guy return to earth—as a Woman!

You see, Love breaks every residue of evil within us, we only have to learn to open up with love then everything follows. And that is the way that Jesus feels about you and me as well. Jesus loves us in all of our sinfulness. So when we live our marriages in such a way that it is not good, healthy and appropriate, Jesus did not condemn us. When we commit adultery or when we get married five times or when we are dating with more than one person or when we get into conflict with our neighbors, does Jesus condemn us any more than the woman at the well? No. You and I don’t need condemnation. What we need is living water. Jesus offered the woman what she really needed. She needed living water, not a condemnation. Jesus wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction, change her. Jesus wanted to offer this woman the living water. So when Jesus came into her private and personal life, he did not give her a little moral lecture about divorce, a recitation of the ten commandments with an emphasis on the sixth commandment and adultery. Jesus came into her private life and offered her not a lecture but the living water.

And that is the way God works with you and me. A sign that God is active in our lives is when he comes into our personal lives. Jesus wants to get personal with you and me. Jesus wants to get into your private life and mine. You have a private and personal life which is contrary to the will of God. And Christ comes into our personal lives, not to embarrass us, not to judge us, not to be unkind or malicious to us. But Christ comes to free us and change us and offer us what we really need: living water.

Many of us are thirsty on such living water, such love. Are you thirsty? Is there dryness anywhere in your life? Is there a part of your heart that has been burnt by the heat of someone else’s hate? Is there a part of your soul that you have failed to water and like a neglected house plant is brown and wilting. Is there a need in you for love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Do you ever thirst for something deeper and more meaningful in life? Come to the well. Meet Jesus there. He will give you living water. He will give us water that brings new life to the dead parts of our hearts and souls. Once we have drank of that water we will never thirst again for eternity. Jesus already knows you better than you know yourself. As with the woman at the well he can see the turmoil in our lives. He can see the pain of betrayal. Accept him and his gift of living water, new life, and eternal life.

Like all the holy men and women we had in this Church, Thomasita Purganan, Dolores Cudiamat, Dolores Santos, Himaya Aurelio, Amparo Flores, Saniata De Santis, Elsie Martin, Maria Cappa. These were the women who helped shaped this Church. let us continue to be faithful to our callings and serve God wherever the Holy Spirit takes us. Let the living water that is in our hearts flow like a river to those whom we meet, at a well, at a bus station, senior center, Convalescent homes, malls, at church and everywhere.

May we all be drawn closer to God in our daily experiences and walks of life in this season of Lent by showing love, compassion and respect to one another. May we always be faithful to God in our quench for living water. May I invite you therefore to the well of the living where we all gather to the table of Christ and that may the Holy Communion we share  quench our thirsty soul with the living water, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.