- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
Are you Blind? Sunday of the Blind Man - May 29th 2022
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
At that time, as Jesus passed by, he 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?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet. The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be Christ he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him. So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Christ is Risen!
I am Blind
Many times, I would be looking for something, like my wallet or my car keys, or even the salt shaker, I would be looking for them on the table, and even though I am spending my time searching for them, and they are on the table, yet I am not able to find them. The usual scenario that happens over and over and over again is that I would call Sara, and I would ask her to find my car keys, and she would go to the exact same place that I was looking in, and she would find them. She would smile, look at me, and tell me: Khalid you are blind. This happens all the time, many years ago I would get offended, but after the same things happen for years, I would smile and nod in agreement. She is right I am blind. The reason that happens is because even though I am spending the physical effort, my mind is somewhere else.
Types of Blindness
There are two types of Blindness. Physical and Spiritual. What we mean by physical blindness is not the medical diagnosis of “legally blind”, but physical blindness means that the physical eyes can see everything in the world, but cannot see the true reality of it. This Physical blindness will lead to spiritual blindness.
Physical Blindness is explained very well by St. Theophan the Recluse, in his book Unseen Warfare. He says:
“More than anything my brother, keep a firm grasp on those evil and quick evil robbers, your eyes, and never let them be curious
Curiosity of the eyes of things of the world, cause our eyes to be used for a purpose that Christ never intended. St. Theophan gives three types of blindness that are caused by these unholy intentions.
The first thing that he discusses is the blindness caused by sexual desire going down the immoral route beyond God’s plan for it to be properly fulfilled in marriage:
Also a wise man wrote, "Gazing begets desire." Solomon also advises us against being allured by the eyes and wounded by a desire for beauty, "Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her take you with her eyelids" ( Prov 6:25 ). Here are some examples of the evil ends of lustful looks: sons of God, descendants from Seth and Enoch were captivated by Cain's daughters ( Gen 4:1 ); Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, beheld Dinah, Jacob's daughter and took her; Samson was attracted to the beauty of Delilah ( Judges 16:1 ); David fell by gazing upon Bathsheba ( 2 Sam 11:1 ); two of the elders, who were judges of the people, were drunk with the beauty of Susanna (Dan 13:1)
The second physical blindness he discusses is the obsession with food, material things, and money:
Take heed also not to look too attentively at luxurious food and drinks, recalling our mother Eve, who gazed with lustful eyes upon the fruit on the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden. For she lusted after it, plucked and ate and thus brought death upon herself and all her offspring. Do not look enviously at fair clothing made of glittering silver and gold, for fear vanity and avarice enter into your soul from your eyes. Pray as David did, "Turn my eyes away from seeing vanity" ( Ps 119:37 ).
The third physical blindness that St. Theophan is warning us from is the talks and actions of this world:
I generally advise to take heed not to look at dancing, feasts, quarrels, idle gossip and other such unprofitable and disgraceful things, loved by the vain world and disallowed by God's law. Run away and shut your eyes to all these things, for fear you fill your heart with passion and your mind with disgraceful images, and stimulate in yourself a revolt and war against yourself, and thus break your advancement in your struggle against your passions.
So what is the solution that St. Theophan gives to overcome these temptations: Fill our eyes with holy scenary:
Instead love to visit churches and to gaze upon the holy icons, books, tombs, graveyards and other such sacred items, the mere sight of which will have a beneficial effect on your soul.
Physical Blindness happens when we don’t see the most important fact in life. We have a life beyond the grave, we have infinite love that is eternal. The prodigal son was blind to see the love of his father and was consumed by the love of money. He focused on the short today, and forgot the eternal tomorrow. We have a life of eternity, our focus today and tomorrow and every second of our lives is how to prepare to eternal life, not how to prepare lunch, not how to prepare for a house, or not how to prepare for retirement, all these things will be added by Christ as He promised. Our focus is on our Father who is in heaven.
As for spiritual blindness. It is best described by our own St. Basil the Great in his Hexaemeron:
Hear, O you deaf! See, O you blind!— who, then, is deaf? He who does not hear this startling voice of the Holy Spirit. Who is blind? He who does not see such clear proofs of the Only begotten.
According to St. Basil: Those who do not see Christ is the source of all good things, even the good works that they are doing, or the good thoughts that they have, are blind.
Isiah 5:21 "Woe to those that are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight". The apostles Pail also says, "Do not be wise in your estimation" Rom 12:16.
The Example of Job
A clear example was Job, the one who suffered a lot of adversity, God allowed this adversity because he was blind to his true reality. This is how he thought about himself:
Job 29: 11-33: And when the eye saw, then it approved me; Because I delivered the poor who cried out, The fatherless and the one who had no helper. The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, And I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, And I was feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, And I searched out the case that I did not know. I broke the fangs of the wicked, And plucked the victim from his teeth.
Even though Job was a righteous man, he did not attribute it to God’s grace, but to his own self. He considered himself “too righteous”. Job was blind to the cancer of pride that was going through him. This is why God allowed adversity to befall him, so he can open his eyes and repent.
Purity of Heart
In Matthew 5:8 Christ tells us very clearly Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
St. Basil Explains it best in one of his letters:
Then, I conclude that it is of no small importance, nor of benefit only for a little while, that the soul's eye should be so purged that, after being freed from all the darkness of ignorance, as though from some blinding humour, one can gaze intently on the beauty of the glory of God.
A Moment of Creation
What happened in today’s Gospel was Christ spitting on the ground. The exact same act that happened in Genesis in the creation of Man. What happened was a moment of creation. Or rather, a moment of re-creation. What happened was beyond explanation. To have the ability to see God incarnate Himself doing the same act that no one saw, was a gift and grace unimaginable. He did that in front of the Pharisees, who knew the scripture by heart. Unfortunately, because the Pharisees were the embodiment of blindness, they did not see that. They did not see the love, They did not see the son of God, they ignored everything heavenly, divine, and beautiful beyond beauty itself, and focused on their own little petty egos been shattered.
The Big Question
The question is: Are we any better? Do we see Christ’s love in the Chalice? Do we see His mercy every day? Do we see His beauty and His tenderness even through the hard days? Or do we focus on our small troubles and forget that the incarnate God is amongst us and is united with us. Are we just spending the effort of coming to Church like me searching for my keys while our minds are wandering around a million different things.
My dear brothers and sisters, today, the Church is telling you and me: Christ can re-create you. He can make you whole again. He can make you open your eyes to His power than live your life blinded by your weakness. Open your eyes to His love rather than live in anxiety. Open your heart to forgiveness rather than live in guilt. Open your eyes and heart to His strength in overcoming temptations rather than be beaten by them every day. Today, Christ can speak to our eyes and heart the same words He uttered at the beginning of the creation: “Let there be light”, and will let His light erase all the darkness with us.
Today, through the Chalice, the Church will help you see the salvation of the Lord. So we sign with Symeon the elder: Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Every time we pray: Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. We will be able to see a minute glimpse of God’s Glory? Because if we are, we are better prepared to serve Him:
Luke 1:2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,
Then we can see the great amount of grace within us. We can see that with God all things are possible. You Can see how much you are loved? And how much you are worth to Christ? If you cant see, just look at the cross and open your eyes...
May God help us open our eyes as the disciples of Emmaus, and heal our nous so we can see everything heavenly, through the intercessions of the Theotokos and of all the saints, amen.