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John 9

“For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind”.

Each of us has two kinds of vision. That we have through our eyes which permits us to view the natural world around us, and that vision we have through the eyes of our soul which permits us to see the spiritual wonder of God within.

In today’s gospel reading Christ heals the person who was born blind. This healing occurs immediately after his escape from the Temple where the Pharisees sought to stone him. Christ is asked a question by his disciples of whether his lack of sight from birth is as a result of his parents sinning or himself sinning. It seems illogical at first that a person could sin before they are born, however the Old Testament has a number of examples of this very thing. The Pharisees themselves say to the man who received his sight “you are born in utter sin”. Christ’s response to this is that it was neither his parents nor he who sinned but that the works of God may be manifest. Let us not for one moment think that this person was born blind so God could manifest his glory. Rather, Christ worked his miracle upon this blind person and it is that miracle that manifests his glory. This tells us something about the concept of original sin. Original sin came from the views of St Augustine who believed that as a result of Adam’s fall we are all inheritors of the sin of disobedience. That sin is passed upon us at the time of our conception. In other words we all carry, according to the Roman Catholic view, the actual sins of Adam. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, has a different understanding. We believe that we have inherited the consequences of Adam’s disobedience, namely death. Accordingly, we consider that through baptism, confession and the Eucharist we can grow closer to God and overcome the ancestral sin to be at one with God. So although we may in every sense be born blind God can manifest his glory through us by changing us spiritually and thereby manifesting his glory.

The Pharisees, however, had no interest in spiritual sight. Their view was that provided they carried out the law as set out in the Old Testament they had met their obligation to God. The reality is that Jews did not see their relationship with God as a personal relationship but rather as a contract. They believed that provided they kept their side of the contract God would be pleased with them. In other words they believed that God is found through the law. Christ, on the other hand, gave a new covenant to us all – not of the law as the Jews understood it but that of the spirit, for as St Paul says in 2 Corinthians “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life”. In other words God is not found in rules but in the Holy Spirit that manifests itself through love.

So, who is Christ referring to when he says that those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind? Christ is referring to those that follow and keep his word as being those who may see, and they see through the eye of their soul the beauty and wonder of Christ. On the other hand, those that can see now may not be able to see in the future because the eye of their soul becomes blind at the beauty and wonder of Christ. When the eye of their soul becomes blind they lose sight of what is important. When they put their wants above the needs of their neighbours. When they ignore their neighbours. When they consider that what they have is for themselves alone. When they simply just don’t care. As they grow increasingly self-absorbed the ability of their mind’s eye to focus on Christ is lost. Christ said you cannot serve both God and mammon. You must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. To be sure we all need to work to survive. We all need financial security. But above all we all need to share – each one of us – there are no exceptions. None of us can ever say that we have nothing to share with someone else. God has given each one of us individual talents and he obliges us to use those talents, whatever they may be, not just for ourselves but for the other. So let us keep the word of God so that the glory of God may be manifest in us. Let us overcome the death inherited from Adam. Let us all strive to live in the spirit that manifests itself through love so that we love one another, so when the day of judgement comes Christ may say well done good and faithful servant.