FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
Blindness is the inability to see anything, including light. According to some people blindness is arguably the worse disease that can affect man. For uncountable times we may have passed by blind beggars on our streets and felt pity for them by dropping few coins in their bowls but they are not the people who deserve our pity; it is we who think we can see with our two eyes that need pity. With recent happenings, I will like to think that we are really the real blind people. With all our scientific inventions, how did we fail to see the advent of this corona virus pandemic? Some people used various means to offer us clues that this may happen to us but we simply fail to see because we may be blind to the essentials of life. I have been informed of a movie called “Contagion” and a speech by Bill Gates on the virus. Were we alerted of the coming of corona virus but we simply failed to see? Is a shame; if our world lacks “seers”. Our reflections on today’s readings may offer us some lessons on who really is suffering from blindness.
The 18th century philosopher, David Hume, did not believe in God. He did not believe in miracles either. He said that if he actually saw a dead person coming back to life, he would still not believe. He would rather conclude that his eyes deceived him, since his reason (mind) would still be telling him that it was impossible for a dead person to come back to life.
Something similar was the unhappy lot of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage. They saw the man who had been born blind seeing. They asked the man if he was really the same person who had been born blind. They asked his parents. They all said that he was the same person. The man told them how he had come to be able to see, that it was Jesus who had made it possible for him to see. They were not convinced. Jesus could not have done such a thing, and particularly not on the Sabbath, since that would have entailed his having to work on that day, thereby breaking the Sabbath. No friend of God would break the Sabbath for whatever reason, including giving sight to a blind person; only a sinner could. So, if indeed Jesus gave sight to the man on the Sabbath, he must have been a sinner. It was left to the man who had been born blind to point out how unreasonable their position was: “…if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing”, least of all, give sight to a man born blind.
At that point, it was no longer the man who had been born blind that was blind; Jesus had given him his sight. It was the Pharisees who were blind, refusing to see. Although they had their eyes wide open, they were not seeing with them. Something had blinded them. That thing was envy. How could Jesus do such a thing that they couldn’t do? Against all available evidence, they had to convince themselves that Jesus did not do it. They tried to convince everyone else – the man who had been born blind, his parents, and perhaps the onlookers as well – but they failed. The evidence was too glaring to be ignored or wished away.
We can still see the same thing happening to this very day: people seeing the truth, and denying it for their own selfish reasons. Maybe they don’t like the person who has done something good, something commendable, and they have to lie that he did not do it, or if he did it, his motive was less than wholesome. Or perhaps it is something that they would like to be able to do themselves, but they cannot do it. But the truth is very stubborn; it doesn’t go away. Sooner or later it will surface to haunt those who tried to suppress it. That was the bitter experience of those Pharisees who tried to deny the truth that Jesus had given sight to a man who had been born blind. It is the sad lot of all those who imagine that they can stifle the truth in our own time, and get away with it.
When someone is having the challenge of “spiritual blindness”, he judges by appearance because he is blind to spiritual contents and cannot discern the ways of God. When we consider in the first reading the events of the choosing of David, we find in them confirmation that the smallest one, the one of whom no one (neither Jesse nor Samuel) expected much, suddenly becomes the right one, the one chosen by God, the one who surpasses all his brothers. “Not as man sees does God see”, the prophet seeking the one to be anointed king is told. “From that day on”, not before, it reads, “the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David”, a spirit that permitted him to develop into a symbol and ancestor of Jesus, a prophet who, in the tragedies of his old age anticipates something of the Passion of his descendant – much as the grace-gifted blind man was ultimately thrown out of the synagogue.
The second reading simply admonishes us to live as “children of the light.” All of us have followed the path of the man born blind: “There was a time when you were in darkness, but now (you are) light in the Lord”, that is, through the Lord, who is the light of the world, you are taken up into his light, and therefore you must “live as children of the light”. As such, like the man born blind, we should bring the darkened object to the Light and hand it over, so that, flooded with light, it can become visible and, if it lets itself be handed over, can itself become light. Here, as in the great narrative of the Gospel, it becomes clear that Jesus’ light not only illumines but transform what it illuminates into a light that radiates and enlightens alongside his light. We pray that God will heal our respective blindness.