Suppose all were blind but three of us, and we tell you that we could see the sun appear in the morning, and after twelve hours of daylight it goes down and there’s night. Would you believe us? A fraction of you may, but there’s a large number who would tag our claim “delusional.” And if they have learned a little psychology and can statistically poll the number of people who strongly agree or not, they’ll infer that since they’re blind, everyone else is blind. If we hold to our claim and say that there’s something like the rainbow, a blue sky and green trees, they’ll suggest that our claim was a complex based on wishful thinking and suggest we see a therapist to cure us of our curious wish for color.
Do you know that such is the attitude of people who live in sin, unhappiness and agony, who call love of God or divine truth a superstition or a myth? In their arrogance and blindness, they turn their backs on God with familiar statements, like: “I believe only what I see, feel or touch; ...I make my own decisions and I decide for myself what is right or wrong; ...Show me where God is; at best, he is absentminded; ...the Church is a bunch of power-hungry men who control the lives and freedoms of people, especially women; ...priests are hypocrites and creepy men who sleep with children, etc.” A little extra wealth will make some boast that they’re happy here and wouldn’t need any sort of heaven hereafter.
Compare this attitude to that of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. They were convinced that there was no way Jesus could be the Christ and added a threat: “If anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue.” So, when the formerly blind beggar told them that Jesus could be the Christ, they quipped: “Are you trying to teach us?” And because he was born blind, they added an insult: “You were born totally in sin.” But the man who had been healed had much better vision and insight than they did. His healing came progressively, unlike Christ’s other miracles. He was first healed of physical blindness, then followed the miracle of spiritual sight, which also happened gradually. In the first miracle, he gradually started to see physical objects like everyone else, but in the second, faith was awoken in him; he had a spiritual insight that put him above, especially, the “blind-know-it-all-Pharisees.”
Today’s miracle is a reminder that spiritual blindness wreaks more havoc than mere physical blindness. There is more to sight than open eyes, more to speech than moving lips, and more to movement than hiking the trail. A man or woman caught up in the blind alleys of hatred, resentment, prejudice, passion and falsehood may refuse to see a better world. For example, you would have noticed that majority in today’s media, of either persuasion, suffer from such terrible blindness that it would require extraordinary intellectual integrity and divine intervention to dig them out of the dark alleys in which they’re trapped. I have never seen such blindness, anger and hysteria. Pure demonic infestation.
The blind man of today has something to teach all of us: we need to progressively encounter Jesus anew, especially in the age of coronavirus. In his case, the progression is made from seeing Jesus as a mere man to seeing him as a prophet. Eventually, when his spiritual sight is totally restored, his gift of faith proves even more miraculous than his physical sight, when he says, “I believe you are the Lord.” Like him, we received at the baptismal font the gift of faith, curing us of our spiritual blindness. We grew with that, and as our faith matured, our perception of Jesus also matured. We’ll keep maturing till our perception of Jesus reaches its richest form. The exciting thing about Jesus is that the more we learn about him, the greater he becomes. Sadly, in other relationships, the more we learn about our wife, husband, friend, or neighbor, the more their shortcomings are revealed.
Going back to our earlier story, suppose one of us who could see becomes so ridiculed that he finally plucks out his eyes. That would correspond to abandoning one’s faith because of the scorn and derision of the world. This Lent, resolve never to judge your life by the candlelight of the mediocrity and ordinariness of your spiritually blind neighbors; instead, glow in Divine Light.
Fr. Jo Chukwudi Okonkwo