Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, June 6, 2021.
I thought this would be a short sermon. It got a little bigger as I wrote it.
Jesus spits on the ground and makes a paste and anoints the blind man’s eyes. As we know, scripture is metaphorical. It points to truths that are hidden deep behind the words. Fr. John Behr points us to St. Irenaeus’ interpretation of the healing of the blind man. He writes that this miracle takes us back to the creation of male and female in Genesis. In the beginning God breathed his spirit into the dust of the earth to form a living human being. Today Jesus spits on the dust and produces a wondrous recreation.
In this reading St. John brings us full circle. He begins his Gospel with a reference to the beginning of all things, “In the beginning was the Word.” And today the Word remakes a blind man's eyes with his own spittle and some dust. “Behold,” he says, “I make all things new.”
Secondly, the Lord sends the blind man to the pool of Siloam to wash off the mud and then he receives his sight. Washing in the pool is an obvious reference to Holy Baptism where we die and rise with Christ to new life. John’s Gospel we know is the most overtly theological and sacramental Gospel. Through the waters the blind man was enlightened. In Baptism we say that we are illuminated. That That we begin at last to see and to perceive things as they really are; we are in God and God is in us.
Now to the apostles’ question, “Why was this man born blind?” They thought they knew when they inquired whether it was his parents or the blind man who sinned.
They were wrong. Jesus answers “neither one.” Then why? “So that God might be glorified in him.” To our ears it sounds wrong. Does God selfishly use the blind man for his own benefit? Then he would be a cruel and capricious deity.
Again we go back to Irenaeus and Fr. Behr. Irenaeus says that God omitted to fully form the man’s eyes so that his primary work, “the making and molding of authentic human beings” might be revealed. And to let us know that his desire is to do the same in all of us.
Did God make this man blind? I do not believe so, not any more than God made me nearsighted or my heart weak. The cocktail of DNA and genes (and in my case Southern fried everything) was enough to put a stint in my heart. We can be sure that the same grace that healed the blind man is also at work in us.
Finally, the blind man had to wait a long time for his healing. He was blind from birth. What are we to do when we are forced to wait for the healing we need and pray for?
Let me quote from the wonderful Fr. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin about this dilemma.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
Remember, there is an eternity in which God works, not bound by time nor geography or any other thing. Life continues on and on, our growth in Christ continues on and on, the image of God in which we have been wondrously made unfolds both here and there, forever and ever. Our evolution is endless and, as St. John tells us, "Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
This is the path God has set for all of us and he will see it accomplished in His own good time. For salvation and deification is a process that never ends.
And finally a quote from the great Franciscan theologian, Ilia Delio: "God is doing new things, Jesus proclaimed, but only those with new minds and hearts can see a new world breaking through the cracks of the old."
As the world seems to be falling apart around us, there is no need to fear. God is always doing something new.