Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on May 29, 2022
Confronted by the inconvenient healing of the Blind Man the Pharisees employed a classic defense. Deflection. Notice how hard they tried to deflect attention from the healing. Look over here! Nothing to see over there! They attempted to undermine the veracity of the healing by trying to get the man to say he had not been born blind. Failing at that they called witnesses, including his parents, to refute the story. That, too, failed.
So, they doubled down with more deflection blaming Jesus. Look past the miracle! The real problem is that Jesus broke the Law. Put your attention on that not on the fake news about a blind man receiving his sight!
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of the diocese including Uvalde, Texas put it well when he said, "There is a moral dimension to how we organize ourselves, for the sake of...the good of children, the good of the elderly, the good of the sick...there are certain laws that need to be constructed in a way that promote the best possible stewardship of human life, and of a peaceful community." It is way past time that we stop allowing the normalization of carnage in our country. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong.
How can we not admit that there is something horribly wrong if parents send their children to school each day praying they won't get shot?
There is, by the way, a loophole in the Sabbath Law about healing. If a life is in danger without outside intervention, then it is permissible to heal on the Sabbath. But, obviously Jesus created a loophole big enough to drive a truck through by claiming that the loophole includes donkeys stuck in ditches. The Law must serve the common welfare of people and in the Lord's eyes even of animals. We are not to be idolators or slaves of the Law. If a law fails to protect us, then it must be changed.
Blinded by the letter of the law the Pharisees could not see, or would not see, the gracious goodness of the miracle nor could they empathize with the man born blind who could now see. In this critical moment there are many who are blinded by the law so much so that concern over the killing of children in school, shoppers, innocent concert-goers, worshippers in churches, synagogues, gurudwaras, mosques, and temples must take a backseat to our lust for legal fundamentalism.
The words and actions of legal fundamentalists betrays a callous disregard for the innocent and the needy. Who cares about suffering humanity since it is only the law and my individual rights that matter? Not for followers of Jesus it isn't. What matters is the Other. What matters is Love. Wouldn't all of us be willing to lay down our lives for our children and grandchildren, and our neighbors if need be? Well, some would, but Christ did it and if we are truly his, then we must go and do likewise.
Fundamentalists always miss the point. Thinking they know everything, they cannot learn anything. For those who know everything there can be no growth, no progress, no enlightenment, no deeper understanding, no admission of fault even when it stares them in the face. The question was asked recently, "If we think we know it all, what comes next?" I'll tell you what comes next, an endless repetition of the same old thing. We have heard the pious cliche "Our thoughts and prayers are with you" after every mass shooting, but what it really means is this, "Look the other way. You'll get over it." Pious-sounding, sugary sweet, hollow, good-for-nothing deflection.
I believe that we must come together and work for the common good. It is time to act out the Gospel in real time, to speak "inconvenient truths" loudly, to demand change where it is needed.
Because the formerly blind man insisted on telling the truth the Pharisees banished him from the synagogue. They cried, "Who are you to teach us?" They greatly misunderstood the him and miscalculated his strength. Even casting him out of the synagogue, the same as social shunning, didn't phase him. Where is the courage of the Blind Man when we need it most?
As you know I love St. Gregory of Nyssa's definition of sin as "the refusal to grow." If this is true as I believe it is, and we persist in claiming we have everything figured out, that repentance is unnecessary, then the infection, left alone, will metastacize. "If we say we have no sin, we are liars and the truth is not in us." Then we do well to remember the well-known definition of insanity, which is, doing everything the same old way expecting different results.
Now you and I are supposed to be the light of the world. At least Jesus says so. Like yeast in a loaf and candles burning in the darkness, clothed by the Holy Spirit by baptism in "robes of light," living, breathing incarnations of the Lord, examples of enlightenment, wisdom, compassion, and truth to the world with eyes wide open and hearts even more so. Sometimes the quiet and dynamic work of yeast is called for and at other times the startling, piercing character of light is needed. Now is the time for light.
Here is the call to action I would like to sound. It comes in a quote by L.P. Knost.
"Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in the darkness for the light that is you."