As you listen to the story in today’s Gospel about the man born blind, think about this question: What do you and I ‘know’ about God? Some people admit they know nothing of God – some of us pretend to know a lot about God – and others think we know it all! … or at least… we know all we need to know. That’s a dangerous place to be – thinking we know it all. It sets us up to judge everyone around us – and we may even find ourselves judging God himself.
When Jerry was in high school, like most young people, he wasn’t sure he believed in Jesus – or even in God for that matter. It just seemed like with all the scientific evidence out there for evolution and the age of the word and the big bang theory – the stories in the bible seemed like irrelevant old-fashioned tales that grandmothers use to keep their kids in line. Like most people his age – and truthfully – like many people of all ages – he didn’t see a ‘need’ for God anymore. Science explained it all.
So he decided to stop believing. He called himself an agnostic – but he lived more like an atheist. See – an agnostic is somebody who thinks we can’t prove God exists… but an atheist ‘knows’ there is no God. Yeah, atheists can be good, moral people – but without God, everyone decides for themselves what is right and what is wrong… again, because without God, there’s no objective morality. Jerry started living that way – doing what HE wanted to do - doing things which got him into trouble – and he hurt people – and even hurt himself more than he even knew.
In college, Jerry had sunk to the lowest of his life – he was doing all the things he was expected to do at college. At first it was fun – something new – he felt like an adult when he did those things. But one night, his girlfriend broke up with him – You’re just no fun to be around anymore. You use people – you’re always drunk – and all you think of is yourself.
It was a kick in the gut… The next night, Jerry said ‘no’ when his roommates invited him to go partying again – he thought – is this really fun? Getting so drunk that I can’t remember the evening – then throwing up and dealing with a hang-over the next day? He was also cut to the core by his ex-girlfriend’s accusations. Jerry had been a good kid his whole life – and to think that he was now known as a ‘trouble-maker and a ‘user’ – that was a wake up call for him. He realized if he continued down this path, he would live a lonely life because he would hurt anyone he came close to. For some reason, he had a vision of his grandma sitting in her rocking chair praying the rosary. It was a common sight as a kid…but something made it come to his mind this morning. His grandma was a saint... and he wanted more than ever to be like her. He wanted to be the person he used to be.
One of his high school friends was also on campus – she was involved in the campus ministry. He’d regularly made fun of her with his buddies as she would invite them to the Sunday evening Mass. But she never let it phase her… she just kept asking. Thinking of how he’d treated her, he regretted it – and he could see what an absolute jerk he had become.
He texted her and asked if he could go to church with her that afternoon… and they talked for hours afterward. He told her how he realized that living life without a moral compass was leading him to be a person he didn’t like. He admitted to her he still didn’t really know if God existed or if Jesus was the Son of God – but he envied the life he saw that she had – the life he used to have with his grandma - so I want to know Jesus again – I want to have the faith I had as a kid – I want to like myself again.
Jerry was like the blind man in the gospel today - notice that he was born blind – so he didn’t even know what it MEANT to see! To him, the world had no light in it – he’d never seen light, so he didn’t even know what light was! But Jesus met him where he was and touched him. Notice the guy only had to do two things: he had to let Jesus touch him – and he had to wash in the pool of Siloam… it’s an act of faith… a stepping away from his past in order to grasp the grace that Jesus was giving.
His eyes were opened immediately – but his faith in Jesus took a bit more time – notice his Progression of faith:
- When he was first being questioned by his neighbors, he just referred to the man who cured him as “the man called Jesus”;
-Then when being questioned by the Pharisees about the cure, he admitted, “He is a prophet”;
-When the Pharisees question him a second time, he progressed to say Jesus was “a man … from God”;
-But after getting thrown out, he met Jesus who asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” After a brief exchange, He made his profession of faith: “I do believe, Lord.”
Notice too how all through the reading, people ‘know’ everything – for example: the apostles asked if this man was blind because of his own sin or his parents sin. They ‘knew’ that anybody with a physical handicap only had it because of sin. Jesus says – hogwash. OK – that’s not a direct translation, but it’s pretty close ;)
The Pharisees say – we ‘know’ this man can’t be from God because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath. See – in the day – you were not allowed to heal anything on that day… so if you sprained your ankle, you couldn’t even pour cold water over it to stop the swelling. They were so stuck in their ‘knowledge’ of right and wrong that they didn’t seem to care that the laws of the universe had been bent to heal a man born blind! Their knowledge blinded them.
The only person who was NOT secure in his knowledge was the man who had been blind – he made this profound statement: “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
HE was the only one who actually KNEW anything. Where did he get this knowledge? It wasn’t anything he learned from a book or a sermon… his knowledge came from his EXPERIENCE. He had been touched by Jesus and it changed his life.
How’s this apply to you and me? We all are born blind, but gradually our eyes adjust and we can make out shapes – then we recognize mom’s face – and gradually we see the world around us as it is. We are also born spiritually blind – but fortunately for most of us, our parents introduced us to Jesus. As kids, we had a childish faith – not a bad thing – in fact, we should all be blessed to have the faith of a child – but at some point, we start questioning… why do we go to church? Is this really the body and blood of Jesus? Does God exist? Questions are good – let me reiterate – we all NEED to question. Because until we question, our faith is really just a matter of acting out what our parents taught us. We might learn our prayers and receive the Sacraments and ‘think we know’ all the answers, but knowing answers is not the same as knowing Jesus. It’s only in looking back at our EXPERIENCE of Jesus that we realize our eyes have been opened.
But here’s the thing –Jesus can’t open our eyes – He can’t touch us - until we admit we’re blind.