We have seen darkness everywhere in the world: threat of terrorism in our country, war in Afghanistan, killings between Muslims and Hindu in India, bloodshed between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Are we in the dark or in the light? Are we blind? Are people in the world blind? We have to admit that we cannot see everything clearly. We constantly struggle with light and darkness in the world. When we speak of blindness, we usually refer to the inability to see the physical world with our eyes. But Jesus is concern not only for our physical sight but also our spiritual sight. He comes into the world to give us light, to lead us from darkness into the light of faith. And he wants us to see the world as God sees it. He wants us to see one another as brothers and sisters. He gives us light so that we can see the meaning of life, and accept him to be our Savior. The first reading reminds us that "Not as man sees does God sees, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart." St. Paul points out that Christians are children of light. "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." What is it like to be in darkness? And what is it like to be in the light of the Lord?
Once upon a time there were two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were across the street from each other, and they would spend each day sitting in the doorway, keeping an eye on each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
One night, an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "God has sent me to teach you a lesson. He will give you anything you ask for, but I want you to know that, whatever you get, your competitor across the street will get twice as much."
"Would you like to be wealthy?" said the angel. "You can be very wealthy, but he will be twice as rich. Do you want to lead a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. You can be famous, have children you will be proud of, whatever you desire. But whatever is granted to you, he will be granted twice as much."
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and said, "Alright, My request is this: strike me blind in one eye." (Archodia, Charles. Stories for Sharing, p. 73).
We laugh at this man. He surprises us with his decision to let go of the opportunity to be rich and healthy. He is so caught up in the darkness of competition and envy that he cannot see the light to do the right thing. We see something similar in the Gospel story. We should be amazed, excited, rejoicing when a friend or someone in the family who had been blind from birth and was cured and able to see. But we wonder why the Jews and the Pharisees are not happy for the blind beggar? Why don't they want to welcome Jesus and the healing of the blind beggar?
Look at the blind beggar, all his life, he only recognizes others through their voices. Now is the first time that he can see and recognize others by sight. He can see their faces and their smiles. He can see all the beauty around him. He is surprised at everything. This is a wonderful new experience for him. He is surprised to see things that he never saw before. But to his surprise, he has learned that there are people who are not so happy with him and his healing. They are not sharing his joy. They are hostile to him. They are trying to do everything in their power to discredit what has happened to him. They neither want to welcome him nor his healer. They even make a threat to excommunicate him. Then he realizes that there is another kind of blindness. This blindness happens to be in those who chose not to welcome him and the One who restored his sight. They chose to close their hearts to others and refuse to acknowledge the truth and to believe in the truth.
We can suffer the same blindness of the Pharisees and the rival shopkeeper if we are full of envy in our hearts, and if we refuse to acknowledge the truth and act in the light of the truth. For example, we will be blind if we act like many of the Palestinians and the Israelis who have come to believe that they have been left no choice but to use force to intimidate each other. We see their daily trading of punches. There seem to be no light of hope between them. Both sides seem convinced that they have the righteousness to outlast the other. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters, "We have to cause them heavy casualties and then they'll know they can't keep using terror and win political achievements." Palestinian street leaders have issued a similar call, urging militants to strike Israelis hard. "We have reached the point of no return." They said.
We can suffer the blindness of fear as the parents of the blind man. They are afraid of rejection; they are afraid of being excommunicated; they are afraid of the power of the dark, so they choose to look the other way by saying, "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself."
We can also suffer the blindness of ignorance as the disciples and many of the Jews. They believed that sickness and misfortune were caused by one's sin. So they voiced their opinion, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" We might chuckle at their ignorance, but many still believe that diseases and misfortunes are the punishments from God for people's sins. We often hear people saying, "God must be punishing me." "That person must have done something terrible for God to punish him or her in that way." Some people believe that the terrorist attack on September 11 was a punishment from God on America. Some people also believe that AIDS is a form of punishment from God for the sins of promiscuity. Jesus casts light on such blindness of ignorance by responding, "Neither he nor his parents sinned." God is not punishing the blind beggar for sin; indeed, God wants to deliver him from his blindness. Jesus changes his condition. He cures two forms of blindness for the man. He enables him to see physically and spiritually.
The blind beggar comes to put his full faith in Jesus as Messiah gradually. But at any stage of his faith, he is not afraid to acknowledge and testify what Jesus has done for him. He openly reports to the authority, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes." When he believes that Jesus is a prophet, he is not afraid to let the authority know of his belief. When they challenge his faith, he is not afraid to fight back, "If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything." "If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." When Jesus asks him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He immediately confesses, "I do believe Lord."
The blind beggar has testified his faith in Jesus and courageously exposed the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees. We Christians are also invited to be the light to expose the darkness and blindness of the world. Our mission is to testify for the Lord and make visible "the works of God" by engaging in fighting against evil in the world, ending the situations that cause misery in people's lives. With Christ's help we will attest to the same healing the blind beggar experienced, "He opened my eyes." We also ask Jesus to open our eyes so that we can see. We are daily challenged by an unbelieving world. We are challenged to continue to confess and testify to what we believe. St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness."