Reflection on John 9 (Lent)

The disciples asked Jesus: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? 

We live in a blame culture, a world in which we do our best to avoid accepting responsibility in favour of finding someone else to blame. As each misfortune pours down upon us we look about us in desperate need, the need to find who might be responsible for each and every circumstance or happening that does not fit well with the agenda we have set for our own lives. Students with disappointing examination results will blame inadequate teaching and poor study provision. The unexpected loss of a job will be blamed on poor management and unforeseen financial calamity. Those who are struck down with an untreatable illness will blame negligent medical care and even a vengeful God. We live in a blame culture that creates division, mistrust and hostility.

In today’s reading we hear of a man who had been blind from birth. The reaction of the disciples plays into the human default of needing someone to blame. For the disciples the man’s disability undoubtedly came from God but, they asked, who is to blame for God feeling the need to take such a terrible course of action, the man’s parents or the man himself? Jesus’ response should put our whole attitude towards ‘blame’ into its proper context. Jesus answered his disciples with these words: Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. In this response Jesus is urging us to understand that we are born as we are, with gifts and talents that are unique to us. In being born with our human positives and negatives, we are being formed in the image of God, in order that we might do his will in our own unique way. That which we might consider a weakness will always have a positive side in God’s eyes. It is for us to seek that positive agenda and proclaim God’s love, power and wisdom with all the strength and joy we can muster.

We do not know God’s plan for the man who was blind from birth, but we do know that he was there, in the right place and at the right time for Jesus to give him new vision and to proclaim that he, Jesus, is the light of the world. As we journey through times of challenge and darkness we are called to be ever ready for the moment when Jesus will give us new vision. The giving and receiving of that new vision, a vision that is illuminated by the light of the world himself, should be at the heart of our prayers every moment of every day. Let us pray that that light may shine into our lives, and that we might then share it with others.