“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3).
When bad things happen, we humans remember God. We turn to God for solution, but when it seems as though God is not providing fast solutions, we conclude that God does not exist; we behave like the Israelites who almost stoned Moses in the wilderness on their journey to the Promised Land. We say all kinds of things against God, against His Church and against those who still believe.
In the wake of COVID-19, millions of unbelievers across the world have risen up to attack the body of Christ with everything they can. Being a priest, I have heard so much already. The summary of what they are saying is: “It is either there is no God or God is using this virus to punish you all for your sins.” This was exactly the position of the disciples of Jesus when they asked Jesus about the man born blind. They simply wanted to know if it was the man’s fault or his parents fault. This brings us to our lessons for today:
1. God Has a Purpose for Everything.
God alone knows why the world is facing this pandemic. As Jesus said: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that God might be made manifest.” We should not be too quick to conclude that COVID-19 is as a result of this or that person’s sin. We do not know if the virus is a biological weapon manufactured in a laboratory by terrorists, if it was a result of eating raw animals as food, if it was because of a snake or a bat or if it was specially designed to fight a trade war between world economic powerhouses. We have heard several theories, but God alone has the answers and who are we to question God?
For those who have concluded that churches are merely business centres set up just to milk gullible people of their hard-earned money, the COVID-19 has further strengthened their position. For them, if the church cannot miraculously end the pandemic or cure its victims, if even priests could die of the virus, then the church has failed and does not deserve their membership ever again. Note that this was the same attitude of those who mocked Jesus on the cross: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. (If) he is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42). As many are laughing at the church today, do not lose your trust in God. We are yet to see the full story.
2. Jesus is More Than Just a Miracle Worker.
If you believe that Jesus is just a mere miracle worker, it means that you can afford to toss Him away when your expected miracle does not come. If you consider Jesus as nothing more than a miracle worker, it means that Jesus is just one out of many options you can try. This is the reason why despite the avalanche of miracle-centres, millions of miracles and testimonies in our churches, evil, immorality, corruption, decadence and vice continue to increase. We come to church to ask the miracle worker for help only to return to our vices just as we visit the hospital for treatment only to return to our former unhealthy habits.
Did Jesus work miracles? Yes. Did Jesus come only to work miracles? No. Every miracle Jesus worked was a sign, a pointer to some deeper reality. Jesus was never content with just being a miracle worker. Jesus disappointed those who came seeking for a sign to believe. He called them an evil and adulterous generation (Cf. Matthew 12:39). Jesus often told the beneficiaries of his miracles not to broadcast it (Cf. Mark 7:34). Jesus lambasted the towns where most of His miracles were worked because they refused to repent afterwards (Cf. Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13). Note that there were some people who could not receive miracles from Jesus, these were his townsfolk (Cf. Mark 6:5). In fact, Jesus never claimed He was going to end world poverty (Cf. Matthew 26:11).
To walk away from the church because your miracle did not happen or because of COVID-19, it means you never knew Jesus. In our Gospel passage, we see that Jesus was not merely interested in curing this man’s blindness. His principal mission was to open the eyes of the Scribes and Pharisees who were blind to the Divinity of Jesus. The curing of the blind man was symbolic of the revelation that Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus cured the blind man so that through Him the religious leaders in the temple (the blind guides) may see. Hence, Jesus met the man later to convert him by asking: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” A true Christian does not depend on miracles to believe. A true Christian knows that miracles are merely signs, stepping stones, helps provided by God to deepen our relationship with Him. Just as in the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, Jesus showed that He is the Living Water, the curing of the blind man was simply an occasion for Jesus to show that He is the Light of the World.
3. To Live in Sin is to be in Darkness.
If Christ is the Light of the world, then we who claim to be Christ-like should also shine as bright stars in the world. We should have no business with the works of darkness. St. Paul tells us in our second reading today: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” Once upon a time, I saw a short video clip on YouTube. A lady was taking her bath and a young man started spying on her from his balcony upstairs. The young man was sure that nobody was looking at him and the lady had no idea that this young man was watching. The young man must have considered himself lucky to be spying on her at that time and he kept looking until he lost control of himself and fell from the balcony breaking his head and his bones. The video ended with the note: “Your secret sins will always expose you in public.”
If we say we belong to the light, then our hearts must be filled with light. We cannot partake of darkness secretly and then pretend to be children of light in public. When Saul disappointed God and became rejected as King of Israel, God told Samuel to go and anoint a new king for Israel from the house of Jesse. This is where our first reading today comes from. Jesse presented his sons before Samuel. Like the Pharisees, they were all good looking in sight but God said: “Do not look at appearance because the Lord does not see as men see; man looks at outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” In terms of outward appearance, David was like the blind man in our Gospel reading, he was not tall and did not look like a person who could be king but inwardly David had the heart of a king. Do I radiate light from my heart? Am I so filled with darkness inwardly?
4. You Have a Calling to Evangelize.
Despite seeing that an obvious miracle had happened, the Scribes and Pharisees in their blindness were determined by all means to tarnish the image of Jesus Christ. First they threatened the parents of the man who was born blind, then upon meeting the man, they tried to make him deny Jesus because for them, Jesus is a law breaker (He healed on a Sabbath Day). COVID-19 has created a world where non-believers do all they can to dismiss Jesus as the Saviour of the World. Many of those whose faith are not strong will find it very hard to return if we fail to evangelize the world. This is a time for us to encounter the Scribes and Pharisees of our world and share our story. This is a time for us to proclaim like the blind man: “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25). Like the Samaritan woman who ran into the village to proclaim Jesus, we who can see (we who have the light of Christ in us, we who have been cured of our blindness of unbelief) must go out and proclaim Christ to the world.
We are living in a perilous moment. The world as we know it is experiencing changes never imagined before. The world may never be the same again. This is not a time to panic as if catching the virus is itself a death sentence. Why are we afraid to die? Who can escape death when his or her time comes? Have we suddenly forgotten that this world is not our home? This is not a time to start complaining like the Israelites who forgot the great deeds of God in Egypt all because they found themselves in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. God alone knows why COVID-19 pandemic is spreading the way it is. Only God knows why the man was born blind. This is a time for us to remember the deeds the Lord has done for us in the past, a time to count our blessings and not lose hope.
This is a time to worship God in spirit and in truth. Christianity is not all about Church, Church, Church. If the Government says we should not gather in the church (even though they failed to ban public transportation, markets and other forms of gathering) then, let us now enter the Church that is inside our hearts and worship God. Let us repent from the darkness of sin and walk in the light of Christ. Sin is a virus far worse than COVID-19 because it destroys us quietly from within. God takes no delight in punishing us for our sins, rather God seeks above anything else that we repent and come back to Him. As we repent, let us evangelize not just with our words, but with our good examples.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, open my eyes that I may come out of my darkness. Amen. Bible Study: 1st Samuel 16:6-13, Ephesians 5:8-14 and John 9:1-38).