Gospel Thoughts, 18 March 2012, Jesus Heals the Blind Man

March 13, 2012 at 19:04 Leave a comment


In today’s Gospel Story (John 9:1-41) Jesus restores the sight of a blind man who is then abused by religious leaders because he is not living as they thought he should. He chooses to believe in Jesus rather than in their ways.

Lately folks have been exhibiting strong opinions on religion and related things, usually centered on lifestyle, marital status, ideas about rights, individual thought, etc. Religious authorities are sounding alarm bells, making threats, proclaiming strong judgments, much as the religious leaders in the Story were doing. They thought they alone had the right ideas and way to God, and anybody who disagreed with them was wrong and should be thrown out. The man in the Story had an encounter with Jesus. The religious authorities did not like it because it wasn’t their approved way, so they threw him out.

But then Jesus wasn’t living as they thought he should either. He wasn’t keeping their laws — “This man is not from God because he does not keep the Sabbath”, because he is not thinking as we are telling him to think.  Jesus told them they were blind, did not know it and would not admit it. They expected the folks to let their leaders think for them. The leaders issue the orders and the people were to carry them out. Ordinary people could not tell them anything, because they knew it all — “You were born totally in sin and you are trying to teach us?” Anybody who did not agree with them and obey them was wrong. End of story. Sounds familiar.

Is Jesus inviting his followers to enter into a relationship with him directly, or join a group which would be a condition or means of a relationship with Jesus. It would seem that, when a person looks to go directly to Jesus, the person still maintains use of God-given faculties such as thought and reason. But, if instead the person chooses to go through a group, the leadership of the group seems to determine what the person must do in virtually every circumstance, and the person no longer needs to think or reason, just obey the leadership. Law is paramount, and the leadership defines and interprets the law. The membership obeys. In the Story the man seems to be doing his own thinking independently of the authorities, “and then they threw him out”. Sounds familiar.

These days such an attitude seems to be slipping away, at least on the part of the folks in the pews, not to mention the folks who used to be in the pews but aren’t anymore, and it is not happening quietly. Folks are thinking for themselves and making their own choices. On all sides there is name-calling and finger-pointing, with the occasional threats thrown in for good measure. This is true on the national scene with the current hospitalization issues, as well as locally as the Vatican has overruled the bishop in the closing of 13 parishes.  However, as long as the threats, judging, name-calling and finger-pointing continue, there is not much possibility for any constructive and growth-engendering dialogue – which is something that has to happen. Nobody, no organization, has all the answers. When any persons or any group claim exclusively to have all the answers, there is no possibility for honest dialogue or growth. Good folks get hurt. Sounds familiar.

In some religious groups obedience to the law seems to be the all-important thing. The leadership defines the law, interprets the law, and the folks obey the law. The leadership punishes disobedience. External conformity to the principles laid down by leadership is the norm. There does not seem to be a place for individual conscience, practical reasoning, or freedom, as the leadership seems to be telling its members how to think. The leadership supports primacy of the individual conscience as long as one’s conscience conforms to what leadership says folks should do. Some folks also agree with this concept, which is their right. Some do not agree, which is also their right. This is true not only in the matter of individual conscience, but also in the area of the university, as might be evidenced in some reactions to the letter members of the John Carroll University faculty wrote asking the University President to accept the health insurance accommodation. Apparently these folks had the temerity to think for themselves, and this annoys some people who feel such independent thought has no place in a Catholic university.

What does all this have to do with the Story? Jesus invites us to believe in him, to face and accept our blindness, and let him give us sight – on his terms. We have our tradition, many others have theirs. We seem to place a greater emphasis on obedience to laws than do many others. Some see sin as breaking God’s laws, which, coincidentally if not conveniently, are the same as the Church’s laws, thus depicting God as the Great Enforcer who backs up church authority. Where is this idea in the Gospel? There is the danger than in our own way we might come to have the same attitude as the religious leaders in the Story, requiring external or formal compliance with ideas we are comfortable with, and severely judging any whose views are not the same as ours. How each of us deals with this is something we have to work out in our time with Jesus and through being faithful to our prayer practice(s).

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Priest. Tags: , , , , , .

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