A Voice From The Isles:
Both the Apostle reading and the Gospel today share an insight concerning ‘seeing things clearly.’ In the Gospel, Christ creates sight for a man born blind and who is then harassed by the Jewish authorities. Strictly speaking this is not a healing but rather a creative act of the Logos, the Word of God. That which was not there at all nor ever had been now comes to be and the man born blind now sees. Unusually, Jesus goes to find him after he has been roughly interrogated by the authorities. Our Lord knows that although he now sees physically, he needs to see spiritually … which is what is lacking in the blindness of the religious establishment. Christ asks him if he believes in the Son of God? The man asks “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus answers: “You have both seen Him and it is He that talks with you”. The man replies: “Lord, I believe” and he worshipped Him. This poor man had seen nothing all his life until that day, and then he had the privilege of seeing the Son of God in the flesh and responding to Him in faith. Now that he sees clearly, in every sense of the word, spiritually as well as physically, he is on the way to salvation.
In the Acts of the Apostles reading, Sts. Paul and Silas, having been accused of creating a public disorder, are beaten and put in prison. During the night there is an earthquake; the building is damaged; the prisoner’s chains are loosened and the doors are flung open. Thinking that his charges have escaped, the jailer is about to commit suicide but he is stopped in his tracks by St Paul. Now it is the jailer’s turn to have his life turned upside down and with astonishment and deep gratitude, he takes the two apostles into his own home and bathes their wounds. There follows a short but important dialogue “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” the man asks, and he receives a very quick and clear-sighted answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and all your household”.
There are a number of similarities in these two accounts but I want to draw your attention to just one. They both describe what we might call for want of a better phrase, “seeing the Light”, and on both occasions, this enlightenment is achieved very directly and straight-forwardly. Notice that when it comes to the decisive moment of change, both Christ and St Paul are short, sharp and to the point. They might both have been recording a TV advert. By contrast, many a modern evangelist, faced with a similar situation, would probably have responded with: “Well, have you got three hours? Pull up a chair!” – which is not what we have here at all.
My guess is that psychologically speaking, both Christ and St Paul were, of course, right in their approach. At a moment of high tension there is no point in trying to cram a lot of information into a person’s head – simply because they just cannot take it in. St Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles story, makes it clear that later St Paul filled in some of the details, but what he asked for immediately was an act of faith, a decision based on radical trust, not in the Scriptures – these had not been opened to him yet – but in the PERSON of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
It is on this point that “clear sightedness” becomes so helpful when trying to understand the process of conversion to Christ – for each one of us that is, not just for new Christians. We are all called to a personal relationship with the Lord, but first of all, we must recognize that “Jesus Christ is the Lord” – our Lord. To achieve this, we need to have Him cure the blindness of our spiritual eyes, and this calls for an act of loving submission of our wills unto Him. Only when this hurdle has been cleared will we be able to build up a picture of what our discipleship might involve, and that, as everyone who is serious about following Christ knows, is neither done just once nor quickly. It takes a lifetime of prayer and service.
It is, I believe, worthwhile reminding ourselves of all of this because, these days, when so many people are totally ignorant of anything to do with the Christian faith, we never know when we might be presented with an opportunity of saying to someone in distress: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. To summarise, keep it simple, keep it direct and keep it personal: then they will see and seeing they will be healed.
There is a challenge, however, that God lays before us all in this vital and necessary work of witness. It concerns our own ability to see. Let us not be like the blind guides, leading both ourselves and them into the pit (Matthew 15:14). In order to give sight to the blind we must first see clearly. It is all too easy for a Christian who has once seen clearly to develop, as it were, spiritual cataracts, for his spiritual vision to be clouded by sin … just like the authorities in the gospel who gave the man born blind such a hard time. Always, always… and daily, we must repent to keep our spiritual vision clear so that beholding Christ the Light and thus being rightly guided by the Holy Spirit, we might guide others to salvation. We pray and work then for that great and glorious day when all might see clearly and believe, whilst yet knowing that, sadly, some will still prefer blindness to sight. Let it be not so for us! “Lord, grant us sight for our blindness and light for our darkness.” Amen.