Light of the World

May 26, 2014 Length: 14:34

Fr. Gregory Hallam gives the sermon on the Sunday of the Blind Man

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In the gospel today of Christ’s gift of sight to the man born blind, our Lord says of Himself: “I am the Light of the World.” (John 9:5)  Now this was not strictly speaking a healing miracle but a miracle of creation.  After all, the man was born blind.  Christ as the creative Logos gave him that which had never previously been known, even in a glimmer, light.  So, now the formerly blind man had an entirely new sense, one that he had never had before.  We may imagine his reaction would have been like that lady in the news recently who was born deaf but who heard for the very first time through an audio implant surgically embedded in her skull.  In this story, however, there is nothing man made.  The vision, the enlightenment of the man, comes entirely from the touch of God. 

As the gospel unfolds, however, it becomes clear that this story is also about spiritual sight, seeing clearly through the absence of sin.  Our Lord uses the miracle to make a much more striking point than even the impact of the gift of physical sight.  He is the Light and to see Him and everything in His Light we must be purified from sin.  Had he not taught in the Beatitudes recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”? (Matthew 5:8).  Confidence in one’s own insight leads to blindness.  Acknowledging the degree of blindness one already has opens up the possibility of the Light scattering that darkness.  Christ, who is the Light of the World, becomes our Light so that we can truly see.  A real life illustration and application will make this clearer.

Two men walked into a forest with two very different visions.  The first did not see the trees, he only saw wood.  After he saw wood, he saw paper and all manner of wood products; furniture, houses, all sorts of really useful things.  After seeing all this he saw the money that could be made and with that money he knew he could afford to build a log cabin as a retreat for his family during the summer holidays, here in this forest.  Except that looking again he saw that the forest was gone and along with it the diverse life, health and peace that God gives to humanity in the greening.  This man was truly blind.  The second man was also a logger, a harvester of wood, but he walked into the forest and saw something quite different.  He saw the trees first and the happiness they brought both to him and all forms of life.  He saw them as the lungs of life absorbing our waste carbon dioxide and pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.  He saw the canopy of the forest, a true city for all sorts of animals, insects and birds.  He saw the beauty of the forest in its spring verdure, its summer fruitfulness, its autumn glory and its winter sleep.  He praised the God who had made it thus.  He truly saw.  He was enlightened.  So although he also had plans for the forest, to reap the harvest of its wood for humanity, he cuts his profits enough to sustain that forest through conservation and also made provision to ensure free and safe public access so that others could also share his joy in the trees.  He respected the forest as a gift from God, not personal property to plunder and destroy for personal gain.

So, I think you can see that this gospel miracle of the healing of the man born blind has implications way beyond personal healing although it certainly includes that.  It teaches that we can only see clearly, see God, see each other, see the world as it truly is when we confess our blindness and ask God to enlighten us with His Light, the Light of Christ, who is the Light of the World. 

Confessing our blindness is never easy.  It wounds our pride, shakes our confidence in our own powers, shatters the illusion of our Godless competencies and exposes them for what they are without Him, darkness.  If, however, we can take courage and come to the Lord for His Light, His Paschal Light, the Light we received on the night of Holy Pascha and which we should always seek to receive, then what joy will take root in our souls, what wisdom will be manifested in our hearts and minds, what strength from God will be ours to do his work.  Moreover, the world itself will begin to see the difference.  Other souls will have a stronger, clearer vision.  The Cosmos itself will move closer to its resurrection.  And then, at the end of this world there will be a new beginning when God, who is Light, will be Light in all His Creation such that all the darkness will have been scattered in the final and glorious coming of His Kingdom.  We have our sacred part to play in that; but only if we receive the Light.