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S.SILAS THE MARTYR AND THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, KENTISH TOWN

Presbytery: Tel and Fax 020 7485 3727. Website: www.saintsilas.org.uk E mail: ssmktw@gmail.com

News sheet for the week beginning 22nd March 2020

 

 A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John

 

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.‘ As long as the day lasts I must carry out the work of the one who sent me; the night will soon be here when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

  His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

  They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

  So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

  Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him. Jesus said: ‘It is for judgement that I have come into this world,so that those without sight may see and those with sight turn blind.’ Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied: ‘Blind? If you were, you would not be guilty, but since you say, “We see,” your guilt remains.’

 

A short reflection on today’s Gospel

 

‘There’s none as blind as those who won’t see’. I think I first learned that homely bit of wisdom from my grandmother who was much given to offering wise sayings to the world without explaining them. When I looked it up, I discovered that one of the first people to say it was Thomas Cranmer, so my grandmother obviously kept rather dubious company! And Cranmer, of course, got the idea from the Bible, from the event we hear about in todays’ Gospel.

 

During the healing of the man who was born blind, nobody can really understand what Our Lord is doing and why, except the one who is cured. The Pharisees cannot admit that it is by God’s power that this healing takes place, because they do not want accept what that says to us about Jesus. So they try to prove that it must be a different person, who just looks like the blind man; and when that doesn’t work, they start to say that this healing could not come from God because it was done on the Sabbath and therefore breaks the Law. But the man’s parents also are frightened of saying how this miracle might have happened. They protest, ‘We know that this is our son, and we know that he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can see now or who opened his eyes. He is old enough; let him speak for himself.’ Even Our Lord’s disciples say, ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ But Jesus replies, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned: he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’

 

We need those works of God, here and now. But God does not come like the genie in the lamp to sort it all out and solve the problem immediately: he comes to share in it and to lead us through it, to help us to discover the healing that we need. It is quite difficult to believe now much our lives in this country have changed within a week. There is the invisible enemy, the virus, which suddenly makes us realise that we are not in control. Until something like this comes along, we tend to think that we are invincible, that we have control over the world, over our own lives, even over sickness and pain. And that arrogance makes us want to be liberated from God. We somehow think that we do not need his eternal love, but can be masters of our own lives. We continue on the course of self – destruction until we are made to stop and think.

 

Our reactions to that suffering and the threat of sickness and death take us to two extremes. We see around us greed and arguments and blame, fed by fear. We experience the panic buying in the shops; we look frightened whenever anyone walks towards us down the street. And at the same time we find such generosity and self-giving that it takes our breath away. I have had so many offers of help for those who are, wisely and necessarily, staying in their homes. We see the sacrifices and the risks taken by those on the front line of medical care, the dedication of those who are working so hard to beat the virus, to find a vaccine and a cure. Pray for them: give thanks for them; and learn from them.

 

Today we come face to face with a Saviour who becomes part of our world, who takes on our weakness, who suffers and dies in order save us from ourselves. The crossbeam, which Our Lord carried up the hill to Calvary is only part of the picture. It only makes sense when we fit it to the vertical beam, when we cross it out with love, when we let in the power of God who comes to heal and to save. We shall find that Cross in our world we experience that contradiction, when we discover at the same time suffering and love, desolation and hope, sinfulness and conversion, sickness and healing. The man who was born blind shows us that Cross because his physical healing was so plain for all to see. But it can also become obvious in those who are suffering now, in those for whom the future seems uncertain, in those who are near to death. If we let in the power of God, he will carry us through this, just as he carried his only Son through death and into life. The works of God can still be shown through you and through me. 

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