Saturday, March 29, 2014

Light from Darkness

  Somehow there had been a quiet comfort in the darkness, a grateful predictability. People left you alone, pitied you and that wasn’t so bad. You listened more, you had to really. You noticed things- the plumpness of a fig, the tiny fingers of a little girl’s hand. And always counting the steps- from bed to hearth, from hearth to door. Feeling the smooth corner of the table and knowing you were in the right place. And then off to the town square to beg- about 83 paces. Then sit on the ground, hands open and ready, listening for a familiar voice. 
  Today everything changes for this blind man, as he hears a new voice, the voice of Jesus. Then the spitting, the mud, the gritty slime on his eyelids. In a flash he is dashing to the pool to wash, panting. Now stooping down, now kneeling on the edge of the pool. Then splash, splash, splash. And then- light- an explosion of light. Squinting. Learning color, noticing sparkle, lovely shadows. Voices have faces. Not smell and sound and touch alone; no more bumping into, no more feeling for edges, no more grabbing at the air. Now light. Too much to see. But he does see, and he knows that it is good, very, very good.
  Jesus has come unbidden and interrupted the quiet darkness. He is Light, sometimes perhaps even a glaring brightness; a Light that changes, renews and reverses. Jesus never kowtows to darkness- of any kind. Darkness like death is gathering all around him. And he knows he has to make a move. Sabbath or not. Perhaps he should have known better. 
  But there’s no time to lose. Disgusted with darkness, Jesus spits. Knowing himself to be our health and salvation, his very spittle is medicine. He bends down and makes an ointment of saliva and dirt. And once again as in the beginning, the Word is bringing life out of the clay of the earth. Again, “Let there be light.”
  No wonder that for centuries this Gospel has been used in preparing catechumens for their baptism. For Baptism was called enlightenment; washing away original blindness and setting us free. How could we have known- most all of us brought to the water as infants in dainty christening dresses. Enlightenment changes everything. Little did we know. Little does this once-blind man realize. But he finds out soon enough!
  Dodging furniture, being careful not to stumble into fire or well, living his own small, dark existence; all of that had been simple and manageable enough. His life has not become easier with sight. But he has become a disciple, he steps up with grace and boldness and outspoken clarity to speak the truth of his experience of Jesus. Harassed by the Pharisees, he is unflinching, “All I know is, I was blind and now I can see.”
  In the end the Pharisees are so outraged by his audacity, that they throw him out bodily. Sore and dusty, he is by now probably more bewildered than ever. But last of all, best of all Jesus seeks him out once again. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. Unhesitatingly he responds, “Yes, where is he?” “You have seen him," says Jesus, "the one speaking with you is he. And then as he gazes on the sublime beauty of God in Christ, this once-blind man instinctively bows down in worship.