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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary 1 Samuel 16:1-13 ; Ephesians 5:8-14 ; John 9:1-41 ; Psalm 23 I am the man... Not surprisingly, I suppose, our Lord is very nearly always at the centre of the narratives and stories of the four Gospels. The Gospels are after all accounts of Jesus’ deeds and words from the perspectives of the Evangelists; the story in other words of humankind’s salvation in Jesus Christ, as the early Church understood this reality. Yet curiously in today’s account from the Gospel of John, our Lord, having given the Blind Man the precious, and gratuitous, gift of sight, himself seemingly disappears from sight and is in a sense nowhere to be seen again until very nearly the end of this rather long passage. To begin with, Jesus suddenly and rather abruptly encounters a blind man along the way. He stops in his tracks and without any ado whatsoever anoints the man’s eyes with earth and his own spittle and then sends him off to wash; the only instance in the Gospel of John, if I am not mistaken, of Jesus anointing anyone. The man in question, a beggar, quickly enough returns from the Pool of Siloam and is now able to see. The other characters of the narrative, the neighbours, the Blind Man’s parents, and especially the Pharisees, now carry the weight of the sequence and action, disputing the meaning and even the very reality of the Blind Man’s sudden healing. The neighbours, you will note, even ask themselves if this is the same man “who used to sit and beg.” Good question. “I am the man,” the beggar responds; arguably the only instance in the Gospel of John, or perhaps anywhere, of anyone other than our Lord himself proclaiming, “I AM,” profoundly identifying this man at some level with Christ himself. In Christ, the divinely Anointed One, the I AM of all time and eternity, the Beggar himself now becomes the image of the Anointed One, daring to say, “I am the man.” In his anointing and washing, the beggar is now indeed the same man he was but also a new creation in Christ. No wonder the neighbours fail at first to recognise him. He has been changed, though the full implications of this transformation do not become apparent to him, or us, until toward the end of the narrative. Sight, it seems, is quick enough and perhaps easy enough; just open your eyes. Vision and understanding take time. After all, the Beggar’s understanding of who our Lord is moves in quick succession from “the man called Jesus,” to “He is a prophet,” to “a man from God,” and ultimately to “Lord.” The Pharisees of the story, the enlightened ones of the time and place, on the other hand question everything; seeing for themselves the reality unfolding before their very eyes yet at the same time full of doubt and disbelief, still in the dark. Would-be first-century detectives

of a sort, they go over every possibility, every contingency; desperately seeking not to see, not to believe. They call forward family and neighbours as witnesses, in the process very likely frightening the Blind Man’s poor parents out of their wits. Wise mother and father, they boldly respond, “Ask him; he is of age.” For the Pharisees it all leads, so to speak, down a blind alley; it all goes nowhere. It becomes a case of the Blind leading the Blind. In fact, that is exactly what it is. This passage, like so many of the Evangelist John’s tales, as we have seen over the past weeks, is filled with confusion and discord. What can be misunderstood is misunderstood. The perfectly obvious is questioned and denied. Light becomes obscurity; and sight, blindness. Chaos reigns until Christ returns, and the once blind man proclaims his faith. For, only Christ brings light into this world of darkness and sin. The man who moments before had spoken his profound, “I am the man,” now professes his own vision and faith and proclaims his Creed, “Lord, I believe,” his last words in the Gospel, his lasting profession of faith. I am the man. This Man born Blind is in a sense the Everyone, the Adam, the Old Adam and Old Eve, in each of us; for at some deeper level we are all born blind, all incapable of seeing the deeper truth of the Gospel until our eyes too are opened. And as the Lord God created Adam from the earth and breathed life into him, so now our Lord, rubbing earth into the Blind Man’s eyes and anointing him with the Word of God from his lips, creates from him the new Adam, the image of Christ himself; the very image each of us is called to become in our anointing, in our Baptism; a new image of light and Spirit. We are of course all familiar with the old saying, “Seeing is believing.” According to those who study the origin of words and expressions, this saying or maxim actually goes back to at least the seventeenth century and curiously enough, to Anglican clergyman, Thomas Fuller, a scholar and preacher known for his wit and wisdom. Seeing is believing. Sometimes, however, as with the Blind Man of today’s story and indeed with us as well, it is also a matter of “believing is seeing.” It is sometimes only with the eyes of faith that we, like the Blind Beggar, perceive the world for what it truly is; and come to know the light of the Gospel. We live now, almost too suddenly and jarringly, in deeply troubling times; times in which it is not always possible to see just where we are going. The world we thought we knew so well has been changed forever by the horrors of pandemic and war and the disruptions of the earth beneath our very feet. It may be tempting to think God too has disappeared from sight, as did our Lord in this Gospel account, disappeared and left us to our own devices. But it is just at times such as these that we must keep our eyes opened and focused on the One who is indeed the Son of Man, the Anointed One, the Christ. With this nameless Blind Beggar of long ago, we too proclaim our own Creed, “Lord, I believe.” Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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