by Father Mike Stubbs
It is easy to play the blame game.
Instead of trying to fix a problem, we try to pin the blame on who is responsible for it. That doesn’t really help the situation, but it can take the heat off of us and make us feel better. And that is what really counts, isn’t it?
So, we might ask, why are so many who live in the inner city so poor? Is it their own fault because they lack initiative, or is it because they have grown up in an environment which does not enable them to make a better life for themselves?
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 9:1-41, the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They assume that the man’s blindness must be punishment for sin. It made sense for them to assume this. They might suspect the parents on the basis of Ex 20:5: “For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation.”
Besides, the man could not have sinned before he was born, and he was blind at birth. That would rule out the man as the sinner and leave his parents as the candidates for committing sin.
On the other hand, another passage in the Bible refutes the idea that a person could inherit guilt: “The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man’s virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man’s wickedness shall be his” (Ez 18:20).
This approach might fit in better with our view of justice. At the same time, we recognize that our choices have consequences, and that children sometimes suffer because of the bad choices that their parents have made.
At any rate, Jesus rejects the idea that God is purposefully punishing the blind man for anyone’s sin. Instead of looking at the past for an explanation of the man’s blindness, Jesus points to the present possibilities: “It is so that the works of God might be made visible though him.” By giving sight to the man, Jesus will also be opening the eyes of the crowd to God’s greatness.
Notice the choice of words that Jesus uses in making his point. Jesus does not say, “that the works of God might be made known though him.”
Instead, Jesus says, “that the works of God might be made visible though him.” Whenever we do not see the works of God, whenever we do not see the potential for God working miracles in our world, then we are spiritually blind.