John 9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Writing a blog for Lent has been an eye-opening experience for me. I've missed a couple of days and I actually missed writing. I usually read the lessons for morning prayer each day. And occasionally I think about one of the verses or passages. But when I write, I notice things more. I'm more aware of places in the scriptures that move me and also the ones that bother me. Today I'm aware of the things that bother me.
All three lessons today deal with the “why” of suffering, sin, and evil. And none provides a particularly satisfying answer. Jeremiah simply states, that this is how things will be. Paul writes to the Romans speculating that God creates some people who he allows to do evil, and endures their evil, to show how great is his goodness to the others.
And in Jesus answer to the disciples, who essentially are trying to figure out a tragedy and come up with the “right answer” Jesus give an answer that may have satisfied them, but has never satisfied me.
“Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents?” The presupposition is that individual illness is the result of someone’s sin. And Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents did anything wrong; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Perhaps the reality is that the mystery of the answer to suffering is always individual. If we read the rest of the blind man story, we discover from the dialogue that the man is at least thirteen years old, and probably older.
And the blind person seems to be truly grateful for being healed, and does not seem to resent the years of blindness that precede his healing.
I’ve been privileged to pray for physical healing for people. I have known cancers to disappear, a severe spinal injury to be healed, a destroyed joint to be instantly restored, and other healings. And in all the cases, the folks healed were grateful. And in several, they gave thanks for what they learned from being ill.
I’ve also been privileged to pray for healing when people were dying of cancer, injuries, and illness, and seen them not be healed or restored. In many of those cases, the people were peaceful and grateful. And in several, people gave thanks for how their terminal illness had blessed them.
Jeremiah doesn’t fully answer the question, Paul can only speculate, and Jesus gives an answer that may only make complete sense to the blind man himself.
God give me grace to have compassion on those who suffer, and to put my suffering into the hands of Christ. Amen.