Seeing the Other’s Sin as a Way to See Oneself

The Sunday of the Blindman

As the Lord passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his  parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.   (John 9:1-3)

Many parents when seeing some tragic accident happen or while watching a news story about the tragedy have their children ask them, “what happened?”  The parents may offer a synopsis of what they know about the accident, but often are also evaluating – stupid kid, probably was drunk.  We try to make sense out of tragedy; it gives us some comfort to realize that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for why bad things happen.  But as the Book of Job demonstrates, sometimes the way we try to comfort ourselves in giving reason to personal tragedy are simply wrong.

The apostles in the Gospel lesson try to make sense of the blindness of this man, but there may be no reasonable explanation for it.  Trying to make sense of the man born blind’s disease, the apostles follow Job’s friends who were more trying to comfort themselves (“I won’t be next, I’ve done nothing wrong”) than to comfort Job (for they were convinced he had sinned badly).

In the Scriptures we read that St. Paul identifies himself as the foremost of sinners.  We also see the Wise Thief on the cross confessing his own sins before asking Christ’s mercy. Here is a quote from THE PARADISE OF THE FATHERS Vol. 2 regarding looking at the sins of others, and considering one’s own sins.

“If you see, moreover, a man who is a murderer, and a thief, and an adulterer, and one who sheds blood, you should think of your own final judgment.  For if this murderer at the end of his life confesses Christ, he will proceed me into the kingdom of heaven.  If you remember this is true of everyone, you will be less likely to judge them, and more likely to remember your sins.”

The tragedies of others, especially if caused by their sinfulness should give us reason to remember:  “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Christ the Wisdom and Word of God

In my blog for Mid-Pentecost, Christ the Rock Which is the Fountain of Life, I wrote about the connection the ancient Jewish interpreters of their Scriptures drew between the image of the deep well and the Torah.  Digging a well became a metaphorical understanding of searching the Torah for its deepest meaning.  This ancient interpretive tradition is preserved in Orthodox Tradition as well.   Take a look at one of the hymns from Matins of the 5th Week of Pascha (from the Pentecostarion):

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN, AS WAS HER CUSTOM,

CAME TO DRAW WATER FROM AN EARTHLY AND PERISHABLE WELL.

INSTEAD, SHE DREW LIVING WATER,

FOR SHE DISCOVERED THE WELL OF LIFE!

HE WAS RESTING WHERE JACOB DUG HIS WELL OF OLD.

THE NOONDAY HEAT FATIGUED HIM, //

THOUGH HE MADE THE FIERY SUN TO LIGHT THE WORLD!

Where Jacob dug his well is a metaphorical way of referring to the Jews seeking Wisdom from the Torah.   The Samaritan Woman comes to that well.   This is another metaphor of the non-Jew, the convert, coming to the Torah.  But the Torah, the deep well, leads her to Christ, to the New Covenant which replaces the Torah.  The old well, the Torah, could only give her water for this life – how to live in this world.  The new well, Christ the Wisdom of God, gives living water that bestows eternal life.