Healing Your Blindness
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: John 9:1-41
There’s a lot of discussion about the miracles of Jesus in the disability community. For those of us without a disability, it’s easy to read these stories as, wow, Jesus restored these broken people to wholeness
But a lot of blind folks are like, “Um, so, I’m not broken. God just created me differently than you. And y’all just built a world that works better for people like you than people like me.” Not all blind people feel this way, of course. But a lot do.
There’s a similar feeling amongst many deaf people, too. For them, deafness is a culture unto itself, life-giving and beautiful. American Sign Language is communication in a completely different way. It’s beyond words, it’s language through movement, almost like a dance except it’s conversation. Many deaf people would never trade that culture for hearing. In fact, there’s a substantial movement against cochlear implants which often restore hearing to deaf people. Again, not all deaf people feel this way, but many do.
There’s nothing wrong with us, they argue. God just created me differently than you. And y’all just built a world that works better for people like you than people like me.
It kind of throws a stick in the spokes of this gospel’s theology. Jesus basically says, “this man was born blind so that God could make a show of fixing him.”
The thing is, we’re all born blind in some way. Our sight is inherently limited by our biology, by our very bodies. We don’t see what owls see with their keen night vision. Bats have terrible eyesight according to human standards, but their sonar sight renders the world spatially in ways we can’t even fathom.
We can’t see the bacteria that we know is present all around us. We can’t see covid or the flu when it leaps out of someone’s mouth and into our own nostrils. We can’t even see the full spectrum of colors.
We are so blind in so many ways. Because God created us that way. But there are other ways that we are blind. Ways that most definitely need to be healed.
In our Bible Study last week, someone said something so simple but so profound. She was quoting either Anaïs Nin or the Talmud. No one’s really sure who originally said it. Anyhow, she said, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”
“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”
It’s another inherent blindness of ours. It isn’t a bad thing. It’s just how we’re built. That’s what our blind and deaf siblings tell us when they tell us their differences don’t need fixing. We would call their world sightless or soundless, but they would just call their world…their world.
Jesus says to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
The problem comes, he says, when we start thinking that our own perspective is the only reality. When we don’t acknowledge our own inherent blindness, when we don’t acknowledge what we’re simply not able to see.
We see this not in Jesus healing the blind man, but in everyone’s reaction to that healing.
“Then how were your eyes opened?” the people ask the healed man. He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”
The Pharisees couldn’t believe that answer because they thought Jesus was a sinner and therefore couldn’t possibly be capable of this miracle, so they ask the man the same question. And he answers, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”
The Pharisees just can’t accept that this was this man’s experience. So they ask another time, and the man says. “I do not know whether Jesus is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
But still, A FOURTH TIME, this man is asked, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” Finally, the guy answers, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?”
We like to give the Pharisees a lot of crap, but how often do we refuse to believe people because their experience doesn’t line up with our own experience.
Our Black siblings keep telling us they’re afraid for their lives when police come on the scene.
But I feel safer when the police are around. How can this be?
Our trans siblings keep telling us that they’re suffering because they can’t get the healthcare they need to thrive and be who they are.
But I feel fine with my gender. How can this be?
And yes, some of our neighbors tell us over and over again that they feel it’s imperative to their freedom and safety to own a gun.
But I feel free and safe without a gun. How can this be?
And listen, I’m not saying that there isn’t a huge gun violence problem in this country. There most certainly is. I am saying that a lot of us, including me, are quick to shut down other experiences because they’re not our experience. This is our blindness.
In Bible Study, we talked about this very strange way Jesus heals this man. Just a little spit, a little saliva, mixed with some dirt to create a little mud paste. Imagine if a doctor did that with you and then said, “just spread this little naturopathic remedy onto your eyes.” It’s a little sketchy.
But a lot of the Bible studiers pointed out how earthy it was. Jesus didn’t just snap his fingers and the man was healed. He needed a little of this material world to make the healing possible. This was usually the case. The bleeding woman needed to physically touch Jesus’ cloak. In general, Jesus laid hands on people to heal them. It seemed miracles required the senses, even if it was just words being spoken and heard.
It reminds me of the sacraments. The sacraments, the catechism in our Book of Common Prayer tells us, are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. Outward and visible. The stuff of this world. Baptismal water. Communion bread and wine. The limited material of this world representing unseen and boundless love and forgiveness and healing. The stuff that reminds us that we are the Body of Christ.
And like that bread which is not an eggplant, and that wine which is not milk, we are limited. God created us in this body. God created us blind in some ways. Why? So that we would need one another. So that we would recognize that we cannot know the full reality of this world without understanding other people’s experiences.
So may the sacrament be our mud, the thing that heals the kind of blindness our world can’t afford: our blindness to how we need each other. And may we go out to the pool to wash off that mud and find ourselves healed.