The Light Shining in the Darkness: Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, The Sunday of the Blind Man in the Orthodox Church

Acts 16:16-34; John 9:1-38

  Christ is Risen!

             As we near the end of our celebration of Pascha, the Church directs our attention today to how the brilliant light of our Lord’s glorious resurrection overcomes the darkness of sin and death.  The man in our gospel reading whose sight the Lord restored had been blind from birth, having known only darkness throughout his life.  He symbolizes us all, for until the light of the Savior’s resurrection, humanity had wandered in spiritual blindness and captivity.  “The wages of sin is death,” and the darkness of the tomb had reigned supreme since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Enslaved to the fear of the grave and cast out of Paradise, we were all held prisoner by the darkness of sin. Our ability to become like God in holiness had been grossly deformed.

In sharp contrast, the light of our Risen Lord shines brightly from the grave and extends to the darkest dimensions of our lives.   His light shines within those who share in His life, for to know Him is to become radiant with the divine glory.  To know Him is not merely to have ideas or feelings about God, but truly to share in the life of the Holy Trinity as a partaker of the divine nature by grace.  To know Him is to have the eyes of our souls cleansed and illumined such that we are filled with the divine light to the depths of our hearts.  The change is certainly not in our Lord, but in us as we leave behind the dark night of sin and embrace the brilliant light of holiness as we rise up with our Savior into eternal life.

We cannot overcome death and darkness ourselves, for that is possible only through the God-Man Who has united divinity and humanity in Himself.  That is how He heals us, personally taking upon Himself all the consequences of our corruption, even to the point of death, in order to conquer them for our sake.  He has brought every dimension and capability of the human person into His divine life, enabling us to become radiant with His holy glory.  To shine with His divine energies is what it means to become truly human in the image and likeness of God.  The glorious season of Pascha invites us all to do precisely that.

When Christ spat on the ground and made clay to anoint the eyes of the blind man, He gave us a sign of how He has restored us through His incarnation as a human being.  The blind man’s sight was restored when he obeyed Christ’s command to wash in water, which is a sign of how He illumines us in baptism.  We are baptized into the Lord’s death in order to rise up with Him into a life of holiness.  That is the beginning, not the end of our journey, for to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect is an infinite calling.  Our Risen Lord enables us to manifest His restoration of the human person in the divine image and likeness in every dimension of our humanity, including our bodies.

The Savior does not restore our spiritual sight by denying the reality of the physical struggles that we face, whether death, illness, poverty, or anything else.  Instead, the Risen Lord heals our souls when we offer ourselves fully to Him in obedience.  The blind man did what the Lord told him to do, walking to the pool of Siloam and washing off the clay from his eyes.  He had to obey Christ’s command with his whole person in order to accept the Lord’s healing. That is how he was delivered from the blindness with which he had been born. Even though he thought of Christ as only a prophet at that point, the man quickly professed faith in Him when the Lord told him His true identity.

We often speak in the Church of seeing the true light and beholding the resurrection of Christ.  We use our eyes in the worship of God with icons, crosses, candles, vestments, and  many other ways.  We put on Christ like a garment in baptism and are filled personally with the Holy Spirit in chrismation.  We receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in Communion, as we participate already in the Heavenly Banquet.  He is the Bridegroom and, as His Church, we are His Bride and members of His own Body.  He is not merely a prophet or a righteous man, but truly the Son of God.  We know Him only because He has restored our sight, giving us all the ability to embrace Him from the depths of our souls.  He has done for us what we could never do simply by ourselves, even as someone born blind could never give himself functioning eyes.  Like the formerly blind man, we must obey Him in order to receive His healing and behold His brilliant glory.

Our reading from Acts concerns another man who dwelt in darkness.  The Roman jailer was ready to kill himself when an earthquake opened the doors of the prison and broke the chains of the prisoners.  Knowing that he would be executed for their escape, the terrified man was about to take his own life with his sword.  He was in one of the darkest spots imaginable at that point, when St. Paul assured him that the prisoners had not escaped.  Then “the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, ‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’  And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”  That is what the jailer did.  He was baptized along with his whole family. After washing the apostles’ wounds, the man took them to his home and served them food.  Then he “rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.”  Like the blind man in the gospel reading, the jailer had his eyes opened to know Christ in His divine glory.

These men were not dedicated religious seekers out to find a spirituality that somehow worked for them.  They were regular people going through their daily routines when the light of Christ flooded their souls.   It was just another Sabbath day for the blind man until the Savior’s healing restored His sight and put him in the middle of a controversy so fierce that he was cast out of the synagogue for having a positive view of the Lord Who had healed him.  The jailer had fulfilled his responsibilities in securing the prisoners when an earthquake set them all free in a way reminiscent of the Lord’s victory over Hades, when He set free those held in bondage by death.  These unanticipated events shook them to the core.  The predictable lives they had known were over and they found themselves in unfamiliar, disturbing circumstances. Understandably, they both asked questions.  The formerly blind man asked Who the Son of God was so that he could believe in Him.  The jailer asked how to be saved.  These were not theoretical questions, but pressing matters of how to embrace personally the brilliant light that had flashed in their previously dark lives.

Their examples show us that the Savior’s resurrection is not a theological idea or a historical memory.  His victory over death is even more extraordinary than a man blind from birth gaining his sight or a jailer finding that all his prisoners stayed in place after an earthquake. Our Risen Lord has conquered death, Hades, and the tomb, and now nothing can keep us from shining with the brilliant light of His holiness other than our own choice for death over life.  The season of Pascha will soon conclude, but we must always live in the new day of His resurrection with the urgency of those who have been released from blindness and despair.  Like the men in today’s readings, let us abandon the darkness of sin that had enslaved us to the fear of the grave and embrace the Light of the world from the depths of our souls.  That is the only way to “receive the light… that is never overtaken by night and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead.”  Let us not only proclaim His resurrection, but truly shine with the brilliant glory of the Savior by uniting ourselves to Him in holy obedience, for Christ is Risen!

 

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