Monday, May 02, 2005

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

That's the question posed to Jesus in the Gospel for yesterday in the Byzantine churches. There is a man who has been born blind, and the questioners ask a reasonable question. Why is it that he had to suffer in this way? Is it a result of sin?

We know that some illnesses are indeed the result of sin, and not just sexually transitted diseases. If I am a glutton, I will suffer the penalty in my own flesh. If I am a drunkard, I will destroy my liver. Even on the spiritual level, it is clear that sin can cause disease, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians:

1Co 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
1Co 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1Co 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Abuse of the Eucharist can cause bodily illness.

But in this case, Jesus does not say that sin caused the disease. Rather, it was "that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3) The man was sick so that Christ could show mercy to him. I wish to extend this thought to the sick and aged of the world who are often told that they are a "burden" to society, or who even themselves will prefer death rather than being a burden. If we are Christians, we should realize that it is no burden, but an opportunity. The illnesses and needs of others are opportunities to love, to heal, to care as Christ cared. The proper response to "I don't want to be burden on you" is "It's no burden. It's a privilege to care for you!" It's an imitation of Christ.

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