Today we read the curious reaction of the Pharisees to the man that was born blind and healed by Jesus. Not content with their preliminary investigation in which they question his parents and confirm that he blind from birth the Pharisees call back for further discussion. Their discussion with him has a lot to teach us about our own lives. Notice how the discussion goes:
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
Read the first verse of the exchange carefully. Notice what the Pharisees are saying. They want the man who was healed to give glory to God but not from a truly praise worthy motive. They want him to give glory to God so that they can skip over and ignore God’s messenger, Jesus Christ. How many times have I heard the same message from my Protestant brothers and sisters? How many times have I heard that “it all comes from Jesus and his saving work on the cross.” My response is always the same. “Of course”, I agree, “but that doesn’t mean the Church is not the instrument through which He works.”
The Pharisees continue along the same line of thinking. They ask the man if he is a disciple of Jesus and declare that they are disciples of Moses, whom they know God has spoken through, then they declare that do not know Jesus. Again, this is the same logic I hear from our protestant brothers and sisters. They cannot comprehend (or don’t want to) how closely related the Father and Jesus are and they have their truth that they are sure of and they will not depart from that. It some ways that is admirable but the man’s response is also telling. He basically says, ‘you have seen the evidence so that makes your refusal unreasonable.’ This is similar to the refusal of Protestants to accept the Church. Despite all the evidence: scriptural, historical, logical, the saints, the miracles, the world wide scope and the testimony of faithful Catholics their response is identical to the Pharisees, “we have Jesus, why do we need a Church?”
Lest any Catholic should boast the verses also contains important admonitions for us. It continues:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Even though the man had been healed by Jesus he did not recognize who Jesus really was. To his credit when he is told the man embraces the truth and worships the Lord. How many Catholics fail to recognize the authority of the very Church they are a part of? How many Catholics fail to recognize that the Church is the extension of Jesus into this world until he returns? How many are blind to this truth since birth? These truths are not hidden from us, they can be found with just a little time and effort studying. As Catholics we must, like the man who was healed, embrace these truths fully and realize their dramatic implications.
Finally, Jesus explains to us that while these truths are important we do not sin unless we knowingly reject what has been made plain to us. The Lord says:
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
In other words, Jesus is saying that before you know these truths you are not responsible to act on information you don’t know or have. However, eventually it is made clear to you. What will your choice be then? Will you be like the Pharisees and reject the truth despite the evidence or will you be like the man born blind and when the truth is made plain to you embrace it and all its implications?