“Blindness and Power Play” by Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM

“You were born a sinner and now you teach us!”

This remark by the Pharisees to the man-born-blind is a very paralyzing and belittling statement. This is borne out of a certain bias against him since they believe that his physical disability is a product of a curse or a sin done by his ancestors. The blind man suffers all the more from this merciless cultural bias.

I have been ministering to a few thousands of inmates in my ten years as a priest. I became close to them that I have often seen the others going back and forth to the penitentiary even though their cases had already been dismissed. One of the compelling realities I have discovered which has really surprised me is the common remark from the inmates. I have known of the sad state that they have encountered outside. They have experienced the most difficult and most trying moments in convincing people and the company they apply for in seeking a job. One inmate said “Applying for a job is very difficult than having policemen catch us.” They said it was double agony on their part experiencing rejection from the society where they belong. The bias is so enormous that the rejection is like a two-edged sword slashing them to the bone. Even their closest friends and their families have developed the same kind of prejudice against them. Too sad to think but indeed it is a reality happening every minute of the day in their lives.

The experience of the man-bornblind and the inmates I have known are in no way different. They tell a story of power play at work in our society. The sad thing is that this power play of authority is mostly present in the human heart. It pierces through the brain of every human individual and dictates us to commit and develop a more biased culture amongst us. The reason why Jesus healed the man-born-blind is to shake the authority of the Pharisees regarding their on-going neglect in understanding the very essence of the Sabbath Law, and that is to give and nurture life and not to curtail one’s freedom to experience God’s mercy and compassion. Who is really in control of the situation? To which type of authority do we belong? What other related biases have we done?

Jesus in the gospel would like us to recognize that the spiritual blindnessof the Pharisees is a serious crime far greater than the physical blindness of a person. What is so inspiring in the story is the challenge asked by Jesus to the man-born-blind, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the response He got was “Lord, I believe!” And we were told that he worshiped Him. Indeed “Blessed are the lowly for they will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Superiority separated all God’s creation beyond human imaginings. It divided the world into countless groups. Differences were solidified that instead of experiencing the universality of the innateness in each one of us, it penetrated into the instincts of human and other living beings. It became a culture, and thus, the sufferings of the world are but products of this enormous mistake. Superiority has always been the problem. But a solution has been offered to us in the humanity of Christ himself…that though He is a God, He did not deem equality with God. Rather, He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. This is the humility of God shared to help humankind understand that there is another way to become great in His eyes.

Can we stop belittling others and stop subscribing to the offers of being superior to others? What about choosing the path of the man-bornblind? He believed and worshiped Jesus! Let us continue to move on to this meaningful Lenten journey.

Read More about Fr. Joel and his reflections.