2013.6.9 sermon by Fr. Jonah
John 約翰福音 9:1-12
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” 9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” 10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” 12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”
Today the Gospel is again about a miracle of Jesus Christ, and after this miracle Jesus said, “I am the Son of God.” The person in the miracle was blind because had been born without eyeballs. In the Gospel the miracle is described, but today I would like to say a few things about the question of the people who were present then, because they asked Jesus, “Who committed the sin, this person or his parents, so that he was born without eyes?”
Today I wanted to talk about this because especially Chinese people ask about this, and actually all the Eastern peoples have found an easy explanation, that if somebody has a problem it’s because that person committed a sin in the past life – all these things we know from Eastern cultures. Of course there is suffering that people are born with and other things that are making us suffer. And because we are logically oriented people, the question is, “Why?” From one point of view this is an easy question, but I might say not such a proper question. The proper question should be, not why this happened, but what to do. But human beings have a tendency that if they can have a reason explained to them, they can more easily accept a situation. For example, some of you could very easily accept dying if I said that by dying you could save Taiwan. But if I didn’t say this, keeping it as my secret – and I am God – and I allow you to die, you would ask, why, and in that case it would be very difficult to accept. So, many people ask for the reason because it is a cultural thing. Because it is hard to think about the future and so they want a reason so it is easier to passively accept the present situation.
Of course, in philosophy, many people decide not to believe in God for the reason that I will explain now. Because they say that if God is full of love and full of power, He would not allow bad things to happen. And they ask, “Why does He allow evil things to happen?” Of course the answer is not easy, but it is not that God does not know what is going on or that God does not have the power to stop it. The Gospel for today gives us another reason, and there are many other reasons. And finally, at the end I will say what the reason means.
For this person, Jesus said his blindness did not happen because of some sin, but it happened so that the miracle, the presence of God would be revealed. From this point of view it is a completely different idea from the way people in the East think. It is not because of reincarnation, but now a bad thing becomes an event so that the glory of God could be revealed in the world. When we ask ourselves, why does God allow bad people to do bad things, we should take the question a little bit further and ask, “Why does God allow me to do bad things, and He does not stop me?” Because if we ask God to stop the evil, God would also stop me from doing bad things, and then I would say that this is a threat to my freedom. If God does not allow me from doing whatever I want then I am not free. You know, when Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus said “Somebody will betray the Son of Man. And it would be better this that this person were not have been born.” So somebody could ask Him, “So why did You allow him to be born?” You see, now there are two concepts here. One is the evil, and the necessity to stop the evil. And the other is the infinite Love of God, to allow life and creativity to shine and be glorious. In that case, if God were to say, “This person will be bad, and I will stop him, I will not allow him to be born;” then the necessity and the evil power wins and the Love of God loses. God gives the gift of life and He is always waiting for the repentance of that person.
Eastern people don’t understand this kind of freedom. They want a kind of dictatorship, where God will be the ultimate dictator, telling you that you will do this and not do that; and you will say, “Yes, yes, yes.” But the kingdom of God is not a dictatorship, and this freedom and love are not the same thing as that. Many people ask, “why am I not married? Why does nobody want me? Why did the new business I started go bankrupt and I cannot work?” “Why are there are so many bad things that happen to good people?”
The same question was in the Book of Job, when Job was a such good person, the best, and all the bad things happened to him. What is the answer. The answer is not a single sentence. The answer is not an intellectual theory. The answer is the presence of God. As Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” And the truth is not a sentence or a theory as we expect it. But when God came to Job and Job asked Him, He did not give an answer, but the answer was right there: Job was face-to face in the presence of God.
It is very important to understand one thing. We see in the Gospel today that there was a miracle and the Jews refused to see the miracle. They were thinking about so many things: Who did this? Who did that? It was Saturday and work was not allowed. All these things had nothing to do with the miracle. Asking why in this way is forgetting that we in our life, at this moment, and all of our life, is a miracle. It is a miracle, for example, that so many millions and billions of cells in my body are in stability and I live. One day this will stop and I will die. It is a miracle that we see the birds, that we see the flowers outside. It is a miracle that we can love and that we can be loved.
Many times we are like the Pharisees and forget the miracle and say, “Well under which conditions did this happen? Is this good or is this bad? Is this because of a previous life?” So when we see that something bad is happening in our life, expect that here Jesus is present. Because this is not the end of life, where the evil will stop. The evil will stop when history stops with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So during this period now, we should understand that in any difficulty, Jesus is there. And instead of searching in previous lives for reasons why something bad happened, we should listen to what Jesus day, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Because this is the meaning of love: the Son of Man. And when we will say to Him, “Who is this person to believe?” He will reveal himself. He will take us out of the blindness that we have. And when he does this, we will see Him. And this is the reason And this is everything.
And there is something else. Many times we ask why bad things are happening to me, and don’t ask why good things are happening to me? (This is very important and let’s pay attention for a little longer.) In the Epistle today, it was from the Philippians, there was woman, a slave who was possessed by a demon who could make prophesies. When Paul went there, she told the truth, she said, “These people (Paul in front of her), they preach the real God.” But Paul stopped her and he cast out the devil. Now, we have here the question, can the demons say the truth?
First of all, yes, sometimes the demons say the truth – but not the whole truth. As I’ve said many times, because some people will say that they believe in Jesus Christ, but the demons believe even more than many of us. But this is not the real faith, because the demons know God as power and they are afraid of Him, but we know God as love, as freedom, not as power. So, yes sometimes the demons may say the truth; but in the truth there is also something that will throw us off.
And the other thing is that we should never pay attention to the teachings or the sayings of the devil, no matter if what he says is the truth or false. If it had been someone else instead of Paul, that person might have said, “See, this prophet – he would say this demon – says believe in Jesus Christ.” As Christians we should never, ever use the devil for missions or to proclaim Jesus Christ, or to us an exorcism or other things of demon-possessed people to say, “You see, God is Truth.” First of all, because later on the demon will gradually use a small thing that will gradually become a big thing to cheat the people. And second, because the Jesus that we preach is the love of God. We preach the Holy Trinity, God as Love, not as power. If people believe in God because they are afraid of devils or because they see something very astonishing that touches their heart, then gradually after a few years they may leave the Church. It is amazing how people need power and they don’t prefer love. They say, “Make a miracle now and I will believe in Jesus Christ.”
But God does not allow me – and not simply because of my sins – to make any miracle except for one – to make the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ: such a humble miracle and so full of love because He enters all of you. It is so humble, this miracle we do here in the church. So I say once more, be careful, it is not the regulations, it is not the power. It is God, who is present in our lives as love, and He is waiting for us to accept this love.
May the Holy Trinity protect all of us. Amen