The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
In our lesson for this fourth Sunday in Lent, the disciples ask Jesus a profound question, perhaps the profound question – “Why do bad things happen?” Why was this man born blind, they want to know? Why would God do such a thing and condemn someone to a life of extreme hardship and struggle? From their point of view, it must be a punishment of some sort, some kind of divine retribution for sin.
Friends, during these days when so many people are suffering, I think it’s important to understand what God does and doesn’t do. The God of love found in Jesus Christ that I know does not make people sick, or blind, or bankrupt. Our God does not cause suffering. Life does. Life throws all kinds of things at us, tragic things, including this virus and all its consequences. Why God allows these kinds of things to happen I do not know. I think it has to do with the truth that wherever real love is found there is always real freedom. The God of love created all things and therefore creation is free to unfold as it will. Consequently, earthquakes happen, viruses happen, and human beings are free to make right and wrong choices.
In this sense, God is not the source of the bad things that happen in life. Rather, God is the source of the love (grace) that runs in and through all of life. In the midst of our freedom, God’s love is always seeking to heal, to redeem. That’s the message of the cross. We did the worst thing imaginable to Jesus; we nailed him to a tree and killed him. But, God took that horrible event and transformed it into the means through which all of us can find new life, life beyond life.
God did not cause this pandemic, life did. But in the midst of these difficult times, keep your eyes open for God’s grace because it is everywhere, it is bigger than this virus, and it will see us through to better days.
Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)