Sunday, March 26, 2017

Today's readings and reflection

FIRST READING (1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13)  
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord s anointed is before him.” 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” 

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”  

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.

SECOND READING (Ephesians 5:8-14)  
Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

GOSPEL  (John 9:1-41) 
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 

Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” 

He said, “I am the man.” 

They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 

He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” 

They said to him, “Where is he?” 

He said, “I do not know.” 

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 

Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” 

There was a division among them. 

So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, 19 and asked them, 

“Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 

His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 

His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.” 

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” 

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I 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 too 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 a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 

They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 

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 speaks to you.” 

He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped him. 

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they 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.

Jesus frees us from spiritual blindness and sin - Servants of the Word  

Three Causes of Spiritual Blindness - Sermons at St Nicholas

The Man Born Blind - Metropolitan Anthony Bloom 

FURTHERMORE . . . (by Fr Robin Gibbons)
Because of modern medicine and health-care many of us can rejoice that we have relatively good eyesight. Compared to generations before us, problems like cataracts, that in some countries are an unremitting problem for many without adequate access to good surgery, can, if provision is found, now be cured by a small routine operation! Yet we also have many whose condition makes it impossible to see in terms of visibility. For them the world becomes a different experience in which other types of ‘seeing’ take place, for sounds, touch, smell become the landscape and often it is a relationship with their seeing eye dog (guide dog), that is crucial. 

Those of us who take our eyes for granted, need to be reminded that we too need others to guide and help us see, because as Jesus reminds us through the story of the man born blind, the true sight of God is a great mixture of things. These words are always important: “But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart. “(1 Samuel 16:7)

Time and time again Jesus takes us to this point, within, in what we call the ‘heart’ is where the great encounter and revelation of God happens to each of us, where we truly perceive things, unless of course we block it out, make ourselves inwardly blind through our own sinfulness. We can cast our minds back to the elderly Simeon, who seeing the Christ child recognised, not by outward appearance but through his inner sight, the promised one in his arms. To ‘see salvation’ is not something visible except in terms of an encounter in compassion and love with another.

This is precisely what we find in that moving story of the healing of the man born blind. In his meeting with Jesus something powerful happens, not only is new sight given him, but also the inner sight of a compassionate and truthful heart is opened. His dialogue with the Pharisees about Jesus shows that he has the grace of seeing salvation, but they, in their obstinate refusal to become open to the works of God outside their control, are the truly blind.

The young man said, ‘”I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”’ (John 9:38,39) The loving question the Lord asks us is simple, do we wish to be healed of our blindness, do we want to take the risk of seeing a little with the eyes of God? Do we wish to see salvation?

HYMN  (John Newton - all the verses)
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.


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