Blessed are ‘us and us and us’
Our beatitude today is:
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.
And we’re looking at the person we know as ‘the man born blind’.
One thing is clear: there was no mercy from the disciples for this man born blind. They had a question that was a theological hand grenade for Jesus. It was this:
Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
There’s only one way this kind of thing can happen as far as the disciples are concerned: sin. That’s already decided. The only questions on their lips are: Which sin? Whose sin? His, or his parents’ sin? Was it passed down from parent to child? To them, the man born blind is an ‘object’ of theological speculation. His disability must the result of some kind of sin; in other words, there’s ‘something wrong’ with him.
But you know, there are others in this story who lack mercy; it’s not only the disciples, wanting to know which ‘category’ of sin caused the blindness. We also have the Pharisees, who are divided about whether Jesus is doing God’s work; and the man born blind’s parents who cower before the authorities in fear, unable to stand up for him. Not one can see that God is at work, and so they show themselves to be spiritually blind in their lack of mercy.
By the time we get to the end of this story, there are only two who see it all: Jesus, the Light of the world; and the man born blind.
What did Jesus say the purpose of this man’s blindness was? It was
so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
In other words, we can reveal God by the way we respond to people in need. We can work God’s work. Or, we can hide God’s presence by the way we respond. Which do we want it to be?
These days, we would say that ‘the man born blind’ has a disability. If we can say, ‘Blessed are the merciful’, then I am convinced that a ‘merciful theology of disability’ will reveal God’s work. What I’d like to know in the light of our Gospel reading and today’s Beatitude is: how does ‘mercy’ apply to our relationships with people who have a disability? Could my attitude and yours be called ‘merciful’?