Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.  The Lord will reign forever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations (2nd Divine Liturgy Antiphon).

This week the darkest pall of death has enshrouded us yet again in Texas.  Indeed, as the Prophet Isaiah has said, “Death has prevailed and swallowed men up” (Is. 25:8)!  The brutality of man against man is absolutely inexplicable, defying any and all rational explanations.  If we are to believe the words of the divinely inspired psalmist, we cannot place our trust in men of this world to devise foolproof interventions and solutions.  Like those who concoct them, the interventions and solutions are but temporary band aids applied to wounds that run deeper than any man can comprehend or manage.  And, they may not address the true underlying, fundamental issues of our nation’s malady.

The sheer magnitude of what was witnessed and thrust upon the people of Texas and, in particular, the parents and the children involved, is utterly overwhelming and beyond most all of us gathered here.  And yet, it is our common experience to try to find a reason for such tragedy, to try to make sense out of that which is nonsensical, to understand how and why such things happen.., especially happen to us and to our loved ones  It’s our way of managing that which is seemingly unmanageable chaos.  The easy temptation to succumb to is to lash out in sheer anger – maybe even retaliatory violence – or to find someone or something to blame.  Otherwise what are we to do if someone or something isn’t at fault?  Of course, ultimately when all else fails, there’s God we can lay the blame on because if God were truly in charge then……………….It is easy to see and understand why the convoluted complexity of human suffering and death lends support to the belief that God doesn’t exist or, if He does, He’s apparently incompetent and utterly impotent.  It is also easy to see and understand how there are those who see God as an angry God Who lashes out indiscriminately and mercilessly, a rigid God of intense and harsh judgment. 

It is in this context that we hear today’s Holy Gospel.  Coming across a man blind from birth, the Disciples trying to make sense of the man’s suffering, ask our Lord the cause of the man’s blindness: “’Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” to which our Lord replies, “’Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’”  Here, Jesus dispels the commonly accepted notion of direct cause and effect, that is to say, obviously someone must have sinned because these things don’t just happen to those who don’t sin. 

We should also note quickly here that Jesus isn’t saying that God caused the man’s blindness so that He could receive glory, but rather that even such inexplicable suffering cannot and will not stifle God’s power.  This is what Jesus said when His beloved friend, Lazarus, was dying, if you recall.  “’This sickness is not unto death,’” He assured His Disciples and us, ‘’but for the glory of God, . . . .’” (Jn. 11:4).  Human suffering is not necessarily a direct result of or in direct proportion to one’s sinfulness.  On another occasion, Jesus counseled some others that inexplicable human suffering is always a divine occasion for repentance, that is to say, an occasion for us to approach it with a repentant heart, mind, and soul, lest we, too, perish (Lk. 13:1-5). 

Having said this, however, we cannot dismiss the correlation our Lord makes elsewhere with another suffering soul between his condition and sin in his life.  The man paralyzed for 38 years lying by the pool at the Sheep Gate was instructed by our Lord upon healing him, “’Behold, thou art made whole.  Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee’” (Jn. 5:1-15).  In short, we cannot assume anything, but must ourselves be profoundly humble before the great mystery of suffering in this world and be ever repentant lest we, too, likewise perish.  If anything, we desperately need to be enlightened with the light of God’s divine revelation in His Son, Jesus Christ, if we are to see and discern righteously.  We need the light of Jesus Christ to pierce the darkness that engulfs this old world and to tear it apart just as the veil in the Temple on the day of our innocent Lord’s Suffering and Death for us sinners.  We must ask God to heal our blindness – our spiritual blindness, the blindness of our soul’s eyes – if we are to behold with our spiritual eyes the work and the glory of God in the midst of this benighted world (Jn. 9:39).     

And, again, in light of the deep darkness that has enveloped our nation once more, we hear our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ declare in no uncertain terms, “’As long as I am in the world, I AM the Light of the world.’”  This is a statement of truth, an accepted reality for us Christians who believe in the Son of God, an indisputable fact.  It is a theme of St. John’s Gospel: Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God made flesh, is the Light of the world.  He and He alone has revealed the true nature of the Father (Jn. 1:14, 18).  “In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men” (Jn. 1:4).  “And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [overcome] it” (Jn. 1:5).  Unlike the Baptist and Forerunner, John, who bore witness to the Light, Jesus Christ is the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (Jn. 1:6-9). 

And still, how greatly does the darkness of this decaying world militate against Him Who is the Light, the Truth, the Way, the Life?  Sadly, tragically, inconceivably, we prefer the darkness to His Light (Jn. 3:16-21)!        There are those who say that others, other than Jesus, are lights and beacons in this world, too, and that Jesus is but one among the many luminaries of this world.  But, He is not the Luminary, they say.  He is not the sun that enlightens the moon with its light.

Jesus, however, does not hold to that.  He will not be relegated to that lower status.   He states bluntly, boldly, and without apology, “’I AM the Light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life’” (Jn. 8:12).  He is not the moon reflecting the sun’s light.  Rather He Himself is the sun, the Source of the light itself, just as much as He Himself is “’the Resurrection and the Life’” (Jn. 11:25)!  In short, our Lord and Master asserts His divinity by insisting that He is Life and Light.  Only “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5).  Jesus Christ, so the Church confesses, is

the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages: Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man; . . . .” (Nicene Creed).

This is the Truth that no darkness – no matter how deep, how dark, and how ugly – can comprehend or overcome!  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world!  And, when we walk in Him, that is, when we follow Him; when we listen to His words; when we obey His commands; when we surrender our lives, our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our fears to Him we cannot help but be full of His Light and Life.  He puts the darkness of sin, death, and the devil to flight (Jn. 8:12; 12:35-36, 46)!  For Christ God is arisen, as He said (Mt. 28:6)!  He has trampled down death by His Death and upon all of us in the tombs He bestows His Life and His Light (Paschal Troparion)!  Thus, making us sons of the Light (Jn. 12:36) and sons of the Day (1 Th. 5:4-5).  When we are baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we become His luminaries who are illumined with Him and by Him.  We reflect His glory as we walk in Him and with Him (Ep. 5:8).  He Who is the Light of the world says to His baptized, “’You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven’” (Mt. 5:14, 16).  St. Paul reminds us that we are children of God placed “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of Life, . . . .” (Pp. 2:15, 16). 

The Church and her baptized see through the darkness because to us has been given the Light and Light-filled eyes, unlike those in today’s Gospel who had eyes but could not see, and great was their darkness (Mt. 6:223-23)!  It is because of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ that the Church dares in the boldness of her confession and faith to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and darkness, to “fear no evil, for Thou art with me” (Ps. 22 [23]:4).  He Who is the Fountain of Life, in His Light do we see light (Ps. 35 [36]:9). 

As our Lord healed the blind man of his birth-condition, so we are healed of our birth-condition as the fallen children of Adam and Eve and heirs of death in the saving and sanctifying waters of Holy Baptism.  We see the Son of God, believe in Him, and worship Him.  The Church by her faith and faithful obedience to Him Who is the Light of the world, as she rightly worships Him, enlightens the darkness of this dark world and illumines those so afflicted with blindness bidding them to attend to Jesus Christ the Light of the world.  “Wisdom!  Let us attend!,” she cries out.  “Behold our God in Whom we have trusted, and He shall save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, and we have exulted, and will rejoice in our salvation” (Is. 25:9). 

Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.  The Lord will reign forever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations (2nd Divine Liturgy Antiphon).

Beloved, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can conquer.  Our world is desperately looking for answers this morning.  It suffers a great and unbearable anguish because it cannot comprehend its darkness apart from the Light of Jesus Christ.  It is confused about sexuality and gender, about the nature and structure of the family.  It cannot see the stark and glaring incongruity of its outrage over mass shootings all the while tolerating, if not encouraging and celebrating, mass abortion.  It has yet in its blindness to tell any of us what the distinction is between life outside the womb and life inside it, so that life outside the womb is prized while inside the womb it is not.

You, beloved, are sons of the light and children of the day, shining in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, because you are the Church, light of the true Light, Jesus Christ.  Act like it!  Let us put our trust in Him Who reigns forever to all generations, Who is King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of God and the Son of Man, crucified and risen, in Whom there is no darkness at all (1 Tm. 6:15, 16; 1 Jn. 1:5).  Let us be aflame with the Light Himself that is never overtaken by night (Come ye, take light)!         

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!


Ac. 16:16-34

Jn. 9:1-38