Jesus’ 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.” – John 9:2-3 (NRSV)
I used to work with a guy who, when a problem arose, would declare, “The first step in problem-solving is blame-fixing. Whose fault is this?” We would laugh, but in truth he was only half joking. Finding someone to blame, no matter the circumstances, is wonderfully satisfying.
When I was diagnosed with Covid-19 last year, I heard my former coworker’s voice in my head again. If only I could find someone or something to blame, I would feel better. Mostly I blamed myself. If I only hadn’t seen that person, done that thing, gone that place…
It’s a pernicious lie now, as it was in Jesus’ time, that illness is the result of sin. Because now, as in Jesus’ time, we are invited not to judgment but instead to God’s work of compassion, justice, mercy and healing for all people, including our own selves.
Wearing masks, washing our hands often, social distancing. Having struggled through even a fairly mild version of the virus, I believe in these imperatives now more than ever. But I wonder, is there a way to institute them while still extending compassion instead of judgment upon those who are ill? Christ, in this short meeting with the man born blind, shows us a way. May we follow.
Brother Christ, when you meet us on the road, you see not an opportunity for judgment but a moment for compassion, justice, mercy, and healing. May we follow you and do the same. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor of Vancouver United Church of Christ. Her writing appears in the collection, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms For the Struggle, available from The Pilgrim Press.