They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. (John 9, 13-14)
We hear stories of Jesus healing people of their sickness. The usual dispute between him healing and the Pharisees were its occurrence on a Sabbath – a day intended solely for prayer and rest.
In my visits to the patients during our Clinical Pastoral Education at the Philippine Heart Center, several patients whom I visited would share that they didn’t want to get sick or being in the hospital because that hinders them from working or from doing things they usually do. Moreover, they didn’t want to be in that condition because they didn’t want to consider themselves as burden to the family. They didn’t want to look at themselves as pabigat.
The man born-blind healed by Jesus in this account of the Gospel of John was likely feeling the same thing for years already. Having been born blind would perhaps mean missing not just something but a lot. Something is lacking. Being the man in the family – one is expected to be the provider of the family. Having an illness must have been very difficult to imagine. Having no use o walang silbi must be a terrible reality to face. It must be very painful for that man to be in that condition. It must have been very hard. Yet, people hardly noticed. The Pharisees hardly felt for him. They would even stick to the observance of the Law. They put much importance to the observance of the Sabbath day than being compassionate to the situation of the paralyzed man. They were blinded by their duty to observe the Law rather than to show compassion, especially to the man who was born blind.
Yes. True indeed, laws are important to put order on things – to give us direction. However, one is to remember that laws are made for man’s advancement and not for the law itself. The spirit of the law is always mindful of the well-being of man, and is life-giving.
In this account, the Pharisees treated the law – the observance of the Sabbath day – in itself. They regarded it as an institution that should be followed and respected no matter what. That is why they were furious at Jesus. They were perplexed as on how to deal with him after gives sight to the man born-blind. They investigated the event judging the action as the one coming from the evil.
While the Pharisees tried to preserve the institution over the human person, Jesus showed us that above any institution, the Law of Love must always be the basis of things – the human person must be seen above all things – the human person before and above the observance of Sabbath. Perhaps, this is what he is trying to tell his disciple when he told them in verse three that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed.” God’s work of loving mercy might be revealed.
Perhaps, this account in the Gospel of John is challenging us to look back on how have we tried to preserve our laws, traditions, or even practices even at the expense of our brethren – colleagues, associates, co-seminarians, brother priests, neighbor, or even to ourselves?
This has been the practice for years already. Just follow it and stop complaining!/ Kabagobago mo palang dito. Ano ang karapatan mong questionin at palitan ang nakaugalian na? / Hindi ikaw ang superior o superiora dito. It’s as if napakamakasalanan mo na once you try to question things.
How about with our enemies, with those people who don’t agree with our ideas, who are against our principles and on what we believe in? How have we tried to put our traditions and practices forward?
We, catholics, at times, would even preserve the institution even at the expense of cursing and condemning other people. We, at times, call ourselves as “pro-life” but when we treat those we also tag as “anti-life” as if up to the point of stepping upon their person and being, we even come to the point of seeing and calling them evil and very bad people. By doing so, are we not also becoming “anti-life” in a sense? We tend to put our beliefs forward instead of showing them our compassion.
How about with our own personal beliefs and practices? How have we tried to preserve them even at the expense of other people?
Even playing dirty just to win the basketball game? Doing anything just to be at the top of the class? Complying other people to follow what we think is right?. That instead of showing them compassion, we put our personal beliefs and practices forward. We put them before other people. Complying them to follow.
Jesus in this account is showing us that showing compassion is more noble than the observance of the law, than pushing our practices forward. He is telling us that while it is necessary to put order on things we must always be mindful that it should always be for the advancement and well-being of man. It should be seen in the spirit of love – of compassion.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta was moved by this compassion that she braved all odds in order to take care of the many poor and sick people who are marginalized in the society. The same is true with St. Camillus de Lilies who was called to minister to the sick.
As St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Church at Colossae, “May you be established in love, that you may obtain all the riches of a full understanding and know the mystery of God, Christ himself.” He tells us that the basis of a full understanding of the mystery of God is the law of love. Any law that enslave a human being and does not promote its welfare is not life giving and therefore far from the will of God.
May we always show compassion toward other people, and that may we always see the love Christ has for each one of us.
JULIUS HABANA (san jose seminary)