79- BLIND SINCE BIRTH

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Ezekias: So you see brothers, our first parents, Adam and Eve, wanted to discover the secret of God the Most High, and know the good from the bad. And they sinned, because this knowledge belonged only to God. Only God can judge what is good and what is bad. With God, we, ministers on earth, have received from the same God the power to discern which is the good fruit and which is rotten and infested with worms.

Woman: Master Ezekias, since you are an authority on sins, please tell me… Who do you think sinned more, Adam or Eve?

Ezekias: Look, my child, the sin of Eve was greater because not only did she eat the forbidden fruit, she even led her husband to sin, and this, therefore, had made her sin more…

That morning of Saturday, passing through the Water Gate (Puerta del Agua) to enter the city, we saw Ezekias, the teacher and authority of the Law of the traditions of Israel, teaching the pilgrims who surrounded him…His eyes moved a lot, like an owl pursuing his prey. The other Pharisees like him, taught Moses’ Law in the streets of Jerusalem during the days of the feast.

Ezekias: So, having eaten the forbidden fruit, and the sin of our forefathers consummated, the two felt embarrassed for seeing themselves naked. Another sin was born that very instant, the sin of concupiscence, then the sin of greed, of lust and the sin of….

Chispa: Hey, Master What’s Your Name? You start mentioning one sin and you will end up mentioning the others too. Ha, ha, ha…!

Ezekias: What is this wretch saying?

Chispa: I said, if the old man Noah had filled his ark with all the sins you have been naming from the time you opened your mouth, then his boat would have sunk right then.

Ezekias: But who is this insolent fellow?

A Man: He’s blind, Master Ezekias.

A Woman: They call him Chispa because he’s a blabber mouth. He never keeps his mouth shut.

Chispa: Go ahead, Master What’s Your Name. Your story about naked Eve is getting to be interesting!… Huh!…. I may be blind, but not maim, so I can learn a lot with my hands! Ha, ha, ha….!

Ezekias: Hey, you miserable beggar, you better shut up and go away from here, that we may experience the joy of meditating on the Law of the Most High…!

Chispa: Suit yourselves, I’ve got my wine, after all, which is better! Ahhh….!

Ezekias: Foul mouth….! Drunkard! Well, let’s go on with our discussion. Are there any more questions?

A Woman: If you know what is good and bad, please tell us, why this poor fellow was born blind. Could it be because of the sins of his parents, or his own?

Chispa: Oh, oh, my parents are nice people. Leave them alone, will you? Maybe their grandmother is the sinful one! Look at this woman…!

Ezekias: The right answer to the right question. Look, knowing the rebellious spirit of this man and the constant mockery with which he deals with the ministers of God, we can be sure that this man has sinned and because of this, he was born blind.

Chispa: Hey, how could I have sinned if I was born blind? Did I sin inside my mother’s womb?

Ezekias: This man has sinned and will continue to sin. His tongue is his own judge and it is very sinful.

Chispa: And yours too. Master What’s Your Name, all your spittle must have dried up at this time, so why don’t you take a shot? Here, take it…. You’ve been talking the whole morning, you’ve got to wet your whistle! Ha, ha, ha!…..

Ezekias: My children, let’s get out of here and look for a more quiet place. With this rascal around, it’s impossible to reflect truly on the word of God….

The group of pilgrims left through the narrow street, with Teacher Ezekias. Smiling, Chispa was left there, with his thick cane in his hands. He was very dark, but the wine gave a radiant look in his face. We moved closer and Jesus sat beside him…

Jesus: So, everyone’s gone, my friend…. Now you can drink your wine all by yourself…

Chispa: Well, as a matter of fact, I was having much fun with them…. He’s quite a guy, that teacher! I don’t know what you think, pal, but what nerve he’s got to judge other people, that this one has sinned, and that one is good or bad…. Pff!

Jesus: He wants to have God locked up in a cage, like a bird…

Chispa: Did you hear what he said? That I was born blind because of my sins… How’s that possible when I can’t even see? Hah! If I want to pinch a woman, I end up grabbing her boobs! I’m just a poor wretch…. And now he calls me a sinner! And that’s the height of it!…. Look, paisano (compatriot), I believe God will not use up all his spittle talking nonsense, like this teacher… don’t you agree?

Then Jesus spat on the ground… and made a little paste with his spittle and clay…. then he rubbed it on Chispa’s blind eyes….

Chispa: Hold it, you! What’re you doing to me? What’s the matter?…. Are you out of your mind?

Jesus: Listen to me, Chispa, go and wash in the Pool of Siloam… Then go and see that blabbermouthed teacher and tell him what happened…

Chispa: Wait… don’t go away…. Hey, who are you?…. Tell me, who are you?

After a while…

A Woman: Look, Comadre Lyna…. Isn’t that Chispa, the blind man?

Another Woman: How can that be when the guy has no cane and walks as if… nothing… Come, let’s go near. He must be someone who looks like Chispa…

Woman: Are you Chispa, who’s seen at the Water Gate every morning?

Chispa: The very same one my mother gave birth to!… Yeah, I’m Chispa.

Woman: How come you can see me, or is this one of your tricks again, bandit?

Chispa: No, Ma’m Lyna. Look how well I am now, I can even tell the number of your hairs in your moustache…..

Woman: Foul mouth! Damn you rascal!

Chispa: Please don’t think I see unpleasant things alone, Ma’m Lyna. I also see how pretty you are in that striped scarf of yours…. What a sight to behold! Now I see everything! Everything! Except that teacher, whose name I don’t know….. The one who cured me told me to look for him…. Where could he be?

Soon the news was all over the village…

A Man: How did it happen, Chispa, c’mon tell us….!

Chispa: This man, whose name I think is Jesus, rubbed my eyes with clay and told me to wash in the Pool of Siloam. I did, and… presto!… I was cured! That’s it!

Man: And where’s this man who cured you?

Chispa: I don’t know. Right now, I’m looking for that teacher of the law with a shrill, crickety voice…. I wonder where he’s gone!

Finally Chispa found him….

Ezekias: What’s with you, poor sinner?

Chispa: I can see! I can see!

Ezekias: You can see? What nonsense are you saying, rascal?

Chispa: That I can see with my eyes! That’s what I’m telling you!

Ezekias: You can see?….. Do you see my hand….? That’s right……

Chispa: Of course! In fact, I see you’ve got dirty hands, teacher! Ha, ha, ha…!

Ezekias: Let go of me, you fool! You’re not Chispa, but an impostor. He sent you to confuse us.

Chispa: No, I’m the same one whom you saw at the Water Gate when you were telling the story of naked Eve!

Ezekias: So, what happened to you?

Chispa: A man rubbed my eyes with clay and spittle and when I washed in the Pool,….. presto, I could see!

Ezekias: And who is this man?

Chispa: The one who cured me… I was blind, so I couldn’t see his face.

Ezekias: Today is a rest day! Nobody can heal on the Sabbath!

Chispa: But he cured me.

Ezekias: In whose name did he do it?

Chispa: He mentioned God’s name when he cured me.

Ezekias: He couldn’t have done that, because he who does not observe the Sabbath is a sinner!

Chispa: Well, I think he’s a good man. And he cured me!

Ezekias: He is neither a good man nor has he cured you in God’s name!

Ezekias: Who was this man?

Chispa: They say he’s God’s prophet.

Ezekias: Liar! He who does not fulfill God’s Law cannot be a prophet!

Chispa: Well, prophet or not, I don’t give a damn. He cured me!

Ezekias: Enough of this silly talk! You have never been blind, you brazen fool, impostor! Go fetch the parents of this man. I’m calling the priests right away!

A Priest: Be careful with what you are going to say! You are in the house of God and before His representatives! We shall take your statement in the name of the Almighty! Are you ready to tell the truth?

Mother: Yes, sir….. we are…

Another Priest: Is this man here your son?

Father: Yes, teacher. He is our son Roboam… Some call him Chispa. ….He is the same one…

Priest: You are under oath in the name of God the Almighty! Is it true that this man was born blind?

Mother: Yes, it is true. Just as I am, right now, trembling with fear… I myself gave birth to him; he was born blind… That was quite a sad thing, teacher….

Priest: Well then, if he was born blind, why can he see now? In God’s name, tell the truth!

Father: The truth is, we have no knowledge of how it happened…

Mother: Why don’t you ask him? He is old enough…. to explain to you everything….. yes, ask him!

So they called Chispa…

Priest: Listen, rascal, and this is going to be the last time. You are before the books of the Law and God’s representatives… We know that the man whom you claim has cured you is a sinner. If you are a follower of his, then we declare you a sinner too! We cannot consent to the fact that this man has cured you on the day of the Sabbath!

Chispa: What if I was healed on a Monday?

Priest: You would commit a sin, just the same! We cannot tolerate a man who claims doing things in God’s name! We are God’s representatives and only we can interpret the Holy Law! We declare that this man is a sinner!

Priest: C’mon, what can you say about him?

Chispa: Here you go again! I told you, I don’t give a damn, whatever he is! I was blind, and now, I can see!….

Priest: Who is this man, and where is he?!

Chispa: Let’s get this over with… I know what you want…. You want to learn doing marvellous things from him!

Priest: Damn, go away and join him! You’re of the same stuff, anyway: you’re both sinners with no breeding at all! Go ahead! We shall obey Moses, whom God has spoken to, and not this man, whom we know to be a charlatan from Galilee, who wears broken sandals and stinks of wine and whores!

Chispa: Exactly! This poor fellow has God on his side, because I couldn’t imagine him giving sight to a blind man, without having God on his side!….

Priest: Are you lecturing us, the ministers of God, or something? Get out of my sight, damn! We can’t allow a wretched man like you to tell us on whose side our Lord is and is not. That is our job. We can’t allow anyone to do as he pleases! God’s wrath befall you! Go away and don’t you ever set foot in the house of the Lord!

The ministers of God drove Roboam out of the synagogue. The man who they also called Chispa, who was born blind, was able to see, beginning that Saturday, the color of the stones and the shapes of the clouds. Jesus had given him back his sight. He did everything well: he opened the eyes of the blind man and left in the dark those who, full of pride, thought they could see.

*Comments*
The scribes, the doctors or teachers of the law exercised a strong influence on the people. They were aware of it, and because of this, they considered themselves superior. On the other hand, by being “experts” in religion, those who “knew” felt they were exempt from sin. The superiority they displayed to the people was, therefore, intellectual and moral. Many people respected them and obeyed their instructions. They were consulted and were allowed to teach the people. It would be difficult for these teachers of the law, who had enjoyed the monopoly of God and religion, to give up this privilege that had brought them a lot of advantages. This explains their consistent opposition to Jesus, a layman with no special training in theology, who expounded on religious issues with all freedom and in a manner contrary to what was established by the official religion.

The question raised about Chispa’s blindness responds to the mentality of the period. It was believed that all misfortunes were consequences of a sin committed and that God’s punishment was in proportion to the gravity of the sin. God could also punish “out of love,” in order to test a person. If these punishments were accepted in faith, then the misfortune was converted into a blessing, and people eventually acquired a more profound knowledge of the law, and received the pardon of their sins. But it was a belief that no punishment as God’s test could prevent a person from studying the Law. In this sense, blindness could never be a test of love, but of malediction. Some rabbis were of the belief that a boy could commit sin even in his mother’s womb, but it was more common to think that congenital physical defects were due to the sins of the parents, in spite of the clarifications made by prophets on punishments inherited, insisting that it was more an individual responsibility before God (Ez 18:1-32).

Before such intolerance and obstinacy, Jesus approaches the blind man as his equal, without accepting the judgement made by the religious authorities, much less the idea that God is behind this judgment. God is not monopolized by the theologians, neither can people dictate God’s actuations. God is free and wants all people to be free. All this indicates a sign to us, when Jesus opens the eyes of the man who was born blind. Those who claim they can see, that they know the truth and possess knowledge, are blind. And those who are despised, the last and the least ones, are those who actually see and get to know the truth about God.

Jesus rubs the eyes of the blind man with mud mixed with spittle. This is a sign too: He is reenacting the scene in Genesis, which describes God creating humans out of clay of the earth, mixed with his spittle. In Israel it was believed that saliva was a source of one’s strength, of vital energy, and therefore, it was used to cure certain illnesses. For example, it was the traditional belief that the spittle of the first born son could cure diseases of the eyes. The symbolic element of mixing spittle with clay in this manner is significant. The gospel of Jesus, his good news, is capable of creating a new man, who is truly free not only before his brothers, but also before the Lord. God does not put people in shackles, nor does God punish them with sufferings. God wants to relate to humans as his equal.

The Pool of Siloam was located outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Siloam means “the one sent”; this makes reference to the origin of water that was stuck up in the pool. The water reached Siloam from the spring of Guijon, situated in the eastern part of the city. The fountain of Guijon was the only spring in Jerusalem from which water sprang forth throughout the year. This explains the authorities’ concern to contain it as the source of water supply in the whole city in times of drought and above all, in times of war. That is why, seven hundred years before Christ, King Ezechias ordered the construction of a tunnel from the springs of Gihon to Siloam, which was then situated inside the walls. This tunnel, excavated in bare rock, is an admirable feat of engineering. It is half a kilometer long, only half a meter wide, and with a height ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 meters. Today one can still pass through the tunnel in about 3/4 of an hour, with the use of a lamp and with the water below knee high, until he gets to the ruins of the old Pool of Siloam.

What concerns the religious authorities here is not whether the blind man could see or not, but to preserve their power and influence. What has taken place disturbs them, because it spoils their theological schemes. They are not willing to accept the fact that a layman, who has also violated the law of the Sabbath, which is a rest day, can also manifest God’s power. Their manner of condemnation is done by stages. First, they deny that what has happened is true and they try to make it appear as a hoax. Then they aim to suppress the joy brought about by healing, by threatening and instilling fear, showing, with an authority arrogated upon themselves, that life (the blind can see) is something negative and perilous. They deny evidences and twist values: by calling evil what is good, darkness what is light. Their false theology stops all arguments for everyone. Between humans and law, they choose the law. The last phase becomes an act of violence: expulsion from the community.

(Jn 9:l-4l)

79- BLIND SINCE BIRTH

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