The story of the blind man who recognized Jesus in the blind town who couldn’t see anything good about the blind man, stands out, in the midst of the current Presidential barnstorming of Congress, to be blind to any problems caused by leaving 24 million people without health care, and instead to adore the prospect of saving 327 billion dollars, money saved by not paying for health care for those 24 million people.
A blind town, a blind Congress, the result is the same. Someone who could be helped is left penniless on the side of the road.
Where’s Jesus in this picture? Right where he’s always been – in the middle of the throng, waiting for us to see and hear him.
Jesus challenged the society he lived in. He didn’t save his sermons for pulpits and pews, he preached them to crowds in the market, addressed lawyers directly, challenged the moral authority of rabbis, kings, priests and even Rome. And in the story about the blind man in the blind town, Jesus challenged all their assumptions about wellness and the sick.
There wasn’t any disagreement in 1st century Israel about the man born blind. Everyone agreed he was being punished by God. The disagreement was about whether the sins being punished were his or his parents’.
The disciples raised this issue with Jesus, asking him to decide.
And Jesus said this situation was not about sin. He said this situation existed as an opportunity for all the rest of us to show some compassion and do some good.
Jesus said the same thing about the man who was beaten and left in the Jericho road, where only a Samaritan (people everyone despised) saw what was really going on, showed compassion, and did some good.
And Jesus said the same thing about the bent-over woman who hadn’t missed a day of prayers in the temple for eighteen years, even though she was sick the whole time, but instead of helping her the temple higher-ups avoided her because she was sick. Jesus was scolded for healing her on the Sabbath. And he challenged them to understand the true meaning of compassion.
Such social blindness! Jesus remarked about it, proclaimed his concern about it, over and over.
And wouldn’t you think loyal Roman Catholic Speaker Paul Ryan would understand Pope Francis’ proclamations about all this? And wouldn’t you think the President of the United States would, too? But Ryan thinks people shouldn’t be dependent on government entitlements, and Trump has said in the past that the Pope’s pronouncements were meddlesome.
Healing the man born blind will, in fact, cost the town something. With his sight restored, this young man will have a right to a place in the local economy, he can take over a niche of earnings someone else has presumably been pocketing. He can compete now, as well as earn. Everyone else will have to move over a bit, and share, perhaps uncomfortably, with this newly-sighted man who has a right to earn. He will no longer have to settle for a blind man’s spare change in a cup.
So healing isn’t just about the cost of medicine and doctors. There is a cost to wellness, and a convenient pocketing of riches when you don’t have to share with others, who are poor because they are sick. And these are the people the Trump-Ryan Health Care Act are letting fall by the wayside.
Jesus healed this man as a demonstration to the town about its own blindness, and in healing this young man he held him up to all of them as an example of what the rest of us could do, in God’s name, if our hearts were moved and our eyes were opened to everyone’s need for help with aching backs, sore knees, failing eyesight, aging and illness.
It was our social sight Jesus was determined to heal. The social blindness that lets us all think it is okay to leave people by the side of the economic road when they are not able to earn their way because of a physical disability. Or when they are not able to afford healthcare because of a social disability in the people running the government.
Blind and deaf. That’s what Jesus calls us all, and he repeatedly prays for us to be given new eyes and new ears.
There’s a blind and deaf new healthcare plan to be voted on next week in Washington. Most of the people voting will be Christians, according to their resumes. And most of the people in danger of losing health care will be poor.
If even one billionaire GOP funder were put at health risk by this Act, don’t you think there would be a reconsideration?
It is possible that there may be enough wise souls who are sensitized to their own religion or sensitive to their next election, to bring about a defeat of this bill. But we may, instead, need to pray for the souls of the nation’s Senators, to prevent this act of national cruelty, in the middle of Lent, on the road that leads to Easter.
Images: Begging Jesus, by Schmalz, Timothy P.. Metal Scupture, circa 2000. Ontario, Canada, Vanderbilt Divinity School Library, Art in the Christian Tradition.