It’s hard to avoid the fact that tragedy is rarely far from us. Of course, goodness and beauty and love are rarely far from us, either. But that doesn’t prevent us from facing the all-too-obvious evidence of the sin and brokenness that infect our world…and our own hearts. A man takes his own life. A flood or a tornado destroys a community. A child gets abducted, or an accident takes a life in its prime.
One natural reaction to such tragedy is to look for some reason: “Why did God allow…?” This seems to be what’s happening in the gospel lesson from today’s Daily Office. The disciples of Jesus come upon a man who’s been blind from birth, and they ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1)
But Jesus does not seem to be all that interested in addressing the philosophical question. Instead, he responds: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we (emphasis added) must do the works of Him who sent me.” (John 9:3-4)
Author Philip Yancey suggests – that by responding in this way – Jesus replaces the “Why?” question with a more productive one: “To what end?” He highlights the opportunity that we are given to partner with God, so that even dark moments of pain and loss and death can become occasions in which people of the Light make manifest God’s healing and blessing and life.
I pray that pain and brokenness will be far from us today. However, I also pray that we’ll be unafraid to see these realities fully if and when God brings them to our attention. And when we see them, I hope we can ask: “To what end has the Lord made me aware of this? How can the ‘works of God’ be displayed – even in a situation like this? And how can I cooperate with Jesus to let His light shine?”