Sunday, July 05, 2020

There's none as blind...

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Trinity

Today Saul becomes Paul.

Saul, this convert to Christ, is a Roman Citizen. This means he has two names, a Hebrew name and a Roman name. This is quite common: the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus has the Hebrew name Joseph Ben Matityahu. It is something that Saul/Paul shares with Elymas BarJesus.  

Saul and the sorcerer Elymas share something else. They are both struck blind by God.



We see Saul converted from persecuting the Christian Faith. He seeks to destroy the Church through using the civil authorities to enforce Jewish teaching. He is struck blind on the Road to Damascus and sits in darkness until Ananias comes with God's authority to restore his sight.

And what about Elymas?

Here we have a sorcerer using his skills to impress and influence the Roman authorities in order to disrupt the Christian message and prevent it from being heard. And what happens? He is struck blind - temporarily, we are told - and has to search for someone to guide him. And we never hear from him again.

 Clearly blindness is the consequence of both Saul and Elymas' persecution of the Church, but why?

We have to see this blindness as a mercy from God. The consequences of our actions can be grave. We need only look at Pharaoh who hardens his heart to the Hebrews only to find that he cannot soften it again. We need only look at Judas Iscariot who regrets his betrayal and yet cannot face the One he betrays, ending his own life in an attempt never to remember Jesus again.

For Saul, blindness is an opportunity to see his own blindness to the truth. With his sight removed, he has to sit and reflect on the light that blinded him. He is not distracted by sights but has to sit and wait for Ananias. Ironically, outward blindness gives him better focus and a cure from being inly blind. 

With his inward vision corrected, his sight can be restored and he enters on to a great ministry.

What about Elymas?


All we know is that his blindness is temporary. What happens when his sight is restored is not told. The proconsul Sergius Paulus is converted at Elymas' blindness, so it seems reasonable that we would be told if Elymas converts. It seems we must still wait for that.


If we want to see where we are going wrong, we need to become blind in order to reflect more deeply. Obviously, this is not necessary for us to become physically blind but rather that we need to remove distractions. If we sit in silence with our eyes closed, we hear better and are better prepared to listen. If we fast and pray, then we clear our vision from denying earthly pleasures and we can see better spiritually. This is why it is good to go on retreat.

Just as the apostles fast and pray before ordaining St Paul and St Barnabas, we too should seek ways of becoming blind to the world in order to see God's will better. It is better to become blind for a little while than to see oneself falling away from God and not knowing what to do about it.


We are destined to see God in all His glory at the wedding feast of the Lamb. To be blind to that would be a terrible tragedy.

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