Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
In a world where we don’t want to imagine there is sin… it helps to realize what sin is. We want to think of sin as a moral infraction, a “breaking a rule” and, in some ways, this is the case. But it is not a breaking of a rule the way that one might cheat on ones taxes or sneak out of work early. Sin is a failure to be what was intended but not by us, not even by a set of rules, but rather by God in God’s overarching pattern for all things. St Augustine calls it, “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” And if we take deed or utterance as symbols, Jesus is erasing a lot of sin here.
In the 9th Chapter of St John’s Gospel, Jesus is asked “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus reply that it was neither does not undo the idea that being born blind is an offense against the created order, that the design of God requires everyone to see God’s works and, seeing them, to praise God for them. There is no moral infraction – but the sickness of sin leads us to a world where someone might be born unable to see and praise God.
In today’s passage it is all the mutos, cæcos, claudos, debiles, et alios multos, the mute, the blind, lame, and the weak, and many others. These are all parts of God’s creation but human sin has left them alone, lost, weak. I don’t mean that human sickness is caused by sin, (That’ll make you blind!) but rather that all of our losses are because of sin. Sin is in the world, ergo there are failures. Jesus sets them right.
In my youth there were preachers aplenty who said AIDS was God’s punishment on “the gay”. I know these folks still exist, but in my youth they were very common even in what we think of as mainline and liberal denominations. I once walked out on one preaching at NYC’s Cathedral of St John the Divine. Their god has sloppy aim: for in punishing gays he also got homeless mothers, and unborn children, It is wrong to say that disease was sent to punish you. It is totally right, however, to say that all disease, all sickness, all poverty, all homelessness, all need and necessity, all cripplings, all maimings, all murders, all violence, all war, all natural disasters, all – for all we know – super novas and the asteroid belt are all the result of sin and the war our soul center has waged against God for ever.
Jesus is coming to set things aright – not to heal people like a magician, to show the power of God (which only begs the question of why tsunamis and why AIDS and why I missed the bus this morning and was late again and got fired as a result). Jesus miracles are not a sign of Magic that you and I somehow missed, but rather each miracle and all of them together, is a sign of what God wants the world to be.
Only our sin keeps it from being so.
And so, Advent. The coming of Christ to save us, to judge us, to set us free, and condemn us – what is this hope then? The sign of the kingdom that is the Mass:
Et faciet Dominus exercituum omnibus populis in monte hoc convivium pinguium, convivium vindemiæ, pinguium medullatorum, vindemiæ defæcatæ. Et præcipitabit in monte isto faciem vinculi colligati super omnes populos, et telam quam orditus est super omnes nationes.
A time is coming when the Lord of hosts will prepare a banquet on this mountain of ours; no meat so tender, no wine so mellow, meat that drips with fat, wine well strained. Gone the chains in which he has bound the peoples, the veil that covered the nations hitherto; on the mountain-side, all these will be engulfed.
Come to Mass. Bring your failings, your weaknesses, sins, losses, maiming, and broken breads to lay at Jesus feet. and see this restoration, this Kingdom of God in action… only our sin keeps it from being so.