Monday, May 11, 2009

Missing the Miracle - Part I

A cool breeze rippled the waters of the pool, as David listened to the sounds of the morning. The clatter of hooves from some merchants bringing in their wares, the moaning of the other beggars, the heated discussions of some priests passing by. He turned his face towards the sun, enjoying the ambience of light that for a time seemed to conquer the blackness. He'd often wondered what it'd be like to see the world, to connect sounds to pictures, but he'd been blind his whole life. When he was younger, he'd asked that question to everyone who would listen, and they had all told him the same thing. These days, he no longer wondered why he was blind. He knew the answer to that. He only hoped that God would accept him anyway. He wished there was a way for him to atone for his sin, but a blind beggar was not welcome at the Temple. David sighed and held out his bowl. At least the breeze was cool this morning.

Change jingled into his bowl.

"Thank you, sir." He said, the early morning gift unexpected.

The Pool of Siloam was not a great place to beg, but there were stories of healing that stretched back through the years, and David had decided that he had nothing to lose. At least there was the scent of hope in amongst his friends. Unlike the others, he had nothing that could be healed, since he had been born deformed, but even the thought of witnessing a miracle gave him hope.

The sound of another early morning group echoed across the pool. David held up his bowl, hopeful for another gift.

"We'll need to get lunch ready a little sooner today, John. How is Philip's mother?"

"She's good, Rabbi. Just lonely."

"When you lose a loved one, it's to be expected." The Rabbi said. "Let's have dinner with her tomorrow. Tell Philip."

"He'll like that, Rabbi."

David listened to the Rabbi's voice, surprised by the gentleness in it. David had never heard this Rabbi before. He sounded young. Religious leaders occasionally talked around the pool, but mostly in argument about points in the Law. David waited for the Rabbi to pass by, but feet scuffed to a halt in front of him. The bowl trembled in David's hands at the thought that a Rabbi, even a young one, had noticed him.

The rest of the group followed in behind the Rabbi in front of David, blocking the sun. David was encompassed in blackness.

"This beggar was born blind, so who sinned, Rabbi? Him, or his parents?"

"Bah. You haven't been listening, John. You sound like the other Pharisees, more concerned with the law than with the people. What makes you assume he is a sinner?"

"Well, he's blind. Clearly, that is not a blessing, so God must be angry with him for some reason. Or his parents, I guess. It says in Ezekiel-"

David felt a light touch on his knee.

"What is your name, son?" The Rabbi asked him.

David swallowed hard, and his voice coughed out in the form of a whisper.

"David, sir."

"I have a cousin named David." He paused. "Do you want to see, David?"

"Yes, sir. Although, I, um, don't know how... yes, sir."

The ground crinkled in front of him and suddenly he felt a cool paste being applied over his eyes. No matter what happens, David thought, this has been the greatest day of my life.

"You see, John." The Rabbi said. "This man was not born in sin; the purpose of his blindness was to reveal God's glory. We have a tendency to look at people who are different, people outside our purview, and judge them. We do it because we do not understand, because it is safe. When we do that, though, we miss the miracle of who God is and why we are here." The Rabbi paused, and David could feel the breath on his face. "Go and wash in the Pool."

With that, the Rabbi stood and left. David could hear him talking to his disciples as they walked away. Slowly he clambered to his feet. He touched the mud on his eyes. There was so much going through his mind he didn't know what to think. The mud represented his sin. Or something like that. He was sure of it. Somehow, this Rabbi was cleansing him. What a day this would be! He would tell the others at the fire tonight. They would know more about this Rabbi.
He bent over the pool, and slowly washed the mud from his eyes. He took his time, enjoying the way the water trickled over his face. Thank you, God, he thought. I am so sorry for my anger. Thank you for this great day. He lavished the water over his face a final time and wiped away the last fragments of the mud.

As he stepped away from the pool his eyelids fluttered and then the strangest thing happened. He began to see pictures, or what looked like pictures. The sounds were the same, but suddenly his world was bathed in light and colour. He shut his eyes, and opened them again. They were still there! He took two steps and then stumbled to the ground, unable to navigate this new world.

"I can see! I can see!" He said suddenly.

"Yeah, and you can't walk, you drunk!" It was Benjamin, his old friend and fellow beggar.

With careful strides, David walked over, noticed the scars on his friend's hands and back, and stopped short. Benjamin looked up at him.

"Have a seat, David, but don't act so drunk! No one gives to the drunken beggar, and you should know better."

David merely looked at his scarred friend.

"Your scars, Benjamin. I never knew. Do they hurt-"

His friend's eyes widened and he leapt to his feet. "You can see? You can see!"

He hugged David hard and kissed his face. Tears streamed down his face.

"Surely God has been good to us this day!" He hugged David again and the two wept together for what seemed a long time. Others around the pool heard the shouts and soon enough the small community of beggars and sick were in an uproar. For the first time in his life, David was able to see his friends, and it was shocking. Some had lost limbs to diseases. Some had pockmarked faces. Some, like Benjamin, had been beaten so many times in the past their bodies were a mass of scars. And yet, here they were, united in their joy and hope for their friend, who to them had suffered the greatest affliction of them all. Blind from birth. Sinner from birth. Today, that had changed, and David made his way carefully around the pool -- it was still hard to walk and look at things -- exchanging hugs and kisses.

Benjamin's face was still red from the tears by the time David made his way back.

"What do I do?" he asked Benjamin.

"You must show yourself to the priests. You have been redeemed, David." The older man took a deep breath. "We will miss you."

"What do you mean, miss me? I'll still be here."

Benjamin smiled and propped up David's shoulders.

"No you won't. No more begging for you. You can work now, perhaps as soon as this week. You must become a part of the community again."

"But this is my community-"

"No!" Benjamin said fiercely, before softening his voice. "You give us hope by not being here. Your absence will remind us every day that God still cares for us. If you stay, it will be as if it never happened." He paused. "I love you, brother."

David nodded and hugged his friend again. He waved at the others, suddenly sad, and slowly headed towards the Temple.