‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
The Rich Man and Lazarus (3)
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ (Jn. 9:1-2). The disciples’ question illustrates how this particular understanding of the blessings and curses from the book of Deuteronomy had permeated society in the days of Jesus. As we saw last time, many, including the Pharisees, had interpreted the teaching as linking God’s favor with prosperity, and His judgment with sickness and poverty.
Jesus strongly disagreed, answering: ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him’ (Jn. 9:3). Here Jesus was referring specifically to the power of the Kingdom of God about to be revealed in the healing of the blind man. By extension, however, we can see that suffering in our life can be transfigured to the God’s glory.
The sufferings endured by Lazarus certainly can give us pause. Yet even here we find the grace of God. This teaching is difficult, but perhaps it is best expressed by Fr. Thomas Hopko in his booklet ‘Finding One’s Calling in Life’
Everyone is called to serve God and their fellow human beings in some form of life which God Himself wills. This form of life is not necessarily a job or profession. Some people may be called to suffer on this earth and to bear the results of fallen humanity in the most violent manner; to be victimized by disease, retardation affliction, to be the object of other people’s cares, or distain.
Similarly, when it comes to the blessings of life, we must be careful that we do not stumble into a misunderstanding. To say that those who obey God will prosper does not mean that all those who prosper are necessarily in God’s favor. Their prosperity could result in greed, corruption or heedlessness, and ultimately the judgment of God, as the Rich Man learned to his dismay. Our blessings are not an end in themselves, but rather an opportunity to bear witness to God’s bounty by sharing them with others.
Blessing comes through faithful obedience to our calling in life. This may include the sufferings that can be transfigured in the light of Christ. To encourage us, St. Paul offers these words
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (I Cor. 10:13).