THE SECOND READING at Morning Prayer today (July 18th) told the story of Jesus' giving sight to a blind beggar sitting at a roadside near Jericho (Luke 18.35f). This theme of blindness occurs frequently in the gospels not only in relation to individuals seeking healing, but often those exercising power. For such people can be blind to all that does not serve their ends; they are people blinded by the 'gods of this world' to 'keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.' (2 Corinthians 4.4f)
Light is a universal symbol of life and when we are blinded or light is extinguished - when we can no longer 'see' what is happening - then fear will stalk the streets with increasing impunity. Because of the way we all need light in order to exist and know our way, we love the light and are suspicious of those who prefer darkness (John 3.19). So St John would write: ‘In (Christ) was life and that life was the light of the world’ (John 1.4). In a similar way darkness has become synonymous with death and ‘blindness’ with not seeing, something Jesus pointed out as he said that we should walk in the light of life (1 John 1.5). John went so far as to point out that if we say that we are one with the Light but walk in darkness (and tell others to walk in the same way) 'we lie and do not do what is true'. Christianity has gone further and recognised that such darkness isn't just a matter of not seeing but it also allows something deeper and more corrosive to spread - something that has been named as 'evil'.
From time immemorial it has been realised that light can become corrupted, so one of the names of Satan – the ‘deceiver’ who rebelled against God – is ‘Lucifer’, which means ‘Light Bringer’. Whatever the origins of that mythology it resonates with the way in which good can become poisoned. Jesus told us to beware of ‘blind guides’ (Matthew 15) who lead people astray, and in a similar way said we could recognise such guides (false prophets) by the fruit they produced (Matthew 7.15f).
From the time when Rome began to exert power over Israel (around 140 BC) this understanding of the way in which nations can also be corrupted led to the notion that ‘false-messiahs’ would arise, those who claim they can lead their followers to a ‘promised land’. Such ‘pseudo-christs’, or anti-christs, appear from time to time, especially when people cease believing in the goodness of God and lose their faith or when they have begun to place their faith in something other than the light of Christ. Then ‘false-prophets’ can appear and fill the void left by the absence of God, something history repeatedly shows and of which there are too many recent examples - Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot etc. The demagogue, whose love is for money and power, can easily become the dictator and the dictator is always the child of Satan, the deceiver. It is by their fruits we can tell the difference - especially how God's 'little one's' experience them, which is why the Beatitudes have been understood as the guide to walking in the light (Matthew 5.1-16)
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God;
lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen. (Psalm 13.3f)