My Neighbor is My Mirror

Lent 4 Thursday

John 9:7

“[Jesus] said to [the blind man]: “Go to the pool of Siloam (which means “sent”) and wash yourself.” Then he went and washed and came back seeing.”


Hear what St. Augustine says in the exposition of this gospel. He says: “Everything Christ did are works and words.” They are works in that they took place and were done by Christ. They are words in that they indicate and signify something. Now this is a work since the blind man became seeing. It is also words, for they signify every man born of Adam. For we all are blind, and our light and illumination is only from the one Christ, our good and faithful God. To grasp this distinction, work and word, you need illumined reason. For how many were those who saw this work, but did not realize its meaning? They saw it as a work, but the word, the meaning, was hidden from them. But if they had realized it, they doubtlessly would have said: “Alas, I am much blinder than he is.” And this is the proper meaning. And this is how it is to this day: There are many who, before the world, appear in great might, ability, wisdom, piety, holiness, chastity, purity, and the like. But there is always a coward found with a mighty many, a fool with a wise man, an impious man with a pious one, an unholy man with a holy one, etc., a sick man with a healthy one, an ugly man with a handsome one. Look at all of humanity in this way, and you will find rich and poor, pretty and ugly, willing and unwilling, joy and sadness, ability and inability, wisdom and foolishness, goodness and badness, and however it may be called, crooked and bad, high and low, etc. And this is not without reason, since God wants to overthrow the rule of the proud and understanding people by means of his unspeakable wisdom. Therefore, let each beware, whether he has many of such gifts or few, lest he look at himself. Let him instead look at his neighbor who does not have these gifts. Then he will say: “Dear God, I am learned or pious etc., but before God I am a fool and full of sin like this brother of mine.” Then each will find how it looks inside of himself. For God has set forth a certain rule: Everything that is high and exalted among men is despised and an abomination before God. The prophet Isaiah writes, Isaiah 11:3-4: God says that he does not judge based on what is seen or heard, but will pronounce a just judgment, as if he wanted to say: “Man, as he is a man, does not judge farther than what he sees and hears.” Thus, he sees a person who is right, mighty, pretty, pious, etc., and calls him as he sees him. If he hears something funny, sweet, or lovely, he calls it thus. But God turns all this upside down: Everything we call pretty, funny, rich, etc., he calls poor, sick, weak, impotent. Thus, let everyone who has grace or a gift from God learn to abstain from looking at himself; let everyone instead note how the neighbor is like and take the neighbor as his own mirror image. Then he must certainly say: Indeed, God has placed a mirror and a book before me from which I am to learn to know myself. O God, now I see that what my brother is on the outside I am on the inside. This is how a man learns to know himself and not to be proud. It is concluded, then, no one can pass this by. For in all the words and works of Christ we see nothing but humility.


St. Louis ed., 12:1305-1307.

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