John Adams wrote in 1770, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” (“Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials”) His observation is useful in our day as we consider the turmoil in the Church with respect to many of those “hot button” issues involving the Sixth Commandment, from the indissolubility of marriage to the very purpose of human sexuality. When a close papal confidant tweets “2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5,” it’s hard to muster confidence in the logic of contemporary theology. What are we to make of the turmoil? To whom shall we turn?
The epic Gospel passage of the cure of the man born blind (John 9:1-41) is particularly instructive about the relationship between the facts of life, our faith, and our current troubles. Jesus – using His spittle to make mud – anoints the beggar who was blind since birth and opens his eyes. But the joy of the cure is eclipsed by anxiety when the man finds himself on trial by angry Pharisees pushing their anti-Christ agenda. The account of the healing and ensuing trials is a profound metaphor for the faithful, struggling to maintain and deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith.
The Pharisees do not allow the facts to deter them. They simply tinker with the laws of logic to fit their unholy narrative: that Jesus was a sinner because He “did not keep the Sabbath” when He healed the blind man. Confronted by the Pharisees, the man born blind initially refuses to make any judgments whatsoever. He simply states the facts: “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” But the Pharisees press: “What do you have to say about him?” By reasonably reconsidering the evidence of his healing, under duress, the man takes a significant step in the direction of the fullness of the truth. Jesus healed his blindness. A prophet has the power to heal. Therefore, he concludes, Jesus is a prophet.
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