Sunday Homily: Gospel Principles to Heal 9/11 Blindness

Architects & Engineers

Readings for 4th Sunday of Lent: I SAM 16: 1B, 6-7, 10-13A; PS 23: 1-6; EPH 5: 8-14; JN 9: 1-14

The Liturgy of the Word for this fourth Sunday of Lent centralizes the themes of blindness, seeing, light and darkness. For me, those topics raise questions about being sightless in our contemporary culture. With us, it’s a nearly universal condition. In fact, you might say that ours is a culture that actually rewards blindness and punishes those who can see. For instance:

• We “Americans” can’t allow ourselves to even imagine the implications of admitting that a right-wing coup took place in our country in the year 2000 when conservative Supreme Court justices overruled the popular electoral will. So we pretend that was normal. We refuse to see what actually happened.

• Meanwhile, politicians assure their electoral futures by asking us to close our eyes to their own crimes while they highlight those of the enemy du jour. For example, they want us to wring our hands over Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, while ignoring routine and less warranted U.S. interventions from Grenada to Libya.

• Then there are the climate-change deniers. They refuse to recognize the human causes of climate chaos while reaping billions in profit as the world disintegrates before our sightless eyes.

• Additionally, we allow ourselves to be more easily persuaded by explanations of the CIA and NSA (part of whose acknowledged mission is to deceive) than by whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange who simply release what government says about itself. Somehow we’ve been convinced that the official sources have authority and integrity, while the whistle-blowers are suspect.

• Above all, our culture is blind to what our own eyes told us took place on September 11th 2001, when three World Trade Center (WTC) buildings collapsed in demolition style after a few hours of localized fires of quite ordinary intensity as far as such tragic conflagrations go.

I say “above all” because the events of 9/11/01 have truly changed our world and continue to do so. They have been used to justify “works of darkness” like those Paul alludes to in today’s second reading from Ephesians. Though Paul shrinks from even mentioning them by name, today we might say that they include the War on Terrorism itself along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, racial profiling, drone warfare, torture, water boarding, rendition, Guantanamo, NSA spying, intrusive airport pat-downs . . . .

It’s all justified by 9/11. Paul implies that no one who performs such works is worthy of belief. They operate in secret and in the dark. “Expose them,” Paul urges.

And what needs to be exposed about 9/11? Clearly it’s the weakness of the “official story” we’ve all memorized so well. It says that in the case of two of the WTC buildings, fires feeding off the planes’ jet fuel caused steel girders to melt or weaken to the breaking point. Higher floors fell on top of lower ones, and the buildings pancaked smoothly to the ground. This explanation is accepted even though fires caused by jet fuel cannot even approach the temperatures necessary for such melt-down.

This is not to mention Trade Center Building # 7 that wasn’t even impacted by an airplane and whose demolition style crumbling remains unexplained to this day. Nor need we mention the testimonies of Scientists for 9/11 Truth, the “group of scientific professionals calling for a new, independent, and scientific investigation of the events of September 11, 2001.”

This is not a claim that the U.S. government was necessarily behind the events of 9/11/01. Rather, what’s called for is addressing unanswered questions posed by the scientists just mentioned as well as by scholars of the stature and theological sensibilities of David Ray Griffin.

Griffin is the Process theologian who has devoted the latest phase of his stellar career to raising consciousness about the need to 9/11’s unanswered questions because of the indisputably key role that the tragedy continues to play in “American” political life. He connects 9/11 directly with Jesus and his Kingdom values. I’m sure that, like me, he would see today’s readings as linked to 9/11 blindness.

In 9/11 context, consider today’s readings one by one. They establish principles for dealing with all official stories, explanations and denials.

The first reading tells us that political considerations like the ones just mentioned are not out-of-place in reflections like this. Samuel’s unlikely selection of David from among older and more “worthy” candidates to rule over Israel reminds us that the All Parent is deeply concerned with politics and just governance. In the political realm, Her ways cannot be dictated by what is apparent to merely human wisdom. They always involve preferential option for the least. God’s habit is to turn cultural perceptions upside-down.

The excerpt from Paul’s letter to his friends in Ephesus expands that theme. It identifies Jesus precisely as the one who gives sight to “the least” previously living in the darkness of their contemporary culture governed by falsehood, evil and injustice. Paul says that such darkness is exposed and dispelled by Jesus who brings a bright light that makes everything visible and produces all kinds of goodness, truth and justice.

Then in today’s gospel selection, Jesus shows what it means to bring light. He cures a man born blind. John tells the story through a series of seven interviews involving the poor man. In the process, the formerly sightless beggar doesn’t merely regain the physical ability to see. He also obtains an in-sight that helps him stand up to authorities whose “official” interpretations of Jesus’ healing contradict the blind man’s own senses.

The interviews involve Jesus’ disciples, a conversation with the blind man’s neighbors, three exchanges with Pharisees, interrogation of the blind man’s parents, and a final encounter Jesus himself. In the course of the interactions, the story of the blind man’s cure is recounted three times with delightful elements of magic, humor and irony. The repetition is necessary because the Pharisees, the story’s authority figures, refuse to admit that an ordinary person’s act of seeing can reveal more truth than their official theologized denials and a priori explanations.

So the Pharisees try to convince the cured blind man that he’s lying; he wasn’t really blind at all. They try to get the man’s parents to support their allegations. When that doesn’t work, the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus. He’s a sinner, they say, because he doesn’t observe the Sabbath.

But the beggar refuses to cave in. He insists on believing his own senses, especially sight. “I don’t know much about theology,” he repeats, “but I do know that I was blind and now I see.”

Be like the healed blind man, is the message here. Don’t believe the agents of darkness.

Today’s gospel story goes even further with that instruction. It presents Jesus as not merely turning Pharisaic perceptions upside down, but more generally his culture’s blind spots about truth itself. Those convictions are mirrored in the question of Jesus disciples at the beginning of the episode. Along with Jesus, they see the man born blind. So they ask, “Is this man’s condition the result of his own sin or that of his parents?”

By the end of the story Jesus answers their query with a statement worthy of a Zen master. He says that blindness is no sin at all. It’s seeing that’s sinful. To “clarify,” Jesus adds, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

In other words, the story is meant to raise the question, what kind of blindness is virtuous and what kind of seeing is sinful? For Jesus, the Pharisees’ claim to clear sightedness is actually blindness. The blind man’s admission that he was formerly blind and that Jesus cured him represents clarity of vision.

With all that in mind, here are the quasi-principles for post 9/11 discernment that today’s readings suggest:

• Sacred Scripture is indeed concerned with political realities.

• From the faith perspective, official explanations are probably false.

• We should not believe those who perform works of darkness.

• Kingdom consciousness turns official “reality” upside-down.

• Those whom dominant culture dismisses as blind probably have clearer insight than their “betters.”

• We should believe what we see with our own eyes regardless of what the agents of darkness tell us.

In a world shaped by our dear “leaders’” entirely suspect account of 9/11, accepting those gospel principles would drive us to join David Ray Griffin and the 9/11 Truth Movement as they call for a new, independent, and scientific investigation of the events of September 11, 2001.

Curing our nation of 9/11 blindness would deprive our masters of a powerful pretext to justify their works of darkness. That deprivation would truly change everything.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Homily: Gospel Principles to Heal 9/11 Blindness”

  1. Wish I had enough room here….I would fill the page with “AMENS.”

    You are right on about SCOTUS and “Citizens United.” The fallout from that decision still reverberates and will continue to influence elections and feed anti-union biases until some future president and Congress have the guts to rectify it.

    As far as Sept. 11 is concerned, there never has been a doubt in my mind almost from the beginning that GWB, his evil triumverate in the White House, and the Jewish-American neo-cons at State Dept, aided and abetted by Israel’s Mossad, were totally responsible for the planning and execution of this heinous act against our nation in which 3,000 human beings were murdered.. (Mossad would have done the hands-on part; they are very efficient at killing and designing explosives. ) GWB and his cohorts needed to get us involved in the Middle East, for our own economic interests and most certainly because we are Israel’s lackeys in that part of the world. Israel’s government still seeks to get us involved in doing their dirty work
    for them.

    Israel’s immediate concern is to eliminate their perceived threat from Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities. The world knows that Israel is more than capable of defending itself. They have nuclear weaponry (WMDs) placed strategically throughout their small country — enough to annihilate the entire M.E. region. And yet —- we continue to support their efforts in this and in the destruction and elimination of the indigenous population — by giving Israel 3-billion dollars of American taxpayers’ money each year — carte blanche!

    In addition, the point you make about the hundreds of architects’, engineers’ and scientists’
    opinions about 9/11 (based on their professional knowledge, publshed research and official testimony) is wholly credible. We ignore this information at our peril.

    Very few Americans most likely have no knowledge of the Israeli air attack on the U.S. Liberty.
    There is more than enough information publicly available on this travesty. All one has to do is to use a search engine to get the ‘true’ story from survivors, the lies and denials that Israel still continues to perpetrate — and, perhaps saddest of all, our own U.S. Navy’s cover up of the ‘incident.”

    I no longer believe in, nor have faith in, our natiion’s leaders and the U.S. Congress that is supposed to represent the ‘voice of the people.” That feeling extends right down to state, local, county, city governments.


    1. Alice, your point is very well taken. Thanks for expressing it so clearly. I share your disillusionment with government. But I wonder what one does about the realization that neither party represents us but renders service instead to the highest bidder. And yet, as I see it, the alternative to the Democrats is significantly worse than what we have. Abandoning party politics ends in simply turning the planet over to climate change deniers and to those who would sell the assets that belong to all of us to their friends and sponsors. These are hard and difficult times.


  2. This is an excellent comment.
    And in the world we live in – it is brave.
    I would hesitate, as it is so easy to be branded anti-Semitic.
    Or a terrorist!
    Without our saying ‘some of my best friends are ….whatever.’
    I have pondered for years on why Israel is so important to the US and came up with the conclusion, aided by my Demnow reading etc, that the lackey is Israel. The local capo.
    All the US has to do is snap a finger and we would have peace in the Mid-East in the morning.
    The mullah behind the puppet calls the tune!
    It is all about money and even though money is greatly dominated by the US they have key bedfellows in every capitalist country in the west. The Deep State (Bill Moyers) or the Virtual Senate

    PS. I wonder what the Puppet and the Pope had in common last week! Other than jokes,
    Popet-tery I guess.


    1. So good to hear from you, Jim. I’m just surprised that the movement to re-investigate 9/11 has lost its momentum. On the other hand, it’s no surprise. Just mentioning the possibility that we might not have gotten the whole story — that there might be more to the tragedy than we’ve been told — is enough discredit one as a “conspiracy theorist.” And which of us is willing to be tarred with that brush, which has become the ultimate put-down of truth seekers.


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