I recently read an article about a basketball prodigy who is being compared to some of the all-time greats. The amazing thing is that this kid is in 9th grade... 9TH GRADE!!! Can you believe it?!? Our culture loves to label people. Sometimes these labels can be grandiose and overwhelming. Other times they can be hurtful and degrading. They can be tough to live up to and even tougher to shake. Note in this week's Gospel how many times labels impact the story:
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" — which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, "Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is, " but others said, "No, he just looks like him." He said, "I am."
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see." So some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a sinful man do such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, "What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." They answered and said to him, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38
The blind man (Label) is no more. He has been healed. And yet his neighbors and the Pharisees (Label) get caught up in the fact that he is/was a blind beggar (Label). They then try to understand who it was that healed the blind man. As the blind man identified his healer as a prophet (Label) the Pharisees threw the blind man out.
Jesus returns to the man after hearing this and asks the defining question. "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" (Label) Underlying all man-made labels is the unique truth of who God is and who He created us to be. Once the man realizes this truth, "I do believe, Lord" (THE LABEL) he worships Jesus. Everyone else is left to figure out their labels.
What does all this mean? All too often we put labels on people so that we can make sense of what is happening in our world. Just as the Pharisees did with the blind beggar, in our humanness we seek to justify our limited understanding of things by discounting others' experiences and forcing them into labels that fit our mindset. In the midst of all of this we are blind to the miracle and He who performed it. If we correctly keep our eyes on Him everything comes together.
So let's get back to labels. Here are two that we need to always remember. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, aka GOD! and for all who have seen Him and believe, BELOVED!