Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A)


Here again is another difficulty if [it is true that] it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown without this man’s punishment. Certainly it was not impossible, for it was possible. But it happened so “that [God’s glory] might be made evident even in this man.” One might ask, however, Did he suffer wrong for the glory of God? Tell me what he did wrong. For what if God had never willed to make him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness. Because he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury did this man have because of his blindness? For through his blindness he recovered his sight. As, then, the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good. Sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And he who had brought this man from not being into being also had power to leave him as he was.1


One blow falls on the sinner for punishment only, not conversion. Another occurs for correction; still another happens not in order to correct past sins but for the prevention of future sins. Another blow happens neither for correcting past nor preventing future sins. Rather, the unexpected deliverance following the blow serves to excite a love more focused on the Savior’s goodness.2


We do not believe that the soul previously existed; nor indeed can we think that it sinned before the body, for how can someone sin who has not yet been born? But if there has been no sin or fault preceding the suffering, what then shall we allege as the cause of the suffering? Truly, by our minds we cannot comprehend those things that are far above us. And, I should advise the prudent and myself above all to abstain from wishing to thoroughly scrutinize them. For we should recall to mind what we have been commanded and not curiously examine things that are too deep, or pry into those that are too hard or rashly attempt to discover those things that are hidden in the divine and ineffable counsel alone. Rather, concerning such matters we should piously acknowledge that there are certain wondrous things that God alone understands. At the same time we should maintain and believe that since God is the fountain of all righteousness, God will neither do nor determine anything whatsoever in human affairs or in those of the rest of creation that is unbecoming to God or differs at all from the true righteousness of justice. Since therefore it is fitting for us to be affected in this way, I say, that the Lord does not speak dogmatically when he says “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Rather, he says it to redirect the questioner in another direction and to lead us from things too deep for us to more suitable ones.3


The Lord taught the disciples that there are many reasons for all these events and that they are certainly secret and unexplainable. And so, we always complain about events whose causes we ignore, but then we also learn that nothing happens in vain. This knowledge will be given to us in the future world, because what is hidden now will be revealed to us.4



  1. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 56.1.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. MORALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB, PREFACE 5.12.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 6.1.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (pp. 321–322). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. COMMENTARY ON JOHN 4.9.3.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 322). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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