Grace apart from faith

In today’s Gospel, John 9:1-38, a blind man’s faith in Christ makes him whole. Hurray!

No, wait. That’s a different blind man.

This blind man is sitting with his begging cup, and out of nowhere Someone puts mud on him and says “Go bathe in that pool.” No reason given. No promise. No expectation of a miracle.

The blind man is healed as he obeys.

Sound familiar? Two weeks ago, in John 5, the paralytic by the Sheep’s Pool was healed by Someone whose name he did not know – not through faith, and without any understanding. Rather like another paralytic, over in Luke 5, who was healed – not because of his faith, but because of the faith of those who brought him (v.20).

It is no coincidence that in Sunday’s reading from Acts 16, the jailer is told “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household will be saved." The jailer and all his family are baptized. Just as Jewish boys are circumcised before they ever personally decide to embrace their Law, the prison guard’s children are baptized into the Church because of their parents’ faith.

And as with the blind man and both the paralytics, the grace of the sacrament still works, because it doesn’t depend on anybody’s mental capacity or conceptual formulations.