Graphic by David Chen

Recognizing our blindness gives us sight

  • March 16, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26 (Year A) 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Samuel must have been perplexed and exasperated.

Seven sons of Jesse had passed before him and each one had impressed him as the one worthy of anointing as king of Israel. Tall, handsome, strong — what more was required? But each of them failed the test and was rejected by God.

Samuel was like most people: he judged by outward appearances. We often judge others by their attractiveness, dress, demeanour, speech, colour and a host of other things. The judgments we form, either positive or negative, are often dead wrong.

We can be completely ignorant of someone’s true nature for we do not consider their heart or inner qualities. Our cultures thrive on this superficiality, causing much of the negative energy in our world.

In the Gospels, Jesus condemned judging others for the simple reason that we do not have the ability to judge correctly or fairly. In this story, it is only when the youngest — the one not even considered — is brought in that the Lord gave approval. This was David, the king of Israel. There were qualities within David that only God could see, as well as pockets of darkness. God reads the human heart; that is why God is so compassionate and forgiving.

God alone knows what we struggle with and the burdens we carry. God is also the only one who knows our true motivations and intentions. We cannot fool God.

How do we develop this ability? We will never be able to read hearts to the extent God does, but we can move in that direction. First, turn off the snap judgment switch. Pay more attention to what people do rather than what they say, especially when they think no one notices.

Observe how a person reacts to pressure, disappointment, ridicule or criticism. Most importantly, note how a person reacts to those who are hurting, faltering, in need or brokenhearted. It is only when heart speaks to heart that true communication happens.

Developing this ability would be most advantageous in our fearful, suspicious and polarized times. The more we are able to look on the hearts of others, the more we will be able to be compassionate as God is and to judge correctly.

Much of this ability results from the gift of light from the Lord that opens our hearts and our inner sight. It is important to continue living as children of the light, being nourished by what is good, right and true, rather than the deeds of darkness. The encounter with the Lord is a time of inner awakening, while so much of the world continues to sleep.

There is no one as blind as those who insist vehemently on their clear vision of everything. In some respects, what we take for reality is an illusion, for we see through the distortion of outward appearances and our own biases.

The story of the man born blind is a parable of this human condition. Jesus restored the sight of the man with physical blindness and in the process, the man also gained deep inner sight. He recognized who Jesus was and where He came from, overcoming the erroneous judgments of those around him. He even gained enough courage to give snappy and barbed answers to his interrogators. They could only see that Jesus had broken a law and therefore He could not be from God. When the authorities had ejected the man from their midst, Jesus found him and led him to a full confession of faith. Within earshot of the authorities, Jesus announced that He had come into the world so that those who could not see may see, and those who see may become blind.

When they objected that they were not blind, His answer was pointed: there was nothing wrong with being blind — their sin lay in insisting they could see clearly when they could not.

If we persist in our illusion that we have all the answers and that our way is the best way, our sin remains. Those who already know everything can learn nothing. Recognizing our own blindness and looking within for insight is the first step towards enlightenment.