April 3, 2011
It takes time to be able to see. Blindness does not let go of us all at once. It takes patience and repeated efforts to open ourselves to the light. This is the major theme of today’s gospel. In the first few verses of the gospel a man who has been blind from birth is healed by Jesus. But the major point of the gospel is that although this man has received physical sight, he still cannot see. Although he now for the first time he can recognize color and movement and people’s faces, he is not yet able to recognize who it is that healed him and how his healing leads to salvation.
This is why the major part of the gospel happens after the healing. As this man who was once blind interacts with other people, he gradually begins to see what has happened to him. He talks first to his neighbors, then to the Pharisees, then to Jesus himself. Step by step he sees more and more. At first he does not know who it is that healed him. Then he recognizes Jesus as a prophet. Finally he comes to worship Jesus as his Lord. Step by step, the man who once only has physical sight comes to see Jesus as his Savior. Now of course, anywhere along in this process, the man born blind could have stopped. He could have said what I see right now is enough. I need to see nothing more. If he would have stopped, his life would have been simpler and certainly less combative. But if he would have stopped the process, he would always remain partially blind, never able to open himself fully to the light.
The message of the gospel is rather clear. We can see, yet in each one of us there still remains a certain blindness. That blindness is something that Jesus wants to remove. He wants to take it from us, so that we can fully embrace the light. The only question is whether we will open ourselves to accept the light or stubbornly cling to the partial light that we already have.
How do we open ourselves to the fullness of the light? The man born blind shows us the way. His witness tells us that we open ourselves to the light through dialogue. The man born blind keeps talking. He keeps talking to his neighbors, to the Pharisees, to Jesus himself. It is not easy to keep talking. You have to be open and admit that you do not know everything. Only then is there reason to dialogue. You have to have courage to realize that you might face some opposition with people who disagree with you. But the man born blind does not quit. He keeps in dialogue until he fully comes to the light.
You might be experiencing some difficulty in your marriage or in some close relationship. From where you stand and what you see at this moment, you might conclude that the relationship has come to a dead end, that there are irreconcilable differences and no way forward. This gospel reminds you that there may well be a blindness in you that you have not yet recognized and encourages you to keep talking. Keep talking to your partner, to your friends, to counselors so that you might recognize what you do not see and allow Christ to bring you to a fuller sight. Perhaps, then, your relationship may be preserved.
You might know someone who has hurt you deeply, and from what you can see right now, you have concluded there is no way I can forgive. There is no way this relationship can be healed. Today’s gospel tells you that there are things about yourself and about the other that you still do not know. Keep the dialogue going. Keep trying to understand what you do not understand, so that Christ might lead you to a fuller light and perhaps reconciliation.
There might be someone in your family, in your workplace, in our government with whom you disagree, whom you feel is wrong. From where you stand right now, there is no way that you could understand such people or support them. Today’s gospel reminds us that along with the things that we see, there remains a certain amount of blindness. It is only as we keep discussing, keep thinking, keep talking that we are able to recognize that blindness and then perhaps move forward.
There is nothing wrong with being partially blind until you make the decision to make that blindness permanent. That is why Christ calls us out of blindness into the light. Christ asks us to keep talking, to keep dialoguing so that we might recognize what we do not know and be able to see more fully. As long as we keep talking, we will be able to understand and see more and more. It is when we close the dialogue and close our minds, that we condemn ourselves to blindness.