There are times when we can become so involved in ourselves and in our own narrow interests, that we fail to see the full picture of what’s going on around us, and we can miss the obvious. Today’s Gospel illustrates the destructiveness of such narrowness. Our Lord had just healed a blind man in order to let God’s glory shine out and be seen. But by doing this he threatened the comfortable, ordered life of the Jewish leaders. Their attitude was, how could God possibly be working through someone other than them? After all, they ran the show, they were in charge, and if any Tom, Dick or Harry were to claim God’s work outside of their structure, then their authority and their prestige was being threatened. They completely missed the fact that God was indeed working in their very midst, and they couldn’t recognise it. They were more concerned with themselves and with their own petty rules and regulations. God was working, but not through them. These leaders failed to see the whole picture of what was taking place before their eyes. So, they went out of their way to discredit what Our Lord had done. They condemned Our Lord for healing a man on the Sabbath; even though it was a sign of the presence of the Messiah, that sight would be given to the blind, and even though the man’s parents testified that he was indeed born blind, the Jewish leaders refused to see the presence of God among them. And by the end of the episode it’s very clear that they are the ones who are blind.
Saint John presents this intricate little drama as a call for us to allow the Lord to open our eyes. The temple leaders and the Pharisees were too concerned with themselves that they couldn’t do this. They were not going to have some common upstart from Nazareth upset the status quo and usurp their authority.
Now, because we are human, prideful and selfish, we may be tempted to do the same thing ourselves. For example, we may be pretty settled in our situation when we suddenly realize that a friend, or someone we know has a big problem. It could be drink, drugs or too much rock and roll. But it’s so easy to close our eyes to what’s going on; our first reaction is often to convince ourselves that maybe the problem will just go away. Or we may even sweep the misdeeds of others under the proverbial carpet. We act as though it is asking too much for us to give of ourselves to help solve the problem. In effect, we refuse to see the Lord calling out to us in others. We don’t see the whole picture and we are blind to his presence. Problems, and people-with-problems, need to be addressed, and solutions need to be found if we are to live in peace and harmony with one another. We do others a huge disservice by not taking the time and effort to help them address their problems, and by doing so, we let them dig a deeper hole for themselves.
Perhaps we are confronted with people pushing us to make choices that conflict with our Catholic faith. We know that we should take a courageous stand and say: “This isn’t right, and I’m having no part of it”, but this would make for further conflict. Again, we don’t see the whole picture. Rather than do the right thing and make a fuss and be noticed, we go along with the crowd and, by our silence, we add our consent and approval to what’s going on. This is our opportunity to really stand up for Christ. But instead of making life difficult for ourselves, we go along with the crowd, in conversation if not also in deed. We end up being blind to God’s presence calling us to give witness to the power of Christ in the world. And at the end of the day, only we can do that. If we are unable or unwilling to make that stand, can we reasonably expect anyone else to? Changing our world for the better begins with the individual. It begins with you and me.
It goes without saying that God’s reality, and our human perception of things, don’t necessarily match. ‘God’s ways are not our ways’. Neither Jesse nor Samuel thought that the future, and the greatest, king of Israel would be the youngest and the most insignificant of Jesse’s sons. No one expected the Messiah to be a common carpenter from Nazareth. We focus on our perceptions of what we think God should be like, or how we think he should act. And we miss the big picture, namely his presence in our lives. Even in times of sickness, we expect God to heal us, when actually our sickness might be the very way that we draw closer to him. We expect God to solve our problems, when actually these problems help us to keep a perspective on what really is important in life. By demanding how God should act, as the Pharisees did, we become blind to his presence among us.
And so, today as we inch forward in our preparations to celebrate the Paschal Mysteries, let us pray for the grace to step out of the darkness and into the light.