March 19, 2023 at Saint William Church in Naples, FL
1 Samuel 16, 1, 6-7, 10-13 + Psalm 23 + Ephesians 5, 8-14 + John 9, 1-41
We have to learn to see. The human brain must interpret images are focused on the retina, identify them, name them, and then remember them. That remember is the hard part when you get my age. Do you ever go around the house looking for something as I sometimes do without results, give up, and them an hour later find what you were looking for that was right in front of you all the time? Sometimes we just don’t see what is right in front of us, and that is what John’s Gospel reminds us of today.
This story is about a man who learns to see and a bunch of smart people who can’t see what’s right in front of them. You have to ask the question here: which one is really blind? That man who encounters Jesus is learning. He’s learning to see. He begins calling Jesus, “the man”, then a “prophet”, after that, “Lord”. He is learning to see, and part of what helps him is what he hears because he’s listening to what’s being said all around him. Then John gives us Pharisees. These are learned people who know the prophets and what to look for when the Messiah comes. They remind me of those scholars of the law in Matthew’s Gospel summoned by Herod when the visitors from the east come. Those guys knew from the scriptures where and how the Messiah was to be born, and they were too lazy or something to go along with those magi. It’s the same thing with these Pharisees in Jerusalem.
What a great story of human nature this is. How clearly it reveals what pride and self-satisfaction can do, making people blind to what is right in front of them. Those Pharisees in today’s Gospel knew perfectly well what the Messiah would be like. He was doing the very things the prophets had foretold, and instead of seeing the Messiah, the Lord, they saw a sinner! What a tragedy this is revealing not just something that may or not have really happened in the past, but what truth it reveals about us all who need to learn to see raising the question about who is blind and who is not.
There is a lot of blindness in this world, and a bit of darkness in us all. Too often we just fail to see what is right in front of us for all kind of reasons; prejudice, ignorance, stubbornness, ill will, hurts, pain, and lots more besides. The Gospel we proclaim today reminds us first that we can lean to see. It might take some time, but it does happen. We are also reminded that sometimes what we hear can determine what we see. If we are told again and again that someone or something is bad, we might start seeing it that way even if it isn’t bad. So, that old adage, what you see is what you get is not always true because what we see is not always what’s really there. We have to learn to see, and we have to want to.
The blind man of this gospel teaches us that learning to see what is really there is sometimes slow and gradual, but it is possible. The Pharisees of this Gospel teach us something as well; that sometimes what we think we know can blind us to the truth and leave us in the darkness. They also teach is that if we listen to and understand the prophets and the sacred scriptures, we will be able to see and recognize the presence of God in people who are right in front of us even those we might be inclined call “sinners.” We must not make the foolish mistake of those Pharisees. To do so will leave us in a darkness we can never imagine while the Light of Christ, the Light Life, the Light Truth shines for those who want to see and will do what Christ Jesus asks.