Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary: Search RCL for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, John 9:1-41
Miss Grant told our sixth grade class, “There are none so blind as those who will not see”. I don’t think she unpacked the quote for us or where it originated, but it is a fair paraphrase of Jesus in John’s gospel. For the last four weeks in John’s Gospel, Jesus confronts issues of spiritual and emotional blindness, of suffering and disabilities and their root causes and the spiritual blindness of the religious authorities. John also picks a bone with the synagogue that has refused membership to those who believed Jesus was the Christ. While Jesus may not have always been gentle with the religious authorities, I doubt he harbored any lasting resentment toward them. Let’s forget John’s hurt at the exclusion of the early Christians from the synagogue. The Jews were going through their own identity crises. There are Pharisees and disciples, the blind men and women and their parents, and a bit of Jesus is in all of us. The story is as much about our own spiritual blindness as it is about the man born blind.
In Jesus time, either the man was blind because he was a sinner or his parents or some ancestor was. Jesus refutes that argument and says “The man was born blind to show the works of God.” A child who is born blind does not know he or she is blind. To be blind is normal. The blind child navigates the environment as does any infant, but with touch and hearing taste and smell and vibrational movement of the air, whatever works. You have to be told you are blind. Interestingly to me, Jesus usually asks if one wants to be healed. Jesus simply goes and makes a putty of dirt and spit and anoints the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam. (Look it up. Interesting) The cure of the man’s blindness is really a subtext to the story which is really about the blindness of the others who refuse to accept what has happened and the remarkable power of the healer. The blind man is very wise, very simple and wise. Speaking to his interrogators, he says about Jesus, “I don’t know who He is or where He came from. All I know is that I was blind and now I see.” How can I get my eyes to open? How may I see with the eyes of the heart?
Maybe Miss Grant’s quote held one of the secrets to inner sight, to wisdom; “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Will, the will to see, yearn and desire to see with the eyes of the heart. Eastern religions have a place for the third eye. It is in the forehead between and above the eyes. It is that third eye that is looking at the divine and though which the divine sees. In Christian tradition the third eye is to “have the mind of Christ.” And it is more a heart looking, a looking out at the world and the other and ourselves with mercy and love, with a sense of our responsibility to walk with integrity and justice, a heart of forgiveness, humility and joy. Joy is often one of the results of this heart seeing. It is a by product of that looking when the blindness is lifted that joy comes and dwells with us. That vision consoles as we look with they eyes of the heart at the great losses of our lives, and what peace and joy may come as we live with gratitude for it all. If we had not loved we would have no grief.
It’s like a weight watchers diet, you have to will it, keep to a discipline, yuck, and go to meetings and weigh yourself in to keep track of your progress. One of the joys of seeing with the eyes of the heart is that sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, maybe daily, these visions of life and hope and beauty and love come. All that you need to do is open to them, open the eyes, take off the scales and see with love.
Herbert O’Driscoll when he was at the College of Preachers in Washington, DC, told us that we can see Jesus as a template, a transparent image who we place between ourselves and the people and situations we meet. I used the image one Sunday and then Martha came up to me after the service. “I have to be in a situation I dread tomorrow. I recently began to work with a re-constructive surgeon. Tomorrow I have to meet a man who tried to kill himself with a gun and destroyed part of his face. I am afraid to look at him, but I’m going to try what you suggested.” “Wow, let me know what happens.” I said.
The next Sunday she came to me and said, “It worked! I imagined the face of Jesus and I placed it on the man who came into the office. I saw his hurt, his disfiguration, and his humanity. I found I was looking at him with eyes of love.”
After a while this way of seeing becomes a practice and a way of looking at life and people and situations as if they were all being held in the arms of God, protected and cherished. You will discover that “I am looking with the eyes of love.”
To see with such eyes is also to see with discernment. Martha saw the dis-figuration which he caused to himself, his sorrow and his humanity which I imagine included his desperation at his isolation from the world. If ever a man needed to be seen with they eyes of God, he did.
In Vermont where I now live a woman was attacked by her husband with acid. Her face and parts of her body were severely disfigured. She came to church to talk with us one day. It was hard for me to look on her scarred face neck and hands. I looked and I not only saw the evil that caused her such extreme and ongoing suffering, but also her courage and determination to tell her story and to bring the living reality of the abused into the stark morning light. Since then she has had some reconstructive surgery, perhaps at the same practice where Martha worked in Boston. She will not return to her former physical beauty, but more of her body will work. She continues to spread her message. I hear her on the radio and I think she was the presence and work of God that morning in the church in Randolph, Vermont, a reminder of how important it is to see with the eyes of the heart and sometimes how intensely painful and difficult it can be. And yet sometimes that opening comes.
We call her Grace.