John 9:1-41 Lent 4
There is a story told by Harry Emerson Fosdick in the Twelve Tests Of Character (Doran, 1923) about a young man who announced to his friend, “Mr. Jones is the most brilliant man I ever knew. He remembers every card that I held at bridge last week”. The friend replied, “Has it ever occurred to you that Mr. Jones is forty-five years old, and that he doesn’t know anything else?” The trouble with Mr. Jones is that the world is flooded with light, and he is content to receive just one faint beam of it.”
That is the situation of a lot of us. We are content to receive one faint beam of light into our lives and we believe that it is all there is. We think that what we see in that dim light is the whole of reality. It is a certain kind of blindness. In the Gospel today, we have another one of those great stories of Jesus which I believe addresses this problem. A blind man is brought to Jesus and you have the feeling right off the bat that this man is no ordinary blind man but is a prototype of humanity. He is all of us. It is mentioned that he was born blind. Perhaps that can be said of all of us. Jesus points out that it is not because of anyone’s sin that he was born blind, which seemed to the common belief, but he was blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. Jesus announces that “I am the light of the World” and heals the man of blindness.
The Good news for me in this story is that realizing our blindness can be the occasion of God’s Glory manifested in us. When our world begins to be flooded by the light of Christ, we begin to see our lives and the world differently. It is an experience of Enlightenment. It is a gift of sight.
Enlightenment doesn’t change the world around us but our way of seeing it changes. There is a Zen proverb, ” Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water.” Things don’t change, but our perception changes. Enlightenment is a way of seeing. It is attitude toward everything that we do.
With the enlightenment, we see people differently. A number of years ago I heard a tape of a lecture given by Dr. Paul Tournier, a Psychiatrist from Geneva.
He came to a stage in his own life when Christ for him became personal. It was if his life was flooded with light and he began to see everything differently. As a medical doctor at that time, he began to see his patients not just to be examined from the outside with stethoscope and similar instruments, but whole persons. He had a desire to know something more of their lives than the physical examination would reveal. He said it was amazing how he found that so often their illnesses were connected with the nature of their lives. He would take time to know his patients and as they revealed to him the situations and circumstances of their lives he began to find that more interesting than the routine medical examinations that he performed. His medical practice completely changed and he began to promote what was to be known as the “medicine of the whole person”
I think as our eyes are opened we begin to see people not so much just from the outside but the kind of person they really are on the inside. We begin to see people as Christ saw them. They don’t change . We change. We see them differently.
The world seems different in a lot of ways. Common objects, things that we see everyday and might not pay much attention to them take on new meaning. I love the prayers by Michel Quoist because he has the perception to see ordinary stuff from a spiritual perspective. Some people call it the deep See, because he is among those who look under the surface of things to the reality which run deep beneath them.
In his popular book Prayers (Sheed and Ward, N.Y., 1963) he says “If we knew how to look at life through God’s eyes, we would see innumerable tokens of the love of the Creator seeking the love of his creatures, . The Father puts us into the world , not to walk through it with lowered eyes, but to search for him through things, events, people. Everything must reveal God to us” And so we see in his prayers, prayerful reflections on a telephone, wire fence, a friend, a brick, the subway, a swing, and a door to name a few. He has a wonderful prayer before a twenty dollar bill with all its joyful mysteries and sorrowful mysteries hidden in it’s creases. He cries out in prayer:
The world can look very different in the light of Christ. Paul Tillich in The Shaking of the Foundations (The Scribner Library, N.Y. 1948) talked about us living in two orders. One order was the order of history which was primarily an order growing and dying, of sin and tragedy, of self destruction, the good and the bad, the weak and the heroic. The other Order is the eternal order, of Love which never ends, of the divine forgiveness and acceptance that can change us forever, of the power of the Spirit which will lift us up when we have fallen and are at our weakest and enable us to run without weariness and rise up as if on the wings of eagles. In our enlightenment we can see that eternal breaking in to the historical order so that we will never have to be enslaved by the historical order of things. We can be in touch which something which is beyond it.
The world around us does not change but we change are our way of seeing changes. You can be overcome by all the dreadful things that happen around us, all the mundane things we have to do in this world, and the dastardly things that people do to us. One thing that cannot be taken from us is our attitude toward them. As is affirmed in A Course in Miracles, “I can choose peace rather than this!” Peace is that which takes place within us regardless of what is on the outside. We can choose peace while chopping wood and carrying water.
Yes when we live in the light of Christ we see people differently and the world differently. Most of all we see ourselves differently as people who know the love of God and live with the God’s forgiveness and acceptance. We see ourselves, no matter who we are and what we’ve done, as sought after God’s lovers. We live daily with God’s amazing Grace. You know and love that you are alive. Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking ( Harper and Row, NY. 1973)that there is only one miracle, It is life. He asks, “Are you experiencing this miracle?”
Jesus said in the Gospel today, “I am the light of the world” . When you live in his light you no longer have to live in darkness. As surely as Jesus took the blind man aside and spread wet mud on his eyes and he began to see, Jesus can open our eyes we will see in the light of Christ, people like we’ve never seen them before, the world flooded with light, and ourselves alive beyond a shadow of a doubt.
It is truly the gift of sight. We will see as if seeing for the first time