I have needed glasses for distance driving since I was in high school. I have not had my eyes tested since around the time I began working at Holy Family in the early 1990's. I have been having a lot of difficulty reading lately. Sometimes the words on the page of a book, magazine or newspaper are all jumbled together. So, I broke down recently, and had my eyes tested. I learned that I need a new prescription, one which many folks my age and even younger need to get. The doctor told me I needed trifocals.
As many of you know, with these kinds of glasses you look out the top of the lens for distance, the middle of the lens for things relatively close (like a dashboard) and the bottom of the lens for reading. I have had these for a couple of months now, and I find myself always reaching for my old glasses. I am more comfortable looking at life through an old lens than I am looking at life with a newly prescribed lens.
I am not used to the new glasses. I am not used to the discipline of peering through different parts of the lens for different purposes. Sometimes my eyes gravitate to that reading part, and everything gets a bit distorted. I get a little dizzy. I get a dull headache. It is easier to go back to the old glasses for distance, and then just not see too well in other circumstances.
Changing, adjusting our vision, our way of looking at life is often a challenging thing to do.
This is especially true, not only on the level of physical sight, but also on the level of our spiritual/philosophical/psychological perception of life; our outlook, our worldview, our lifestyle, our approach to self, others and life. Throughout our lifetime, we are constantly in need of adjusting our spiritual/philosophical/psychological vision.
On this level of spiritual/philosophical/psychological vision or perception, we all suffer from blind spots. We do not see things as they are, or we see through a distorted lens, or we see only what we want to see.
What are some example of blind spots in everyday human affairs:
The story of the choice of David to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel today reminds us that, at times, we judge too much according to appearance, and fail to ask the question of how God might perceive things. It is Samuel's intention to choose and anoint one of Jesse's sons, who seems bolder, wiser, or greater physical size than David. Yet, in God's eyes, it is the youngest, smaller son that is God's choice for king. In what ways are we blinded by our own snap judgments and stereotyping?
We also can be blind to our own personality/relationship dynamics that we bring to life situations or interpersonal encounters. Many times we can be sensitized to and rather quick to point out faults or foibles in others, not realizing that what we criticize in others is often a shadow within us that we project onto others, or we are quick to see it in others, because it is also true of us.
Religious rigidity can be a blinding force also. The Pharisees are held up for our consideration day after day, week after week in scripture, as people who thought they were better than/holier than others, but who, in fact, often were missing the point about holiness, and mercy, and justice. Spiritual discipline is good and important, but religious rigidity pretends to know too much about God, and tries also to control God. No one of us can completely know or control the mind and the power of God.
Just as we can be blind to our own personality/relationship shadows, we can be blind also to our own sin. Much has contributed to the lowering of moral thresholds in all of us these days. Lent is a good time, because it encouraged us to become more conscious of our sinfulness, not in a neurotic, obsessive way, but in a real and honest way.
As we become conscious of our own sinfulness, it is important also to become more aware of the subtle sin we turn a blind eye to in the many manifestations of consumerism. We become desensitized to the dehumanization, violence, manipulation, greed, and degradation of human sexuality that we experience regularly in popular entertainment and advertising.
We can be blind also to the challenging circumstances of other peoples' lives. This is a cousin, if you will, of our tendency to stereotype and quickly judge. Seeing through the lens of Jesus Christ makes us a more empathic people. Putting ourselves in the shoes, if you will, of others, and what they are experiencing and undergoing in life, this empathic part of the Jesus lens can make us a little uncomfortable, so we might quickly turn to our "old glasses."
Prejudice is a blinding force. Sometimes prejudice is the result of pain or difficulty others have caused us. It is important that we not allow such pain to form a scab of prejudice. Jesus would not have us condemn, malign or estrange ourselves from others based on color, religious background or what part of the world another or others might be from.
We can be blind to the presence and activity of God in everyday human life, or misunderstand or misinterpret how God is presence in life's circumstances. We hear some of this "blindness" in the question of the apostles, who ask Jesus in the gospel today why the man born blind is blind. Was it his sin, or the sin of his parents? Jesus responds that suffering is not the result of God punishing people for sin. He challenges the apostles and us to see suffering as one of those places where the power and glory of God shines forth. Suffering, Jesus seems to imply, is never an end in itself. It is always leading us, somehow, to glory, new life and ultimately eternal life.
Some of our blindness to God's presence and activity can be the result of not enough prayerfulness, or not having a good discipline of prayer in our lives. Prayer sensitizes us to the presence and power of God in all of life's circumstances, even suffering.
The parents of the man born blind, who is given his sight by Jesus, reveal another kind of blindness. They are afraid to speak what they know to be the truth of their son's condition and healing. They are afraid, afraid of the negative consequences that their religious leaders might impose on them. I spoke of this condition a few weeks ago when I talked about the importance of finding voice, speaking our voice, and acting on our voice. Fear can blind us to judgment regarding certain situations. We can become codependent or compliant with pathological or wrong conditions. We need the lens of Jesus to help us with the blindness that comes from fear.
In our rather comfortable physical circumstances and conditions, we can become blind to the suffering in the world, those close to us and far from us. We can become insensitive to the homelessness, hunger, poverty, and ravaging illnesses that so many people suffer from. As Jesus opens our eyes and we begin to see anew, these people and their circumstances begin to enter our prayer lives and our action for the gospel.
Today's gospel and Ephesians 5 teach us that we are given new sight when we were baptized, new sight in the sense that we are never to perceive life in ordinary human terms. No. Because of our baptism, we are to perceive all of reality through the lens of Jesus Christ. As we grow, as we age, that lens needs to be constantly changed or adjusted. This is what conversion is about.
Let Jesus become, even more this Lent, the lens thought which we perceive life. In a sense, "new glasses" are being offered to each one of us. It is important for us to put our old glasses aside, and reach for the new Jesus lens through which we can better see reality.