Sunday, April 3, 2011

Elective Blindness

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. John 9:39-41

As a girl who grew up in church, the story of Jesus healing the blind man was certainly not new to me. Our worship director had the music planned today s music around it, the little ones colored pictures of the gospel lesson in Sunday school, it was the theme of the chldrens' sermonette ... let's just say that even without peeking at my program, I saw the theme of today's sermon coming. Being so well versed in the story, I presumed that I would be reminded of truths I already knew. Oh, foolish little me, thinking I'm going to know what God has in store to teach me yet again!

There are a lot of odd parts to this particular miracle, some of which I had hoped pastor would be speaking about. First of all, there's that whole "spitting on the ground, making mud and putting it on a blind person's eyes" part. Wow, that's a little weird! I was wondering if Pastor was going to explain why he chose mud. Um, not really. He explained why the washing took place, but not the mud. Okay, no biggie, there's always next year.

There's the fact that the blind man's parents passed the buck when they were questioned about his healing. That always bothered me. Why didn't they go looking for Jesus to thank him instead of saving face with the religious leaders? Pastor did mention it, but it wasn't a main point. Wrong again.

Then Pastor began to speak about how people said that he wasn't really the blind man who used to beg, it only looked like him. (Having filed this away as a possibility in my little memory bank, I felt certain that Pastor would say that people were simply in denial about Jesus' miracle. Yep, this was going to be a sermon about being blind in denial. Except that I was wrong yet AGAIN-- and his answer hit me between the eyes ...)

Pastor mentioned that people probably couldn't say they were positive it was him, because they had never truly looked at him. They most likely averted their eyes while passing him ... just as we often do while passing those who beg along our city streets. OUCH. I thought of all the times I'd been "stuck" at an intersection where a homeless person walked up and down the sidewalks, hoping for an act of charity. Oh, how I avoided eye contact with those faceless people as I waited for the light to turn green! I gave money to the Salvation Army, donated food to food banks and made meals for our church's homeless ministry, so clearly I had no reason to feel guilty, right? And certainly, giving them money would possibly fund their drug habits, making them worse off. Yes, I certainly had my justifications in order. There's just one problem with that; it doesn't explain why I (who reasoned that I had no reason to feel guilty) couldn't even look that person in the face.

I think about the many ways we can avoid contact with unpleasant realities in our lives. We can screen our calls, drive alternate routes to avoid certain parts of town, turn the channel when we see devastation on the news ... there are so many ways to be voluntarily blind to the needs around us. Overwhelmed by our lack of ability to help everyone in need, we simply look the other way. What else can we do?

I was deeply humbled by a close friend of mine recently, with regards to this very subject. While shopping with her children, there was a man holding a sign, indicating that he was homeless. Instead of averting her eyes, she listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and offered to buy the man dinner from a nearby restaurant. When her daughter asked why they did that, my friend explained that Jesus said to take care of people who did not have houses or enough food. Instead of deciding that she could not help his living situation or give him money, she used something she did have- a restaurant gift card she'd received for her birthday. That meal, while not a long term solution, could have helped that man keep warm until morning, or give him the strength to walk to a nearby shelter for the night. All because she took the time to look his way, asked God for guidance and reached out as she was able.

I know that my resources and abilities are limited, but my God is not. There may be times when I am called to act, but I know that I am always called to pray. If I am going to lift up another suffering person to the Father of us all, the least I can do is look into their eyes.

Father, I know in my own strength I become overwhelmed by human suffering. On my own, I simply fall into despair or avoid acknowledging the existence of Your children in need. Show me how to extend compassion to those whom You place in my path. Do not let me live in elective blindness. Open my eyes, LORD ...

In Lenten Love and Friendship,


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