Monday, January 19, 2004

We're all blind

The gospel reading for us Byzantines this past Sunday was the story of the blind man outside Jericho. I don't remember which of the Synoptic versions we used, but they are very similar. Here is Luke's version:

As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging;
and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant.
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."

Consider the blind man. Is this story merely a tale about a miraculous cure? I don't think so. Think about the blind man in connection with Matt 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. If you are pure of heart, you will see, but what if you aren't pure of heart? Isn't it reasonable to suppose that if purity causes vision, sin causes blindness?

When one sins, one no longer sees the world as it is, as God made it, but one sees the world through sin-colored glasses. When sin becomes a habit, one's whole world-view can be distorted in order to make that sin seem good. For example, consider Andrew Sullivan's well-known illogic on matters of sexual morality and faith. He looks at the world, but sees only what his sins allow him to see. Or consider so-called conservative Catholics who love God, but do not see that such love demands action for the sake of the poor, or even (God forbid) a substantial contribution to their church. All is viewed through the narrow blinders of market economics. Sin is blinding.

The sinner cannot see the world clearly. But think about the blind man in the story again. He can't see, but he is not entirely insensate. He can still hear, and notices the commotion of the crowd. He hears that Jesus is passing by. Just as the blind man can hear Jesus, so the man blinded by sin can hear the Gospel proclaimed.

Note, however, that the blind man makes no long prayers, no specific demands. Even if he made such demands and got them (for wealth or power, or prosperity) he is still too blind to make good use of them. He asks the only thing he can "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Lord, you know what I need, whereas I don't.

And he cried, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

How appropriate, how timely that the man seeking aid from God must fight against those who think such concern for one's soul is rude

And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him,
"What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me receive my sight."
And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."
And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

The man asks for his sight to be restored--surely this represents for us the restoration of purity in our hearts, that allows us to see the world as it is, without the blinders of sin.

This story represents the core of Eastern spirituality, I think. We are lost in a culture of sin and death, blind to the true dignity of both man and creation, but we hear the marvelous news proclaimed to us that God is with us. Our response can only properly be "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner!"

P.S. Let me make a scientific suggestion to prove that sin makes you blind, and purity makes you free. Go to confession. Go every week for a month or so. Make every effort to remain perfectly in a state of grace. Continually ask God to have mercy on you. Then note how different your perceptions of your fellow man are. See how the world looks. See God!

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