One of my friends sees as I don’t. He walks into a room and immediately senses things in others and in me to which I’m oblivious. Sometimes he says: “Don’t you see?” and I reply: “No, you’ve got to tell me. I can’t see.” That’s hard to say, to realize being in the dark while another can clearly see, to discover and experience limitation in the light of another’s ability.
In today’s gospel story, Jesus walks along and sees a person who is blind and who doesn’t ask for help. Jesus doesn’t ask what he wants. Jesus comes and opens his eyes. In response, a flurry of questions by the neighbors and the leaders: How did this happen? Was he really blind before? Who is Jesus? They struggle with question upon question, arguing, accusing, reprimanding, and rejecting. This community is stumbling, groping in the dark, trying to escape the truth that one born blind now sees because of Jesus.
As the community struggles and stumbles, this person grows to see even more. He is honest about limits: “I don’t know where Jesus is. I don’t know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” He also comes to know Jesus. First, he says “the man called Jesus” touched me. Then “he is a prophet.” A bit later “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Finally, again face to face “Lord, I believe.” First, he receives literal sight, and second, insight, awakened to Jesus.
All of this is unexpected and unrequested. Jesus saw, came, and healed. Jesus looked to find the one driven out. Jesus sees people in need and goes looking for people rejected, freely giving as the Light of the World. Jesus comes also as the Good Physician, saying: I came to heal not those who think they are well but those who know they are sick. “I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”[i]
The man knew he was blind. In contrast the stumbling religious leaders are so self-confident, so sure that they can see and are well, that they refuse the plain truth that they are sick and blind. They are like world we experience which focuses on ability, climbing ladders, and covering weakness by getting caught up in rules, barriers, and pointing to splinters in others’ eyes.
In another story, Jesus corrects his followers from being excited by all they had accomplished. Then Jesus prays: Thank you, God, “because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”[ii] Put another way: you have hidden things from those who think they know and instead revealed them to those just beginning.[iii] Hidden from people who ignore their need and revealed to those who acknowledge their need.
We are all born blind. None of us can see without Jesus shining on us. God does not invite learning self-sufficiency but traveling the way of the cross, growing from a seedbed of need. The first stage of becoming a monk, the novitiate, is about two years, and it is also lifelong. We are always beginners, always returning to basics. Over and over, we return to our need, and that it is God’s power at work in us by amazing grace.
Lent invites this basic return. We Brothers understand our vow of poverty as not only what we do with physical possessions. Poverty also includes acknowledging individual and communal weakness, brokenness, and need. In our Rule of Life, we Brothers say: “The knowledge and acceptance of our fragility preserves us from complacency and illusion, continually throwing us back on the mercy and compassion of God.”[iv]
Dear friends, what is your poverty? Where are you in touch most now with your fragility, your weakness, your need? As to the one born blind, Jesus comes here, particularly in these places, to meet you with power in mercy and compassion.
Sometimes when my friend says, “Don’t you see?” we burst out laughing for we know and accept the truth together. It’s wonderful to be known and loved in our weakness. It’s a gift to be companioned in our poverty, trusting that Jesus meets us here. For accepting we are blind, by God we can see.
[i] Luke 5:30-32
[ii] Luke 10:17-21
[iii] adapted from The Message
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