On a talk show one morning, a blind man was promoting a book he had written about his life. During the interview, he talked about how he considered his blindness to be a "blessing in disguise". He told the woman interviewing him that, since he was not able to see her, he could not judge her by how she looked or by the clothes she wore. The only idea he had of her was from the words she spoke and the sound of her voice. And so, with his heart, he could "see" her - the real her - better than those who could see her with just their eyes.
Being able to see something with our eyes and being able to understand it with our mind and heart are two different things. There are many things we see and yet do not understand. There are many times as well that our eyes get in the way of our understanding because of prejudices we may have against those of a different race or those of a different economic or social status.
In today's first reading, God sends the prophet Samuel to Jesse's house to choose a king for Israel. If Samuel had relied just on his eyes, he would have picked one of Jesse's older sons. But, Samuel was listening to God. Samuel did not choose based on what his eyes told him, but what God told him. As God says to Samuel: "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart." And so, having trusted God and not his eyes, Samuel anoints David as the next king of Israel. It would turn out that David would be Israel's greatest king. Later on in Scripture, God will say of David that he is a "man after my own heart." It is from David that the Messiah would be born.
Jesus also understood very well how seeing is not always believing. He knew that, though people saw him with their eyes, they did not always understand who he was. In today's Gospel reading, we find that it is the blind man who comes to really see Jesus for who he is and to testify to him as the Messiah. The people who should know better - the religious leaders - cannot get past their own squabbling to really see with their heart who Jesus is. They are too concerned with maintaining control and their authority to see that Jesus is the Messiah they have been longing for.
As we look now at our life, do we really see what's going on? Do we grasp the grace which God is showering us with everyday? Do we notice the beauty of the day? Do we notice when someone needs our help? Do we know what are children are up to? And, if we see it, do we understand it? Do we see God taking us beyond the appearances into the reality, into the truth?
There are a lot of reasons we might want to stay in the dark and not see. There is a lot of ugliness in the world such as war and famine. There is a lot of sadness in the world. If we were really to see it, we might feel overwhelmed. We might not know what to do. Or maybe for the first time we might actually be shaken out of the comfortable little world we have made for ourselves and feel as though we needed to do something about it. It is fear that keeps us in the dark. It is fear that so often keeps us from wanting to see.
However, when we choose to stay in the dark, we also miss out on what is beautiful about the world. We do not see the people who give of themselves to make the lives of others better. We do not see the children whose purity of heart reminds us of the goodness which surrounds us. And we fail to see God working in powerful ways to bring food to the hungry and comfort to the afflicted.
Even the healthiest eye needs light to see. Jesus is our light. He is light for the world. We do not need to hide in the cold night of fear. We do not need to cower before the seemingly endless problems of our lives and of our world. We have in Jesus a Savior who helps us to see ourselves and see our world as God sees it. God sent Jesus to the world to be its light because God thought that we were worth saving. Each one of us is precious in God's eyes. God has paid a high price to secure our salvation - the price of His only Son. How wonderful each of us must be that God was so moved to rescue us from sin and death. And, if we are that precious in God's eyes, what a tragedy it is when any one of us suffers.
When we start to see ourselves and our world in this way, how can we not, then, be moved with the same love to reach out to those who are hungry, to those who are homeless, to those who mourn?
There are many in this world who live in darkness because of fear. Many of them are desperate for light, but don't know where to turn. We know where the light is. We know that Christ is our light. We received that light at our baptism. It is by that light that we live. It is by that light that we see as God sees. How could we ever close our eyes and return to the darkness of fear, now that Christ has given us his light? And, how can we not bring that light today into a world shivering in darkness?