Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Don't Walk on By

Outside a busy Walmart Superstore in Florida,  a 70 year old man suffered a heart attack inside his car. Slumped over the steering wheel, his decomposing body was not discovered until two days later. Shoppers parked their cars and rushed in and out of the store, but no one took the time to notice the man or check on him.

In California, a 53 year old woman showed up for work at her Los Angeles office. While at her computer, she tragically died and slumped over onto her desk. Stunningly, her co-workers went about their business unaware that she had died. Her body was not discovered until the next day by a security guard.

These stories may sound hard to believe, but they are true. And, sadly, such incidents are not uncommon. Every week we hear about elderly persons who die alone in their apartments and are not discovered until weeks later. We read about people in distress calling out for help who are ignored by passers-by.  It happens more frequently than any of us would like to believe.

Why do such things happen? Because, as a society, we have become blind to our neighbors. Our busy lives and hectic schedules keep us from noticing those around us. We are no longer able to sympathize with those who suffer. We no longer see the dignity of the unborn child, the poor or the sick. We are so focused on ourselves that the cry of the oppressed fails to move us. As a result, our world is stumbling through the darkness of loneliness, fear and anxiety.

How different our God is! Though the world is populated with billions of people, he sees each one. He knows all our needs. He feels what we feel. He cries and laughs with us. No one is so small as to go unnoticed by our All-Seeing God. He can look straight into our hearts and read our thoughts. He knows and loves each of us as we are. As He says to the prophet Samuel in the first reading: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

This God also has the power to open our eyes so that we can see the world as He sees it. He can enlighten our hearts so that we can begin to sympathize with and care for our needy brothers and sisters. He can take away the selfishness and fear which block our vision. He can teach us to love others just as He loves them so that we can begin to tear down the walls of loneliness, hatred and prejudice.

Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind in today’s gospel by caking mud on them and having him wash in the pool of Siloam. However, to cure our spiritual and emotional blindness, He prescribes two more powerful remedies - the Bible and the Sacrament of Confession.

Reading the Bible daily is an important step toward recovering our spiritual sight. We read in the book of Psalms that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Because it is His unchanging word, the Bible reveals to us the mind and heart of God. The Holy Spirit inspires us as we read so that we begin to take into our hearts the truth it teaches. Eventually, our way of thinking and feeling becomes more similar to God’s way of thinking and feeling. Our eyes start to open and our lives begin to change. Reading the Bible and memorizing passages that speak to us are indispensable elements for the Christian life and a sure way to cure our spiritual blindness.

The second remedy Jesus offers us is the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. This sacrament is a beautiful opportunity for us to bring to Jesus all the ways we have failed to love others as He calls us to. As we reflect on our behavior and the choices we make, His grace leads us to see how we have overlooked people, how we have treated others with less than the full dignity they deserve, and how we use others rather than serve them. The more we reflect and the more we confess our failures to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the more our eyes are opened to all the blessings around us. We become filled with joy because our spiritual blindness was not only keeping us from seeing the needs of others, it was also covering our eyes from seeing the beauty of creation, the love of our family and friends and the presence and action of God in our lives.

The Pharisees in today’s gospel were blinded by ambition, the need for control and fear of the Roman authorities. In our day, we are blinded by indifference, the need to keep up with our hectic schedules and fear of what others may think of us. God wants to remove all that from our lives so that our eyes can be opened not only to the needs of our neighbor but to the goodness of this world He has created. If we spend the rest of our lives stumbling about blind, we will miss it. But Jesus offers us a cure if we will only trust Him enough to allow Him to touch our eyes.

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