Whoever said that there are no do-overs in life? I did a similar blog to today’s blog a few weeks ago, but as I hit the ‘Publish’ button, my computer disconnected and I lost the whole smack! Very frustrating. Well, here is Take #2. If actors who get paid millions can do more than one take, then surely poor, lowly bloggers can, too!
This morning I went to mass with the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters and the celebrant was obviously blind. I don’t mean legally blind or nearsighted – I mean completely blind and using a walking cane to navigate. This blind priest maneuvered remarkably well with his walking cane during the mass and was able to fold it up into quarters at points when he no longer needed it as adeptly as if he were wielding a pair of nunchucks!
This blind priest celebated a very reverent mass and gave a good homily on today’s Gospel about the the charity and mercy shown by the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). It was clear to see by the depth of the priest’s comments about mercy and love that he could truly ‘see’ with the eyes of the spirit. His physical eyes may be compromised, but he was able to ‘see’ very clearly with the eyes of faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11: 1)
Jesus praised those who could ‘see’ with the eyes of faith like the Roman Centurion (Matthew 8: 10) and rebuked those who lacked faith. He reprimanded Thomas for believing in His Resurrection only after he touched the nailmarks in his hands and side. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’.” (John 20: 29)
Today we celebrate Columbus Day in the USA to honor the man who discovered America in 1492 because he set out across the ocean in blind faith in order to find a shorter route to the Spice Islands. Instead, he simply discovered a new continent!
There are so many people in the world today with exactly the opposite problem of the blind priest. They have physical eyes that see fine, but they are blind to the truths of faith and to the things of the spirit that truly count. Those are the things that will last for eternity. One has only to flip on the News for 5 minutes to hear about all the wars, insurrections, and general upheaval in the world that is largely caused by ‘blindness’ – not the physical kind. “Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not also blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains’.” (John 9: 40-41)
Jesus reserved some of his harshest denunciations for those who claimed to ‘see’, but who put legalism or religiosity ahead of mercy, charity, and the true love of God. He calls the Scribes and Pharisees ‘blind guides’ and ‘blind fools’ (Matthew 23: 16, 17) because they remain fixated on minute legal practices instead of on the love of God and their neighbor. “Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men.” (Isaiah 29: 13)
Conversely, the physically blind were treated with great compassion by Jesus. He healed the two blind men who were crying out to him. “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Let it be done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened.” (Matthew 9: 29-30) Likewise, Tobit’s blindness was restored because of his faith in the Lord and he was once again able to see his son, Tobiah. “Then, beginning at the corners of Tobit’s eyes, Tobiah used both hands to peel off the cataracts. When Tobit saw his son, he threw his arms around him and wept. He exclaimed, ‘I can see you, son, the light of my eyes’!” (Tobit 11: 13-14)
The blind priest who celebrated the mass this morning showed clearly that he saw with the eyes of faith. There is no doubt that the Lord could heal this blind priest if it would be for his spiritual good. However, this is not always the case. St. John Vianney told a little blind girl that the lord could heal her blindness, but that it would be to her spiritual benefit to remain blind. Likewise, the blind Carthusian monk featured in the movie Into Great Silence said clearly that he believed that it was a great blessing that the Lord allowed him to remain blind. This is all a mystery, of course, and our little minds cannot fathom all the factors that God can in such situations. As the Lord said to Job, “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38: 4) God will reward us for all the crosses that we bear in this life with love and faith. All we can do is abandon ourselves to God with childlike trust and know that what He wills is for the best.
I sat in a rear pew praying after mass this morning when the blind priest came walking by feeling the wall and being led by his beautiful, Black Lab, seeing-eye-dog. He walked past me and I could hear him greet a nun outside the chapel. I have been truly inspired by this blind priest who ‘sees’.
St. Therese related a funny story in her Autobiography about a time that she and her cousin, Marie Guerin, played at being blind when they were children. She wrote that, “Returning one evening from the Abbey, I said to Marie: ‘Lead me, I’m going to close my eyes.’ ‘I want to close mine too’, she replied. No sooner said than done; without arguing, each did her will. We were on the sidewalk and there was nothing to fear from vehicles; having savored the delights of walking without seeing, the two little scamps fell together on some cases placed at the door of a store, or rather they tipped them over. The merchant came out in a rage to lift up his merchandise, while the two blind ones lifted themselves up alone and walked off at great strides, eyes wide open, listening to the just reproaches of Jeanne who was as angry as the merchant!” (Story of A Soul, p. 55)