This morning’s readings are replete with references to blindness and sight, to darkness and light, leaving one to ponder, “Who then is the blind person and what is true seeing?”
The first reading from 1 Samuel is the familiar one about the search for a king to replace Saul. Jesse had lined up seven sons for the prophet Samuel who thought the task would be easy. He was ready to name the first one considered, Eliab, when the Lord spoke to him and said, “Do not judge from his appearance or his lofty stature…Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” It took rejection of all seven and the (probably frustrated) question from Samuel of, “Are these all the sons you have?” for Jesse to even consider mentioning David who was the youngest and out tending the sheep. “Look deeper,” God was saying. “Don’t stay on the surface of what’s necessary in this situation!” (Interestingly, this reading is followed by: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”)
The reading from Paul (EPH 5: 8-14) is somewhat stunning in its direct address. Paul does not use simile here to make his point but challenges the Ephesians with a stark contrast. “Brothers and sisters,” he says, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” As we approach the season of spring, we know the importance of light for the growth of all manner of plants. Are we as concerned for our own quotient of life-producing light? If we can’t count on enough help from the sun (especially perhaps here in the northeast) where will the light come from? Paul seems to think we can be beacons of light – reminding me of a famous text from Thomas Merton who, in speaking of being a member of the human race, comments, “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
The gospel from John (9:1-41) can be seen as a good example of a long, drawn-out, convoluted attempt to prove a point which is obviously flawed. It is the story of the man born blind whom Jesus cured. That sounds like a simple fact to us but everyone was concerned about the whole situation because there were factors in the situation that were not what was expected. First, everyone – including the disciples – wanted to know (in keeping with the prevailing wisdom of the time) who had sinned to cause the blindness – the man or his parents. Jesus said, “Neither” and proceeded to give a speech about himself using this opportunity to manifest the works of God. Then he cured the man. After that everyone got into the act trying to figure out how the man had been cured. The man repeated several times: to the neighbors, the Pharisees, then a segment of the Pharisee contingent, then those Jews asking his parents, then the Pharisees again…the simple facts of Jesus making clay, putting it on his eyes, telling him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, which gave him his sight. No one was listening. They didn’t expect that possibility of Jesus. Only the blind man himself progressed in his understanding, saying in answer to the queries: 1.”It was the man called Jesus.” 2. “He is a prophet.” 3. “I do believe, Lord.” In the end, those whose minds were closed finally gave up, missing the entire point. They were, one might say, too blind to see.