The authors of Scripture attest to the reality of a “second sight.” This is a deeper perception, conferred through faith, that reveals the true nature of things. Sometimes it is a dramatic supernatural gift, as in 2 Kings 6:8-23, when the servant of the prophet Elisha discovers a supernatural army protecting the prophet. At other times, it is more subtle, like Elijah’s encounter with God in the “still, small voice.”
This week’s readings speak to this deeper perception. The first reading, recounting the prophet Samuel’s selection of David as king, makes clear that God’s choice did not match Samuel’s expectation. David’s older brothers were already mature men and proven warriors, but God preferred the resourceful shepherd boy who had repeatedly faced down predators while alone with the flocks. “Not as mortals see does God see, because they see the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). God saw David’s personal courage and his faith; Samuel, to his credit, overcame his own expectations and saw with the deeper perception his faith provided.
This week’s psalm also speaks of a deeper perception. “Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side” (Ps 23:4). Fervent belief in an unseen divine protector requires a perception deeper than human senses can offer. With faith, one can face shadows without fear.
Throughout this week’s Gospel, John the evangelist employs metaphors of blindness and sight to symbolize the effects of faith. One can feel great sympathy for the Pharisees in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. They thought they had found in God’s Law the insights and practices necessary to preserve Israel’s independence. The Jews were a conquered people in Jesus’ day. Roman policy did not suppress local religious customs, but rather attempted to wear them down slowly until a conquered people conformed to Roman ways. Roman officials thus often tried to subvert traditions like the Sabbath. Some Jews pushed back against this subtle pressure with ever more extravagant displays of Sabbath observance. They saw in their rigor a means of resisting assimilation.
By contrast, Jesus understood the Sabbath with the mind of God. For him, the weekly holiday commemorated Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. It was the perfect day for a healing and for an individual to break free from personal bondage. The Pharisees in this Sunday’s Gospel reading cannot conceive of this. They expected the messiah to be as punctilious about the law as they were. The Pharisees’ politics, however well intentioned, blinded them to Jesus’ true nature.
When the blind man put his faith in Jesus’ command, “Go and wash,” he experienced a personal liberation beyond the healing of his sight. His bold responses to the Pharisees reveal a person who had achieved a new level of freedom and insight through faith. This is the “light” that St. Paul speaks of in this Sunday’s second reading. Faith in Christ changes our perception. As Christians conform their lives to the Gospel, they can develop the habit of seeing the world with Christ’s own deeper perception. When we are blind, we might be tempted to build images of God out of fantasies of security or power. With Christ’s eyes, we can discover a heavenly Father, whose only word for us is “Love!”
With our new sight we may, like Samuel, discover the talents of people that others overlook. Like the psalmist, perhaps, we may find a new confidence to face our fears. Like Jesus, we may find opportunities to provide healing and freedom to others. Lent requires us to overcome our egos and their false expectations that blind us to God’s presence and action. Perceiving with the mind of Christ, we too can place our heart, hands, and voice at the service of God’s saving mission.
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