4th Lent [A] 2011

Fr. Charles Irvin

4th Lent [A] 2011
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ephesians 5:8-24; John 9:1-41

Consider with me now the power of the human eye. It is through the eye that we receive most of our impressions and most of the data assimilated by the brain. It is through the eye that much of our non-verbal communication is received. Even within our intellect our capacity for “insight” is connected deeply with the ability to see and understand with our physical eyes.

Watch the eyes of those who speak with you. Do their eyes look steadily and peacefully into your eyes? You can read much about a person’s soul simply by looking into their eyes. When you are engaged in a conversation the eyes of others can tell you a lot. Do they look directly into yours, or do their eyes flit around the room looking over your shoulders while searching out other people in the room, roving and cruising while the person with whom you are conversing is talking at you rather than with you?

Our eyes can see others, and be friendly with others, or they can hurt others, or look scornfully down on others, or can scare others. Our eyes can be used to lust after others, or to only see others on the surface. Our eyes have the power to penetrate deep into the hearts and souls of others. Our eyes are powerful. God has given us a fantastic power — the power to see with our eyes and the power to communicate with them. 

The sad truth is that we can see everything and yet be blind. We can devour with our eyes, we can take in the whole heart of another and yet remain empty. We can consume so much and yet remain hungry and empty with our hearts aching for more. Our rapacious self has eyes that are constantly agitated in a hungry search for acquisition, and yet the more we devour the emptier we get, and ever more blind.

God gave us sight that we might have insight, insight to discern, plumb and search Him out. All around us God has showered us with His gifts and yet we remain blind to them and do not see them. Like spoiled little children, we sit front of the gigantic Christmas tree that is our universe, a universe filled with God’s gifts scattered all around us, and we in the middle of it all and cry, weep, and wail that we are unloved, that we are insignificant, and that God doesn’t care about us. Blinded by our own fears and blinded by the trinkets of this world, we are blind to the love and the gifts of God. Our vision can become arrested and fixated on idols. Our eyes can see only fancy clothes, dazzling blings, beautiful bodies, succulent tasty dishes of food, or whatever. Wehave the visual capacity to watch starvation and hunger sweep the world during T.V. news broadcasts that are immediately followed programs in which gourmet cooks show us how to prepare meals fit for the most discriminating of connoisseurs.  

God gave us an amazing power when He gave us sight.  We should use it to its depth and not settle for mere surface examinations. We can use our sight simply to measure and describe the properties of things. We can use our sight like scientists and describe and delineate the boundaries and the physical properties of things and make mathematical predictions about their relational behavior in our universe. God, however, wants us to see at deeper levels.

When a scientists sees things, or a businessman, or any practical person for that matter, he sees things in such a way that it doesn’t matter who is seeing them. As a matter of fact he sees them best when he sees them in the way any man or woman can see them.

We should, however, see things spiritually, like a theologian sees them. For us, it makes a difference to know who is seeking and the purpose for having vision in the first place. It is the reason for the existence of things, not just their description that is in the vision of a theologian. It is in the meaning of a thing that its value is discerned, not just its usefulness. If our vision is arrested only at the level of usefulness, then persons can be substituted for things. Then we will be living in the blindness of the Pharisees we heard about in today’s gospel account.

God did not create us to be blind; He created us to have sight, the higher sight that is called insight — that sort of sight that flows from imagination and vision. It is these faculties, conditioned as they are by data received from our eyes that allow us to see the inner world that is God’s world and have eyes to see God’s kingdom. To see that, however, we must have eyes that are released from fixation solely on the outer world, a world that is only immediately visible.

Contemplation is a deeper way of seeing things in their reality. Contemplating a great mountain range fills our souls with wonder. Contemplating the dawn of a new day while watching the sun rise, fills our souls with anticipation and hope. Admiring a beautiful picture, spending time drinking it in, fills our souls with beauty. Seeing is something far deeper than merely looking. Seeing, really seeing, takes us into the spiritual world and allows us to wonder, to question, and to ask the question: Why did God give us what we are looking at?

We need to see with more than just our physical eyesight – we need to see with the eyes of our soul. This allows us to see things in God’s Light and to acquire more wisdom and understanding, realities that are far deeper than just facts, information, and data. When we do we are in-spirited, inspired, and the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts.

When therefore we pray we should pray as the blind man prayed. When we pray, the first words of our prayer ought to be, “Lord, that I may see.” For it is upon our vision that everything depends. Our faith depends upon our vision. Our hope depends upon the vision contained in the word “expectation.” “Expectation” and “spectacle” are words rooted in the same concept. Hope is directly related to vision and expectations. And so is the virtue of charity, love. Thus we walk by faith, not by sight. Our hearts can see what our eyes cannot see.

God gave us vision, not only to describe others, not only to see their surface and bodily characteristics, but also to see who they are and to see their meaning and purpose in being who and what they are. The Pharisees were the men who in today’s Gospel account were blind. The man born blind had much more vision and could see the reality of Christ even though his eyes were not sighted. Can we have the vision and insight of the man born blind? We ought to consider just what it is that we in fact see, both see with our eyes and see with eyes of faith, see with insight.

On the day we die we shall take with us into the next life the sum total of all of the impressions, all of the decisions, and all of the insight that we have acquired in this life. We shall be, for all eternity, what we have seen ourselves to be. We shall be all that we have chosen to be, hopefully chosen in the vision of faith, in real hope, and in real love. It all hangs in the crucial balance of our vision. It is the soul that is seeing that thus becomes all important, even more important than what our physical eyes have seen.

“Lord Jesus, that I may see!” should be the opening words in all of our prayers, in order that we might see our selves and the world that God has made for us, the self and the world that God created for you in His vision of what we and our world can be. For in the life that is to come, our gift to God will be the self we bring with us when we die, a self that will in large measure be the sum total of the insights and vision that we have acquired. And if we have seen the gifts God has given us in this life, then in the next life, in eternal life, we shall see the Giver of those gifts.


About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”