Let me tell you about Eleanor. Eleanor is a kind lady from my last parish. Every Saturday evening, she would come with her husband to the 5:30pm Mass and sit in the back pew. She is a lovely lady (a true gentleman will not reveal her years), and she has calming, peaceful demeanor that always brought me great peace when I was in her presence. She is a woman of deep faith and has a great love for her priests. Eleanor is legally blind. Yet she would see things about our faith that even I couldn’t. So she would sit there every Saturday night with her husband who had Alzheimer’s, and she would always get excited when I would celebrate that Mass. She was very distraught when I was transferred here, but she tracked me down nonetheless and would give me a call to check on me and to tell me about how she and her husband were doing. About a month ago, Eleanor called me and left me a message that her husband had died. I tried for a week and half to call her back, but later discovered she was staying with her daughter. We finally spoke, and even over the phone, her great faith was evident. What I remember most about her is how she would light up when she heard my voice. She never saw me as clearly as one of you could, but yet she loved me. I’d like to think that this is how God sees us: past the imperfections and with great love.
In my ministry, I’ve encountered so many blind people who see so much more than we do when it comes to the faith. In today’s gospel, Jesus cures a blind beggar. The Lord “spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see (John 9:6-7).” I was hearing a beautiful homily this morning from Father Robert Barron (I highly recommend his website wordonfire.org), and he alluded to St. Augustine’s teaching on Jesus’ actions to cure the blind man. This spittle coming from the mouth of Jesus evokes his divinity, for everything that comes from the mouth of the Living Word gives life, and the mud from the earth represent Jesus’ humanity. The two natures, human and divine, come together to re-create this beggar and bring him his sight. Jesus sends him to the pool which means “Sent” and Father Barron notes that this pool symbolizes baptism and the blind man is totally immersed by “the One who was sent” by immersing himself in this pool. Just like St. Paul told us to “put on Christ,” this blind man is immersed in the light of the Lord.
Towards the end of the gospel, Jesus seeks the blind man out when the Pharisees throw him out of the temple. There is so much going on here. Jesus immerses this man in his light and then seeks him out to reveal to him that he is the Son of Man and that he is looking straight into his eyes. Amazing! The poor beggar goes from not seeing a thing to gazing upon the beautiful face of our Lord. Jesus seeking this man out after he was rejected reminds us that God always goes in search of the ones the world pays no attention to. In the first reading, when Samuel goes to find the next king of Israel at Jesse’s house, appearances are deceiving because the strongest and most handsome of Jesse’s sons aren’t the chosen ones, but the youngest, David, is the one chosen by God to be a king.
Our God, thankfully, does not use human criteria to choose us and find us acceptable or pleasing. “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” Unfortunately, sin clouds our eyes and we go around and judge those who are beautiful or ugly or tall or small or too skinny or too fat. We too often judge by appearances and don’t look into a person’s heart. We do this unconsciously every time we go up to the supermarket check-out and start skimming through the magazines that obsess about what celebrities have gained weight, lost weight, how they look in swim wear, how they look in certain outfits at awards shows, and “who wore it best.” Our culture trains us from early on to look suspiciously on those who look different and to admire fine physical beauty. Yet our Lord looks past that. Far too often in my years of teaching 8th grade girls, and some boys too, I would have to counsel these teenagers through great self-esteem crises as they found themselves not pretty enough or good enough. I would always remind them that we are all beautiful in God’s eyes. We are all supermodels and chiseled athletes. We are all his children. This is how He sees us, and this is how we should see each other.
But like I said, we don’t see with the eyes of God. St. Paul reminds us today that we were once “darkness but now we are light in the Lord.” We must walk out of the darkness of this judgmental world, and start appreciating real beauty: that which lies within. We must reject what St. Paul calls the fruitless works of darkness and see everyone with the light of Christ. While they can’t see, this is how many blind people “see” those around them. They probably see more clearly than we do.
Let me bookend the homily with another lady from this parish who sits to my right in about the fifth pew at the midday Mass. She also is blind and from the moment I arrived here she would take great joy in greeting me after Mass. She plays a fine piano, and she loves to dance. In fact, whenever she greets me after Mass, she asks me, “when are we going to dance?” Well, last summer during our parish gala, I pulled her out to the dance floor and danced with her. I felt a bit like Bruce Springsteen pulling a young Courtney Cox up onto the stage in the “Dancing in the Dark” video (sorry for the dated 80’s music video reference). She danced her heart out oblivious to the people dancing around her. I had to kind of steer her away from others but she was so happy. She brings her faith and her beautiful way of seeing the world every Sunday to Mass and every time we have a parish mission or event. Her faith is remarkable. So today, we can learn from these two blind women and their faith, we can learn from the blind man who sees the Lord face to face, we can learn from our Lord who looks on each of us as beautiful human beings made in his image, we can start looking at others the way God sees us, and we can walk out of the darkness of sin and immerse ourselves in the light of our Lord who looks upon our beautiful face and asks us: “when are we going to dance?”