Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eyes to See But No Vision

Twenty Third Ordinary Sunday Year B

What does it mean to be blind or deaf? Many of us cannot imagine this scenario. It would be too frightening to even think of the possibility. We would really be missing a big part of the world as we know it. We won’t be able to see our loved ones or hear them speak to us. We would be blind to the beauty of the world and deaf to its many sounds.

Well, there is a story of an American woman named Helen Keller who was both blind and deaf. She was not born blind and deaf. She lost both her sight and her hearing after becoming ill at the age of 19 months. When she was 7 years old, her parents could no longer control her. She used to throw tantrums in frustration because she couldn’t make others understand what she was thinking and others couldn’t communicate with her too. Her parents then hired a private tutor, Anne Sullivan, to teach her. Ann Sullivan could not make any progress for the first few weeks. Then one day, Ann took Helen out for a walk. Ann took Helen’s hand and plunged it into a pool of water. Then she began to spell the word ‘WATER’ on Helen’s palm. Then Ann took Helen to a pump and let the water from the pump run down Helen’s hand. This time, she spelled the word ‘WATER’ again. Something happened to Helen at that moment. All of a sudden, she became aware that this sensation of the water was connected to the word ‘WATER’ which her teacher had spelt on her hand. Helen would later write in her own autobiography that the world all around her opened up at that single moment. She now understood that she could see and hear the world around her through these letters and words. Helen Keller would eventually become one of the greatest and most well-known speakers in America and the world. She spoke at many outstanding universities and impressed her audience, many of them professors and great thinkers. One day, Helen Keller was asked this question: “What is worse than being blind?” Her reply was: “Being able to see but having no vision.”

Today, we hear in both the first reading and the gospel that God has come to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. This does not mean that all blind people and deaf people will be healed miraculously. What the readings are saying here is that God has given his people a new vision: a vision to see the world as a place of love, justice and peace. In other words, it is a vision to see the Kingdom of God. This vision allows us to see God in every person, whether young or old, poor or rich, good looking or ugly, bad and good. This vision challenges us to treat every person with equal dignity. When we begin to see every person as a child of God and we treat them accordingly, then the world will be transformed into the Kingdom of love, justice and peace.

But, unfortunately Helen Keller was right in her observation. We may have eyes to see but no vision. Therefore, instead of seeing goodness and God in others, we only see their faults. We see status instead of equality. We see outward appearance instead of inner grace. We see the colour of the other person’s skin, his clothing, the size of his car, the power that he wields and the things which he possesses. As St. James tell his readers in the second reading, we have turned ourselves into judges, “and corrupt judges at that?”

Today, let us pray for the grace to see others through the eyes of faith. Let us speak to them with words that come only from God and not from hatred and jealousy. Today, Jesus says to us, “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Let our eyes, our ears, our tongues and our hearts be open to the power of God in Jesus Christ, so that we can transform this world into His kingdom.

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