When cornered with a question such as “Who broke this vase?” the initial response in many cases is: “Not me!” Denial of responsibility or reality is not that rare, regrettably, beginning with Adam and Eve. There is even a sinister attempt to contend that the Nazi genocide or Holocaust is a fiction. The many Japanese still have not fully owned their accountability in the unspeakable miseries and atrocities they have inflicted on millions of people for so long.
The story of the gospel is enlightening and sobering in this respect. The stark contrast between a man blind from birth and a group of religion teachers, namely, Pharisees, is instructive. The one whose sight is restored now speaks plainly, simply describing what he sees. The experts of the Law bring a lot of baggage which may have a hint of pious and legal knowledge but their half-cooked assumption becomes an impediment to their proper perception of reality. When one deals with something of God, one may want to be deferential and not so judgmental. But just listen to what these people have to say about Jesus: “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” They also have a complete presumption of the condition of the man born blind, which prompts them to say: “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Before the very source of light, they choose to close their eyes and remain blind.
Amazing, isn’t it? Apparently, seeing is not always believing! Those who postulate their ability to see are in fact blind to deny the reality. We hope we do not persist in this type of psychology of denial. Jesus towards the end of today’s story says: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
Often we may assume that we know the mind of God and Jesus teaches us today how dangerous that can be. It is quite astounding that people talk about God more openly than before, although religious triumphalism is no longer in vogue, namely, public prayer, faith-based initiative, and invoking God in political gatherings. At the same time we see the tyranny of secular humanism or disguised atheism or trivializing indifferentism regarding faith.
We must be aware and wary of the lure of intoxicating self-righteousness in the form of ‘God is on my side.’ Presumption is always risky. Jesus says to the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”
Getting out of self-constructed prisons of presumption, religious privatism and indifferentism, or religious triumphalism, we continue our Lenten journey along with our catechumens so that our minds and hearts are in tune with Christ. So we ask ourselves: “Oh, say can you see?”
Yours truly in Christ,
Fr. Paul D. Lee