What do you want?

Each of us, no matter the age, health, wealth, education, faith or station in life was born partially blind; newborns can see objects less than a foot away but then only indistinctly in black and white. Learning cues about space, distance, and texture, and coordinating these impressions with what we hear and feel—all this takes a considerable period of trial and error.

Curing Blindness

Blindness comes in many forms, but seldom do we recognize any but the physical inability to see through the eyes in our head. Those who are physically blind, whether from birth or later in life, learn to adapt to their inability to see. They learn to see by sharper hearing, more sensitive touch, even a more delicate nose.

There is another blindness, spiritual blindness which is borne out of hatred, ignorance, jealousy, greed, lust, selfishness, ego or other sinful desires; such loss of spiritual sight dulls the senses and leaves the soul unable to see the good.

What we see through our eyes is always colored by our past, skewed by what we believe we know, altered by what we do not understand, and often “seen indistinctly, as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Even when we are confronted by the truth we often refuse to alter our perceptions because as Mark Twain once quipped, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

In “The Myth of the Cave”, the Greek philosopher Plato weaves a story where all of humanity lives their lives chained within a darkened cave, with nothing but shadows and illusions flickering upon a wall to define their reality. One man escapes his bonds, travels beyond the darkness of the cave, and looks upon the sun and sees the world as it truly is. When he returns and tells the others what he has seen and experienced they refuse to believe it. His truth must be mere fantasy, an illusion, the ravings of a madman, and he is summarily dismissed. How often do we dismiss or deny that which conflicts with our own perception of reality?

Yogi Berra, infamous for his malapropisms, once quipped “Sometimes you can see a whole lot of things just by looking.”  Sadly, most of us find ourselves doing a whole lot of looking without really seeing. The truth is there is more to seeing than having good eyesight—for too often do we find ourselves failing to see what is either directly in front of us or there in plain sight. No doubt we have all experienced such moments.

This malady—which affects not only the eyes but the ears as well—is part and parcel of the human condition. The Lord God has been telling us so for a very, very long time. According to Jeremiah who lived six centuries before Christ, the Lord told him to say to his people: “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not” (Jeremiah 5:21).

The sixteenth-century English writer, John Heywood, subsequently borrowed from this passage when he coined the proverb “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” It is as true today as it was then, we delude ourselves into seeing only what we want to see and hearing only what we want to hear. Failure or refusal to see God in the countless works of His creation is definitely the worst kind of blindness. It is often and rightly said that a blind man may still have the possibility of seeing, but a man with good eyes but refuses to see surely cannot see.

How many of us, having read or heard of the conversion of St. Paul, have assumed that Paul was struck physically blind by his vision? But could there be more to it than just physical blindness? In Acts 9:8 we read: “Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; …”

Paul may or may not have been physically blinded but just as likely was unable to understand what had just happened, to comprehend what he had seen and heard. Someone had to come and open his eyes, not just so he could physically see again but most importantly so he could see more deeply into the mystery of Christ. Seeing, truly seeing, implies more than having eyes that are physically healthy and open.

There are, it seems to me, some rather humorous parts to the story in today’s gospel. Imagine, this blind beggar asking Jesus for pity. Does Jesus do the logical thing and go over to the one who cannot see? No, he simply stops and waits for the blind man to find his way to him. And then he asks the “blind” man “What do you want me to do for you?” Well, duh! He’s blind! What do you think he wants? Cheesecake?

But then, Bartimaeus obviously doesn’t see the humor in this, does he? Notice that he does not say to Jesus, “I want my sight,” but rather “I want to see,” and between the two responses there is a marked difference. Wanting to see is wanting to know the true nature of reality, hidden in some way from a person when he is blind. Seeing isn’t limited to seeing the blue of the sky or the road to home. It is also a matter of seeing reality, the truth about things, or even of seeing The Truth himself.

The story of Bartimaeus is the story of each one of us. God created us to be His sons and daughters of honor and dignity. But because of our sins, many of us are living as sons and daughters of dishonor and shame. It is our sins of pride and egoism that usually make us blind..

We are blind to the presence of God because we are consumed by the pursuit of our selfish ambitions. We fail to see and appreciate the many blessings we have because we want and crave for more. We have voracious appetite for material things and our thirst for power and praise is unquenchable. We refuse to see the goodness and giftedness of others because, in our pride and arrogance, we think we are the best, the first and the greatest. We choose to ignore our own sins and weaknesses because we have grown used to our hypocrisy and lies. We cannot see and read the signs of the times because we believe the world revolves around us. We live in complete darkness because of our pride and selfishness.

So, let the Gospel open our eyes today. Let it be a call to repentance and conversion. Too many of us have for a long time been living in dishonor and shame due to pride, selfishness and arrogance. Now is the time for us to throw aside our cloaks of false comforts and delusions, rise up and stand with honor and dignity, and come to Jesus; and let this prayer be ours today: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. I want to see!”

Amen.

Homily #185
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Jeremiah 31:7-9
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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