There are Two Kinds of Blindness.
Physical Blindness and Spiritual Blindness.
Let me give you an example of both.
In the year 1818, Louis was a nine-year-old boy whose Father was a Harness Maker in France. The boy loved to watch his father work with leather.
Some day, Father, said Louis, I want to be a harness-maker, just like you.
Why not start now? said his father, as he took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. Now, he said, take the hole-puncher and the hammer and follow this design. Be careful that you don’t hit your hand. The excited young boy began to work but, when he hit the hole-puncher, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He immediately lost the sight of that eye.
A few years later, his other eye failed. Louis was now totally Blind.
One day, Louis was sitting in the family garden, and a friend handed him a pine cone. As Louis ran his fingers over the pine cone, an idea came to him.
He began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that blind people could feel the letters and read. In this way Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind, and it came out of a tragic accident.
Louis Braille was Physically Blind, but he wasn’t Spiritually Blind.
It’s not good to be Physically Blind or to suffer from any affliction. But we know that God can use people like Louis Braille or the blind man in today’s Gospel to bring enormous good to others.
God can be glorified, and we can be richly blessed through suffering and pain.
I once read about a group of more than one hundred women, all Cambodian Refugees, who fled their country during the regime of Pol Pot, to escape the Atrocities of the Killing Fields. Now living in Long Beach, California, every one of these women is certifiably blind—even though leading Ophthalmologists insist that their eyes are not injured and are capable of functioning normally. Suffering from what has been determined to be Hysterical Blindness, these sightless women were so traumatized by the horrors of what they had witnessed that their bodies set up a Protective Barrier as it were, which also prevents them from seeing anything at all.
There are also certain Barriers that prevent us from seeing clearly and we become spiritually blind.
We all know people who are not physically blind, but they are spiritually blind. They just won’t see or they have tunnel vision.
Their minds are made up, and they have hardened their hearts to anything else.
The Pharisees are an example of that kind of blindness.
Spiritual Blindness is worse than Physical Blindness. To some extent we all Spiritually Blind.
The amazing thing about the Jesus’ interaction with the blind man is the blind man saw more than the religious leaders:
He saw the Goodness in Jesus and had more Faith in him than they had.
The Pharisees had perfect eyesight. Yet Jesus called them Blind.
And sadly they remained in their blindness because they refused to acknowledge it and seek the help Jesus was offering them.
To see well, good Eyesight alone is not enough
At the end of the story, the Pharisees ask Jesus, Are we blind?
And Jesus answered, You certainly are.
The Pharisees had faithfully been attending synagogue every week.
They prayed every day.
They were well versed in the Scriptures.
They tithed ten percent.
They were very law-abiding.
But they were blind to the suffering and pain that was right before their very eyes. They lacked Compassion. They were blind to the human misery around them. Their blindness even caused them to fail to recognize the Messiah, the very Son of God, whom they claimed to know so well!
There are people who shut out God because they’ve suffered a traumatic loss, like the loss of a child, and they can’t reconcile that event with a good God.
Or, with shock, sadness, and disgust, they read about certain scandals and lose trust in the Church. And then there are people, who, because of their mindset, see only the bad, not the good; only the corruption, not the promise, only darkness, not light.
On a much higher level, we find tremendous Blindness today.
Looking at our World, there is War, Brutality, Starvation. Millions are being forced to flee their homes and their native lands. Millions more being denied freedom and held captive by dictatorships and criminal regimes.
There is terrible blindness here in our own country—1.5 million defenseless children being aborted every year.
I see parents who truly knock themselves out for their children, but are blind to the importance of their children’s spiritual development. Participation in ball games, dance lessons and the like, take precedence over Sunday Mass or religious education classes.
In our anxiety to provide well for our children, we easily forget about the deeper and more important values of Faith, Spirituality, Integrity and Holiness.
There are many people who are blinded in their pursuit of money, power, prestige, and in that pursuit, they totally lose their perspective.
We all are blind to some degree.
Here are some examples:
- SELFISHNESS: Blinds us to the needs of others.
- INSENSITIVITY: Blinds us to the hurt we’re causing others.
- SNOBBERY: Blinds us to the equal dignity of others.
- PRIDE: Blinds us to our own faults.
- PREJUDICE: Blinds us to the truth.
- HURRY: Blinds us to the beauty of the world around us.
- MATERIALISM: Blinds us to spiritual values.
We can understand what Helen Keller (blind from infancy) meant when she said:
“The greatest calamity that can befall a person is not that he should be born blind, but that he should have eyes and yet fail to see.”
When it comes to physical seeing, we are inferior to most of the animals. They can see farther and better. Many of them see in the dark.
But we have been given ‘eyes’ that they do not have, the eyes of the Mind and the Soul. With these we can ‘see’ what is invisible, the Spiritual Realities which are infinitely more important than the material and visible ones.
The most important eyes of all are those of Faith.
The story of Jesus and the blind man is essentially a Faith story.
The climax of the story is when the man makes an Act of Faith in Christ. I do believe, Lord!
When Jesus said that he came to open the eyes of the Blind, he wasn’t only talking about the physically blind, but all those who had lost their way in life and who could no longer find their way. He opened the eyes of Zacchaeus to the danger of riches. He opened the eyes of Mary Magdalen to the wretchedness of her life. He opened the eyes of the Dying Thief to the light of God’s mercy. And all of these found their way into the Kingdom of God, while the Pharisees stumbled along in the dark.
Without Faith we are in deep night. Faith helps us to see in the dark.
May we put our total trust in him who said: “Those who follow me will never walk in darkness but will always have the Light of Life!”
As St. Paul has written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Let me tell you this true story.
When William Montague Dyke was ten years old, he was blinded in an accident. Despite his disability, William graduated from a university in England with high honors.While he was in school he fell in love with the daughter of a high-ranking British Naval Officer, and they became engaged.
Shortly before the wedding, William had eye surgery in the hope that the operation would restore his sight. If it failed, he would remain blind for the rest of his life.William insisted on keeping the bandages on his face until his wedding day. If the surgery was successful, he wanted the first person he saw to be his new bride.
The wedding day arrived. The many guests—including royalty, cabinet members, and distinguished men and women of society—assembled together to witness the exchange of vows.
William’s father, Sir William Hart Dyke, and the doctor who performed the surgery stood next to the groom, whose eyes were still covered with bandages.
The organ trumpeted the wedding march, and the bride slowly walked down the aisle to the front of the church.
As soon as she arrived at the altar, the surgeon took a pair of scissors out of his pocket and cut the bandages from William’s eyes.
Tension filled the room.
The assembly of witnesses held their breath as they waited to find out if William could see the woman standing before him.
As he stood face –to-face with his bride-to-be, William’s words echoed throughout the cathedral,
“You are more beautiful than I ever imagined!”
I think that story is our heart’s desire and faith’s promise, that one day, when the bandages that cover the eyes of our mortal minds and hearts are removed, and we stand face-to-face with Jesus Christ and see him for the very first time, we will affirm what faith has promised:
“You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”