‘We walk by faith, not by sight’
“NOW the Gospel story is pretty straight forward. There’s a climax to the story – and it comes when the man makes the profession of faith in Jesus. So very simply, his journey is from blindness to sight; from darkness to light – symbolising the journey from unbelief to belief.
Sadly though, while the blind man’s eyes opened more and more, the Pharisees, who are physically sighted, become more and more spiritually blind. This proves that good eyesight is not the only criterion of “seeing”.
Bernard Lonergan, a philosopher, said: “The eyes are the the first step to knowledge”. But knowing is not simply a matter of take a good look – see carefully. Often enough, we all do operate under the notion of knowing as taking a closer look or look properly so that we can understand.
Instead, true understanding (according to Lonergan) is this: It involves four-fold process: Being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible. So if knowing involves these four so-called four-fold process, then to know in the fullest sense, it will require that there is an intellectual and also a moral conversion.
The Gospel today is challenging – challenging because seeing, if we can see, it is only a prelude to knowing. To know is always to know the truth. What we see is not just with our eyes, but also with our mind, heart and imagination.
When our mind is narrow, and when our heart is small, and our imagination is shallow, we will suffer a loss of vision.
Our lives will be darkened, and our world will begin to shrink. Blindness is not a tragedy to be born with because the greatest tragedy is not even the failure to see. The greatest tragedy is the refusal to see – and we know that the Pharisees suffer from this.
We, too, often refuse to see. For example, we may refuse to see that selfishness blinds us to the needs of others; insensitivity blinds us to the hurt that we can cause to our spouses, children or our parents; snobbery blinds us to the equal dignity of others while pride blinds us to our own faults and so on.
Prejudice may blind us to the truth; if you are always in a chase of something, it may blind you to the beauty around you…
We can be blind in so many areas of our lives, but what is important for us to note is that the most important vision or sight to acquire can only be done through the eyes of faith. While we are concerned about blindness that prevents us from seeing what needs to be done, like clearing away whatever blindness that we have, the Gospel is essentially a story which culminates with a profession of faith: “Lord, I believe”.
To know is always to know the truth, but truth is not something. Truth is always a person. For us, it’s Jesus Christ.
We have taken the readings from Year A due to the scrutiny (of the elects and catechumens) – to highlight the journey of all those who are going on for baptism. They must make that journey. At the end of the journey, it has to culminate with the profession of faith.
Through the catechetical process of learning, the eyes of the elect should get better and better in seeing who Jesus really is until they finally come to profess, without a doubt, “Lord, I believe”.
All our candidates for baptism must make that journey towards the profession of faith. What about us (baptised persons)? We are not aloof of what they are going through.
The scrutiny actually reminds us not to forget what our ‘seeing’ is for. St Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians said: “Once you were in darkness, but now you are in the Light”. And so those of us who have been enlightened by Christ can never again see ourselves in the same light as before.
In short, we should light up with an inner radiance. It means that our faith in Christ should radiate a kind of brilliance to the elect, so that they, too, will see the inner brilliance we have and come to the same profession of faith we have made in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The best analogy I can think of right now would be the face of St Stephen – on being stoned to death, his face lights up. The faith that he possesses shines through. Being witnesses to the light is really hard work, as we can see in the life of St Stephen.
And here, as the Gospel story unfolds, the enlightened followers of Christ must also be prepared to face incredulity, persecution, hardship… for the sake of the faith.
It is one thing to have faith or to have Jesus to light up our lives – but it is quite another thing to live that life in the same light from one day to another day, especially in the midst of a world consumed by the darkness of sin and unbelief.
So when we cling on to the light that banishes the darkness which is all around us, when the world, which constantly seeks to undermine, manipulate or distort the truth, twist the meaning of the word of the man whose sight was restored and asked, ‘Do you want to be His disciple, too?’ Then let us shout unafraid, in loving faithfulness: “We do! We are disciples!”
Like St Stephen, the protomartyr, nothing can separate us from this gift of faith, which Christ has bestowed upon us. Easier said than done. But St Paul prompts us as he prompted the Corinthians, “To walk by faith, not by sight”.
So when in doubt as to whether we can remain faithful to the task before us, let us take comfort in the people who have gone before us, who had held on to their faith.
And here, take comfort in the words given by Fr Benedict (not Pope Emeritus), pictured at right, as he is now called, at one of his birthday celebrations:
“I find myself on the last stretch of my journey in life and I don’t know what is awaiting me. I know, however, that the Light of God exists; He is risen. His Light is stronger than any darkness. And that God’s Goodness is stronger than any evil in this world. And it is this that helps me go forward with certainty.”
So today we pray for those who are seeking this Light, that they may be granted the grace of certainty to walk forward into the heart of Christ – the Light.
And for all of us who are baptised, we pray that through the celebration of the Sacraments, through our prayers and through our little sacrifices, we may not waver but stay ever strong in the same Light of Christ, the Lord.”