We Can Only See What We Are Willing to See

Fourth Sunday of Lent

1 Samuel 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A

The LORD said to Samuel: "Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons." As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is here before him." But the LORD said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen any one of these." Then Samuel asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" Jesse replied, "There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep." Samuel said to Jesse, "Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here." Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, "There—anoint him, for this is the one!" Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Ephesians 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, "Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, "Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is, " but others said, "No, he just looks like him." He said, "I am." They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see." So some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a sinful man do such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, "What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." They answered and said to him, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.

The Lenten season invites us to embark on a journey of discovery and transformation: recognizing who we really are and who God is; awakening from our sleep; transitioning from blindness to sight, and from darkness into light. This week’s eye-opening readings challenge us to be honest with ourselves, and with our loving God, that we must see with God’s eyes and not our own as what we see, and perhaps how we see, may be deceptive. Often, we can only see what we are willing to see.

When thousands of Syrian migrants began flooding over the shores and borders of many countries in 2017, the world stood in shock and paralysis. Humanitarian organizations called this a “crisis” while some politicians deemed this a financial burden and even a nuisance. At the same time, the general public tend to become overwhelmed by the statistics and forget that each number or percentage point is a human being; a living, breathing person who, in many respects, is similar to us if not for the Syrian war that erupted in 2017. The terms “migrants” or “refugees”, though accurate in a pragmatic way, effectively dismiss the humanity of these individuals who are parents and children, friends and foes, students and teachers, drivers and passengers, directors and actors, healers and care-givers. We do have a choice here: to see them as a problem, or to see them as who they really are; peeling back all those layers of brokenness to reveal their human dignity. Do we allow ourselves to see that they are our fellow sisters and brothers, and more importantly, children of God created to be light, just like you and me (ref. Eph 5:8)?

In the first reading, the Lord cautions Samuel not to choose according to “appearance or on the height of his stature […] for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1Sam 16:7). Throughout Samuel’s encounter with Jesse’s seven sons, he is challenged to see with God’s eyes so that he may see beyond good looks and physical strength to recognize the goodness in the eighth and hidden child, David. Similarly, it is evident that Jesse and his older sons do not even consider David as a viable candidate, thus, they send him away from the house to tend to the sheep. Samuel, upon meeting this “ruddy” young kid, proceeds to anoint David with oil, “and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:12,13). David, the unassuming and quiet shepherd who has been conveniently forgotten by his father and brothers, is God’s chosen one.

A similar eye-opening story is told in the Gospel of John in which our notion of blindness and sight is challenged. When Jesus encounters and restores sight to a man who is born blind, all his disciples care about is the question of whose sin, his parents’ or his own, causes his blindness; while the Pharisees question Jesus’ authority because “he does not observe the Sabbath” (Jn 9:16). At no point has anyone asked about the well-being of the recipient of a great miracle. No one, especially the Pharisees, is interested in listening to this man’s testimony about Jesus. In fact, he is thrown out by the Pharisees after his attempt to open their eyes by testifying to Jesus’ authority, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (Jn 9:30-33). This man calls a spade a spade, without reservation or fear. Who is the blind one and who is the sighted one?

Clearly both Jesus’ disciples and the Pharisees have missed the point; or perhaps they have willfully turned a blind eye to the truth staring right at them. Jesus explains that he “came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind (Jn 9:40). Throughout this week and the remainder of Lent, let us humbly ask Jesus to restore our sight in our blind spots: areas that we may have willfully chosen to ignore. With our new sight, may we recognize Christ in all whom we encounter and “live as children of light” (Eph 5:8).

Posted: March 22, 2020

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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