Don’t Look Away: Lent In Other Words

Thanks for checking in, I’m glad you’re here! The following reflection is the fifth in a Lent series called Lent, In Other Words. This week’s word is hope, inspired by the Gospel reading in John 9:1-41 from the lectionary.

The story of the blind man who receives his sight is a good one as far as stories go. It has an intense plot full of intriguing drama, effective use of dialogue, a cast of interesting characters, a dramatic climax, and a resolution that leaves us asking important questions about our own faith.

A man born blind is healed when Jesus applies a paste of mud and saliva to his eyes and instructs him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam (which means sent, a masterful play on words). Most of the witnesses are preoccupied with sin rather than recognizing the miracle right in front of them.

“Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” the disciples asked. The Pharisees insisted Jesus was the sinner for breaking the rules, performing a miracle on the Sabbath (gasp!). And most pointed their fingers at the audacious man not only because he was born blind and therefore definitely a sinner by conventional wisdom, but also because he confessed his faith in Jesus. “I was blind, but now I see!” he said.

At the end of the story, Jesus clears up the confusion by telling everyone (except the blind man) that they have it all wrong. He declared that he came to this world so that those who do not see will see. Seeing is believing, literally and metaphorically speaking. But the second part of his statement isn’t so easy to understand. He said that those who do see will become blind. Could it be that Jesus called us to blindness as an invitation to humbly confess our limited vision?

Sometimes we are so sure of our sight that we miss what Jesus would teach us if we confessed our blind spots. We can only see fully when we see the world through the lens of Jesus. When we faithfully close our eyes before him, we can be assured that his balm will widen our gaze.

But Jesus makes an important distinction too. Blind faith as an act of humility is different than willfully turning a blind eye. He told the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We See,’ your sin remains.” The Pharisees were certain their vision was perfect—and they were insulted that they might be called blind by Jesus or anyone else. “Surely we are not blind!” they insisted.

Jesus revealed himself as the Son of God in this story, the very author of hope, yet the Pharisees chose to look away. They saw the scene unfold but turned a blind eye, putting faith in their own piety instead of Jesus’ invitation to see the world through new eyes. I confess, I’m guilty like the Pharisees sometimes too.

But Jesus who revealed hope through the eyes of a blind man in the Gospel story continues to open my eyes even now. Last week I saw a short video about Syrian children displaced by violence in Damascus. A ten-year-old little girl sings a song of hope amidst the rubble of her war-torn city. She and other children tell a gripping story as they color a bleak landscape of bombed out buildings, while singing “We want our future back. We want our childhood back. We want to say it loud: everything is possible!”

Although the little girl is blind, hers are the eyes through which we understand the reality for children like her. And like the Gospel story teaches, we must not to turn a blind eye to her story. Instead we must be transformed by the sight and be ready to do the work hope demands: to help those whose need has been revealed to us.

The UN has recently declared that the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in decades is happening right now. Some 20 million people are at risk of starving to death, many of them children. Food shortages are the result of conflict and war, like the situation in Syria.

The UN’s humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, issued a grave warning, “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost.”

Friends, we cannot allow hope to be lost. Christians are called to keep it alive by seeing with new eyes and believing that everything is possible. How will we help others see hope?  Together we can make a big difference.

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