We are all born with some form of blindness. Blindness can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or economical. Sin is a type of blindness. In this world the blindness of others is apparent every day. Our world is seemingly falling apart due to this type of carelessness for one another. The lack of love in the world portrays a nearsighted vision that is only concerned for oneself.
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Many of you know that we recently celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on March 21. That commemorated the killing of 69 people by police in Sharpeville, South Africa who were silently protesting Apartheid laws. Nelson Mandela’s recent passing reminds us of action in the face of political and social blindness. However, there is another little known story of racial blindness. Ruby Bridges was the first black child to enroll in an all-white school in New Orleans, in the United States. When she entered most of the white children were pulled out and a mob of people protested at the doors of the school. Even the teachers refused to teach this “black” child. The one person agreed to her was Barbara Henry from Boston, Massachusetts. This teacher was brought in to teach Ruby as no one else would.
Ruby was alone in her class for over 1 year. US marshals were sent to escort her to school since she was threatened with death and even presented with a black baby doll in a wooden coffin. Her mother told her "Remember, if you get afraid, say your prayers. You can pray to God anytime, anywhere. He will always hear you." So Ruby prayed on her way to school but she said, "I was praying for them." She prayed, “Please be with me, I'd asked God, and be with those people too. Forgive them because they don't know what they're doing.” The people of that community who protested were blind to the black community. Her father lost his job and even her grandparents lost their sharecrop farming land that they farmed for 25 years. It took the actions and prayers of Ruby and the government to open their eyes. In this way Ruby’s suffering was used to manifest God’s love. Ruby had God’s vision that helped her see through the blindness of her community.
Similarly, Jesus explains that the blindness of the man, in the Gospel, was used to “display the works of God”. Sin and suffering in our lives can also be used to show God’s grace. Jesus used the physical elements of mud and water to heal the man. This story alludes to the sacrament of Baptism that provides Divine grace to open our eyes to God’s truth. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39) In the sacraments God enters our souls in a spiritual way to heal our mortal blindness. Sacraments are visible signs of God’s grace. Jesus used mud, spit and water to heal the man born blind. These physical elements are necessary in the administering of the sacraments. Sin causes us to be interior blind to God and people. By partaking in the sacraments our souls are illumined by Christ.
In many countries the blindness of people can reach extremes. Becoming a Christian can mean a death sentence for you and your family. How little we suffer compared to so many others in the world.
Mother Teresa was born in Macedonia in 1910 she became a nun at the age of 18. Reaching out to those suffering was why this young nun chose to leave her teaching position and minister to the poor in India. Mother Teresa once told the story, “One day I picked up a man from the gutter. His body was covered with worms. I brought him to our house, and what did that man say? He did not curse. He did not blame anyone. He just said, “I’ve lived like an animal in the street, but I’m going to die like an angel, loved and cared for! It took us three hours to clean him. Finally, the man looked up at the sister and said, “Sister, I’m going home to God.” [they Baptized him] And then he died. I’ve never seen such a radiant smile on a human face. He went home to God. See what love can do!” How many of us have ever been blind to the needs of a homeless person, or even one covered with worms. Mother Teresa received God’s spiritual sight with the sacraments she participated in on a daily basis.
Her daily prayer relates to this Gospel,
Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our souls. Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!
Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours. It will be You, shining on others through us. Let us thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around us.
Through prayer she was able to truly see the needs of God’s people and thus start her work in the slums of Calcutta. Her order now has 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries that minister to the poor, sick and dying but are grounded in faith, prayer and the sacraments. Mother Teresa had God’s vision.
There is a different blindness in North America now. There is selfishness, indifference, complaints, greed, pride, vanity, judgment, criticisms, ridicule, anger, hatred which consume our society. This is often the cause of much of the suffering in our world today. Like a ripple in the waters causing a wave our sins can affect the world. God allows sin this world as a part of our free will. However, the sufferings we endure here when united with him will bring us glory in heaven. Sufferings often help us see clearly the needs and sufferings of those around us. When sufferings come it may seem that God has abandoned us. However, how many of us look back and see how sufferings have opened our eyes to deeper truths about God, others and ourselves. In our sufferings we have the example of Jesus who suffered for us and suffers with us. God is not blind to your sufferings rather he uses them to bring about good as in this Gospel story.
We can be freed from our sinful blindness by our participation in prayer, the sacraments and by our efforts to be good to others. This Lent is a time for a metanoia or a turning away from sin and back to God. We need God’s strength to do good – this is why prayer is important too. But we can change our lives and others by our good works. Patience, humility, silence, kindness if practiced well on a daily basis can change the world. We must begin with ourselves by refraining from actions that cause suffering in others. This Lent is a challenge to refrain from evil and do good. We can smile at others. Remain silent in the face of adversity. Take time to listen to the needs of others. Do random acts of kindness. Refrain from excessive eating or spending. In these ways we gain Godly vision of the world, others and ourselves.
Dear God, help us see people and all your creation with loving eyes,
Dear God, help us see people and all your creation with loving eyes,
with a Godly vision that remembers that we are sinners,
with a Godly vision that forgives,
with a Godly vision that gives hope,
and with a heart that loves you and everyone forever...Amenby: Miriam Westen, M.Ed., M.A. Theology, is a speaker, writer, teacher and Choir director/organist.
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She is the Editor of Catholic News World on the site http://jesuscaritasest.org , which is read in over 200 countries.