“And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.” Is 29:18
In both of today’s readings, we hear about God healing physical blindness. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently made a comparison between those who were physically blind and those that were spiritually blind. The Scriptures also frequently use the analogy of being blind to being spiritually lost. One of our most beloved hymns, “Amazing Grace” also expresses this experience of being spiritually lost as a form of blindness:
Amazing grace how sweet the sound/
That saved a wretch like me/
I once was lost, but now I’m found/
Was blind but now I see.
The author of “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, was born in 1725 in England. Following in his father’s footsteps, Newton began his life searching throughout the African coast for slaves to capture and sell for profit. On one journey, Newton and his crew encountered a storm that swept some of his men overboard and left others with the likelihood of drowning. With hands fastened onto the wheel of the boat, Newton cried out to God saying, “Lord, have mercy on us.” After eleven hours of steering, the remainder of the crew found safety with the calming of the storm. This experience was the beginning of Newton’s conversion. Eventually Newton quit the slave trade, studied for the ministry, and became active in the abolitionist movement. Newton’s literary work against the slave trade encouraged abolitionist William Wilberforce to continue his legal fight against slavery. And in 1807, British Parliament voted to abolish the Atlantic slave trade.
Like John Newton, we too can free people from slavery. For those near to us enslaved by loneliness, we can give our presence and care. For those enslaved by pollution and poverty, we can care for Earth and the poor. We can use our power as consumers to purchase sustainably, and our power as citizens to promote policies that protect vulnerable lands and people. Each Advent is another opportunity to “take the blinders off” in our lives, pull out of the gloom and darkness, and turn to the light, to the amazing grace that is offered us in Jesus.
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.