Jesus often calls out those who are “blind”, who cannot see God’s truth. Almost exclusively, they are righteous people who judge or marginalize others – those whose very belief in their integrity and “rightness” is what makes them blind. Paul relates well. He was an ardent, much-feared persecutor of Christians who believed he was doing God’s work. God had to make him physically blind before he “saw,” and became a crusader for those he previously oppressed.
So where am I blind? I find that I need to ask two related questions.
1. Where is my belief in my own rightness or innocence blinding me to how God wants me to change?
2. In what ways do I only associate with, read, or get to know people who believe what I believe, risking that the blind lead the blind?
Example: Although I consider myself open and accepting of other ethnicities, I realized I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I thought. I attended an event at which a Black priest spoke about times he was without his collar while walking down the street in a nice neighborhood when he was stopped by police who wanted to know what he was doing there. A Black professional colleague told me that every time her honor-roll teens leave the house, especially if they wear hooded sweatshirts, she worries in ways I never had to about whether they will return home. A successful Black financial advisor told me he has to work three times as hard as others in his office to be taken seriously. These and others opened my eyes to ways that people of color are marginalized, judged, and excluded, and the different levels at which I take part in that. I couldn’t see it if I associated only with people like me – white, suburban, middle-class America. I would have remained blind.
Another example: My brother is gay, I know scientists have proven it is a genetic trait, and I considered myself open and accepting. But I found out I was too insulated. Many years ago, I was hired to coordinate liturgies for a meeting of the National Catholic AIDS Network. Throughout the weekend, I was surrounded by the amazing talents, gifts, and perspectives of dedicated, faithful, gay Catholic people. As I listened to their stories, I was transformed. My eyes were opened to the depth of their pain, and the exclusion and violence they often experience, as well as to the beauty and joy of being with them. If I had been afraid or had turned down this opportunity, I would have remained contentedly blind.
In these are so many other areas, God is calling us to remove the beams from our eyes and search for the truth. We have to reach out beyond our comfort zone. Connect with others and hear their stories. Let the love that God has for each one of those we define as “others” fill our hearts, so together we can work to bring justice to our world.
Please, Lord, help us to see!
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.