“Who are you going to believe… me or your lying eyes?” The classic Groucho Marx one-liner captures the Pharisees’ frustrated, blind rage at Jesus in this week’s gospel. They have an image of Jesus as an interloper, a threat to their leadership. They refuse to see the clear hand of God in his wondrous healing. They refuse to hear the word of God in his message of love. And because no one is as blind as those who will not see, the Pharisees are the blindest of the blind. In their blindness they stumble about in anger and ignorance; striking out at the man cured of blindness, his family and ultimately at Jesus.
John makes it easy for us to see the message of this gospel. He draws a sharp contrast between the blind man who now sees and the Pharisees who never will see. The cured man sees through the eyes of faith. He has become a disciple. The Pharisees’ vision is totally obstructed by the cataracts of pride. They are in deep denial. Christ puts mud in the man’s eyes… and he sees. Christ performs wondrous signs for all to see… and the Pharisees are still blind.
How is your vision? When was the last time you had a checkup? Sure the input hitting your optic nerve may be 20/20… but what do you see? Do you see people in need as a nuisance? Or do you even see them at all? Is your day filled with opportunities to praise God and serve your neighbor? Or is it a blur… full of fuzzy intentions you’ll get to later?
Jesus has a cure for all our vision problems. He doesn’t want to give us glasses. He knows we’re careless. He knows we’ll take them off and forget where we left them. Jesus wants to give us a transplant. He wants us to see the world through his eyes… and what a vision it is. Through the eyes of Jesus there are no strangers. We are all beloved brothers and sisters. Through the eyes of Jesus we have a whole new perspective on routine frustrations and rude surprises. They become opportunities to give glory to God. Through the eyes of Jesus we see the big picture. We are not distracted and confused by petty details. We do not focus on temptation. Through the eyes of Jesus we see purpose and direction in our lives.
That’s the difference between blindness and vision. It is not a function of lenses and retinas. It is the will to see… the will to believe. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has given us new eyes to see. Through the grace of baptism he shares his vision. But over the course of a long life we can dissipate these gifts. We can sit in growing darkness. And like the Pharisees we can ignore the clear signs of God’s love. But they are there. As long as we have the will to see, we will never be blind. In anger and resentment, in depression and despair… or in just plain lazy self-indulgence and boredom, Jesus offers us a far better vision of what life can be. He offers love and joy. He offers serenity and fulfilment. He offers eternal life. It’s all there for us to see. Just keep your eyes open. And keep looking towards the light.