ColumnsNaming Grace

Ripping off our blinders

When our twin granddaughters were born almost 10 years ago, all eyes were on Ellie at just 2 pounds. At 4 months, we shifted our focus on Gemma when a cataract was discovered on her left eye. Within two days, the cataract was surgically removed. Never have I seen the medical community move so quickly; the longer a cataract remains, the less chance of the eye connecting with the brain, causing blindness.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals the man born blind. Jesus then confronts the Pharisees who remain in spiritual darkness. The Gospel affirms we are born blind not because of sin, rather we become blind through the sin of indifference, ignorance and self-centeredness. We purposefully put on blinders to shield us from the suffering in the world. We maintain our blind spots to protect our comfortable lifestyle. We leave on our cataracts because to see demands change. We risk the grave danger of spiritual darkness as we blindly hold onto long-seeded prejudices, arrogant assumptions and selfish intentions.

Abby Johnson, a former abortion provider, wrote one of the most enlightening descriptions of spiritual blindness. When questioned about her former employment: “How did you not see that it was a baby?” “How did you not realize that you were killing babies?” She answered frankly, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. … Sin blinds you. … We are all afflicted with our own spiritual blindness. That’s what sin does to us, and we all sin.”

Sin blinds us to truth. Sin blocks Christ’s light. Yet we are powerless to scrape the film from our own eyes. Johnson, addressing her change of heart, writes, the blinders were removed, “not by human hands, but by the hand of the Holy Spirit.” Then, and only then, will we see as God sees. As the blinders are ripped off, we begin to see others, and ourselves, as beloved children of God. When we see, the human person is no longer an “illegal,” but a young mother fleeing terror. We then begin to participate in the works of God to alleviate suffering.

As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s illuminating presence—as we teach our children to see. We open their eyes by inviting the neighbor of a different race, income or diverse-ability over for dinner, seeing “others” as friends instead of strangers. We open their eyes to see the sadness in a sibling or classmate. We open their eyes to God’s merciful presence by teaching them to examine their blindness.

The Pharisees refused to see, choosing instead the darkness of prideful, self-centered ignorance. If we want to see, we must begin now—as painful as it may seem. The quickest, most powerful remedy to blindness lies in praying to the Holy Spirit for insight, confessing our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation and receiving God’s healing in the Eucharist.

No one desires the pain of surgery, but through it we are healed. Thankfully, Gemma has vision in her left eye, though limited. Best of all, Gemma sees into the hearts of others. When hearing her baby brother cry, Gemma shot straight to him, held his little hand and sang, “I love you. I see you.” Gemma sees. She radiates as a compassionate child of the light, making the works of God visible through her life! Now, that’s good news.

What are your blind spots?

How will you begin to open your child’s eyes to the other?

For more insight, read last week’s beautiful article on Natalie Schira.