Last week I saw something that was both frightening and amazing all at the same time. It took place in a matter of seconds. While driving, I came to a red light at a busy intersection near where I live. There are three lanes of traffic going in each direction, not counting the left hand turn lanes. A young blind man, with his sensing stick in hand, was attempting to cross the street I was on. It was clear he was not a novice at this, but for some reason instead of crossing all the lanes to the median and then the other lanes in a straight path, he drifted at an angle heading right into oncoming traffic! He thought he was going straight, but no doubt because of the noise of the traffic, he unknowingly became disoriented. Therefore what seemed to him to be straight was actually misguided and he was walking into danger. In an instant I saw multiple car doors open, but a teenaged girl who was a passenger in the car next to mine was faster than the rest of us. She flew out of the SUV and already had the man by the arm, guiding him safely to the median and then to the opposite side of the street. In another instant she was back in her car and I lost sight of the young man.
The scene was amazing in that so many people were attentive and ready to go to the aid of the man. What the teenager did was rather beautiful; she had him put his arm through hers and led him to safety. I am not sure what she said to him, but he smiled as they crossed the street. This incident was also frightening, because the young man could have been killed. If there were no cars on our side, he would have had no one to save him. Some unfortunate person, minding his or her own business, would have hit him by accident, and so two people would have had tragedy, not just one.
This event has stayed with me, obviously, and in my reflection it helped me to see how we, too, are like the blind man. Quite often we think we are going straight ahead, but we are actually drifting into danger unaware. This happens to all of us more often than we realize, especially when we stop praying because we become too busy, or we think we can handle something on our own. We have all sorts of good intentions, but we stop listening because we are distracted by the noises of life around and within us, therefore not hearing the urgings of the Spirit who is trying to help guide us.
In the Old Testament this happened over and over again as the people tried to do things their way. When Moses was trying to get the Israelites to the Promised Land the attitude they developed was one of self-reliance. Some of them argued that God had brought them to the desert to die, and they actually longed for the fleshpots and "security" of Egypt. At least there, they reasoned, they knew what to expect, even if it was slavery. Others felt that Moses was not really speaking with God, that he was doing "his own thing," and therefore they wanted a god to guide them, thus crafting the golden calf. All those attitudes brought were destruction and loss. Until they realized that God had their best interests in mind, and until they learned to trust Him, they wandered, literally going in circles. Once the new generation understood that Moses really was God's spokesperson and accepted His leadership, they came to the Promised Land.
Human nature being what it is, that story is repeated throughout the Old Testament. The people went astray over and over again, first not listening to the judges who kept rescuing them, then not listening to the prophets who God sent to save them from bad leadership, (some lousy kings), and from their own poor judgment in choosing false, nonexistent gods over Him. The people insisted on doing things their way, even as the nation was crumbling around them. Like the blind man, they thought they were headed in the right direction, but were headed right into danger. It was because they surrounded themselves with the noise of self-righteousness and rationalization that they could no longer hear the truth. Before the Babylonian Exile they thought: "We have Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant, and the king who is in the line of David, therefore nothing can touch us." But since they actually were far from God and most people had ceased to listen to God, they lost everything.
In various New Testament stories we see Jesus confronting the issue of people not seeing or hearing. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus says that they have eyes but do not see and they have ears but do not hear. He is indicating that this is a choice we make. It takes work to see and hear, and often we need someone to help lead us in the right direction. Jesus came to lead us to the Kingdom. When He died and rose, He left us the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us, gently leading us towards God.
In Mark's Gospel Jesus indicates that a disciple is one who is a hearer and doer of the Word; in other words, a disciple is one who is listening and makes a response. He insists that one must hear in order to do. In the original Greek, the word for hearing (akouein) is related to the word for obedience (hypakouein), but this does not imply servitude. Rather, it implies that the one who wants to be guided by the Spirit knows that to follow His promptings is to grow closer to God. We obey, or follow, because we believe that God has our best interests at heart. And we follow because we trust Him and because we love Him.
Notice how hearing and seeing are related. The blind man attempting to cross the street could not hear the tapping of his stick and lost his bearings. I know that the blind usually develop a heightened sense of hearing, so when the man could not hear due to the noise, he was misjudging his steps. And I know that I hear better when I have my glasses on. Seriously! (I am guessing I am not alone in this experience.) But for those of us only a little sight impaired, we do not usually develop better hearing. So instead of only seeing better with our glasses, we also hear better.
In John's Gospel when the blind man who Jesus healed really heard the words of Jesus, he was able to attest faith in Him to the Pharisees. (John 9) He became a follower of Jesus because the Word penetrated his heart. He saw and he heard as if for the first time. Meanwhile the Pharisees refused to hear and were stuck in their spiritual blindness. Even when they witnessed a miracle of Jesus they could not see it because they chose to be impervious to His message.
Just as Jesus says the sheep know the shepherd, (John 10) we need to come to learn to recognize His presence. God gives us tools to learn how to do this. If we ask Him to be our guide, we will become less blind. If we use the Scriptures and prayer as sources of learning to discern His presence, we will be less in danger of walking off the path. But we are never able to go it alone. We never arrive at full sight until we meet Him face to face in the next life. As St. Paul says, "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12) The Good News is that we are never alone. God longs for us because He wants to give us every good thing and mostly because He loves us with an unfathomable love. So let us ask for the gift of willingness to spend time with Him, for the gift of longing for Him so that we will make time for Him, and the gift of deepened love so that we may become more aware of just how loved we are by Him.
May we have the gift of longing for true sight that we might not wander into danger! May we have the gift of desire for deeper relationship with the Lord! May we become more attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit! May we be healed of whatever blindness we may have so we may see more of the beauty of the Lord! And may we be inspired to make the time we need in our schedule for the most important Person in our life, the Lord of Love! Let us continue to meet within the Heart of the Lord where all blindness is healed by the power of His love! Peace!
The top and bottom photos are mine. The top symbolizes what things look like when we think we can see, but things are really not clear at all. The bottom picture, taken only a few seconds later, is clearer and therefore we see more detail, symbolizing the clarity we receive when we let God guide us.
Both icons are the work of Rev. William Hart McNichols. The first is called Hagia Sophia and can be found at http://188.8.131.52/~fatherb4/index.php/all-categories/product/20-hagia-sophia
The second icon is called The Holy Spirit, The Lord, the Giver of Life,The Paraclete, Sender of Peace and can be found at http://184.108.40.206/~fatherb4/index.php/all-categories/product/28-the-holy-spirit-the-paraclete-the-lord-and-giver-of-life
Check out Fr. Bill's new website at www.fatherbill.org. Remember, I do not receive anything by endorsing Fr. Bill's work or website. He is a friend and I love his work, so I enjoy sharing the wealth. :)
© Michele L. Catanese
Heart Speaks to Heart