Once upon a time, a man sits down at his desk to begin the day’s work when a co-worker runs breathless into the office. “I was almost killed outside! I had just walked out of the deli where I buy my egg salad sandwich every morning. Suddenly, a police car comes speeding down the street, chasing another car. The other car stops right in front of me and two people jump out and begin shooting at the police. I hit the ground and could hear bullets whizzing over my head. I’m lucky to be alive!” After a moment of silence, the man at his desk asks, “You eat an egg salad sandwich every morning?”
In the words of Meister Eckhart. When the inner senses are dull and blurred, you can see nothing in or of yourself; you become a respectable prisoner of received images.
Look at the anointing of David as king. Samuel asks to meet Jesse’s sons to choose a new king. Many thought (including the prophet) that God would choose the oldest. But God does not choose the oldest, or the biggest, or the strongest or the most obvious of the sons of Jesse. Even the prophet Samuel is uncertain. This leads God to say Samuel and to all of us- Do not judge anyone from appearance or from his or her lofty stature…
Look at the culture of first century Palestine. Ancient culture dictates that the oldest is always the greatest of leaders. Ancient culture dictates that the man born blind must have been a sinner and deserved his blindness. But God does not see as humans see. God does not perceive reality as God perceives day to day events. Jesus refutes nonsensical piety and announces that the man of the Gospel is blind so that God can demonstrate his power. And in curing the man of his congenital blindness, Jesus exposes the blindness of his parents. Jesus exposes the ignorance of the visitors to the temple who deny his cure. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. By taking simple items like mud, spittle and water, Jesus cures the blind man to demonstrate God’s power over human prejudice. The blind man is so changed that even his neighbors do not recognize him.
To illustrate- two days ago, the New York Times ran an article entitled, “The Jihadi who turned to Jesus.” Bashir Mohammed is a 25-year-old Kurdish man who fought for an offshoot of Al Qaeda. He was recruited by other young men to go in search of God. Repulsed by the atrocious killings on both sides of the Syrian war, he realizes that something is very wrong. He escapes from the military group he fights with and he and his wife flee to Turkey. And that it happens. His wife, Ms. Rashid, as she is known, falls desperately ill. He calls his cousin in Canada, the same cousin who recruited him to Al Qaeda, who now is a Christian, and he asks him for prayers for his wife. His cousin tells Bashir to put the phone up to his wife’s ear. His cousin prays a healing prayer. A few days later Ms. Rashid improves. Today, both are Christians. Bashir’s temper disappears and he ascribes his faith to the prayer and hospitality of the Christian community in the Turkish town. Both know that following Christ comes at a great price. They simply say, “I trust in God.”
This is not a story to prove that one religion is better than another. The reverse can be true also. The main point that I want to make is that God teaches us about who is blind and who can see. And in teaching us about blindness the Lord chooses the least obvious people to demonstrate his power: David, the youngest in Jesse’s family, the man born into a family whose parents have no backbone, and Mr. Mohammed and Ms. Rashid who come to know God in a totally different context, one of peace instead of war.
We come here to the Eucharist all the time with our eyes filled with the mud and spittle of life. At the Eucharist, Jesus seeks us out. He tells us to go and wash. When we do go and wash, we see life differently. We change. People may not recognize us. People will say that we’ve become someone else. Let them eat their egg salad sandwiches. Jesus will find us and he is the only one who matters.
Laetare Sunday (Rejoice!)
The Rev. Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.