Fox News. The New York Times. MSNBC. Republican. Democrat. Words like these, and others, can bring an immediate reaction to us. We perhaps have all kinds of feelings that surface in our minds. And often, our feelings arise out of long held beliefs and principles. And while it is good to be a person of principle, being too wedded to a particular way of thinking can cause a blindness in us that fails to see God.
Today’s readings could not be more clear: having such a strong way of seeing things can mean we miss the activity and presence of God. In the first reading, there is the clear image of what it means to be king, messiah, anointed. Jesse brings out all of his sons, except the smallest and youngest, who certainly could not be the one God had in mind. Jesse could not see in his son the type of person who would be king. It is not all that different than the “unlikely prophet” we heard about last week.
And in the gospel, such a strong way of thinking means that the miracle of giving sight to the blind is overshadowed by religious law. The Pharisees are simply too caught up in a particular way of thinking they cannot appreciate the miracle of the man born blind who can now see. According to the letter of the Law, the Pharisees were right: making clay on the Sabbath was work. But we know Jesus disregarded the law when there was a greater good at stake. He healed others on the Sabbath, and his disciples picked heads of grain on the Sabbath.
We too can get so caught up in a way of thinking that we cannot see clearly. For the Pharisees, it was not being able to see the work of God. But it is not just the Pharisees, or even just religion. Science too, can fall prey to this type of closed thinking. Thomas Kuhn, a physicist, wrote a book in 1962 called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which in comparing Aristotle’s science today attempted to explain how an intelligent man, basing things upon observation, could draw such different conclusions from later physics, like that of Sir Isaac Newton.
Consider the following quote which appeared on The Guardian website on August 19, 2012.
Popper summed up the essence of “the” scientific method in the title of one of his books: Conjectures and Refutations. According to Popper, real scientists (as opposed to, say, psychoanalysts) were distinguished by the fact that they tried to refute rather than confirm their theories. And yet Kuhn’s version suggested that the last thing normal scientists seek to do is to refute the theories embedded in their paradigm!
The point is that in science, there can be the same narrowness because we, in a sense, “see what we want to see.” Such was the case of the Pharisees, and such can be the case with us. And so, in curing the blind man, Jesus helps us to see our own blindness. We are able to see when we trust and believe in Jesus.
But we have to decide first not to be blind. We must desire to see, by relying upon Jesus to help us. And that means wanting to see. Let our phrase today be that of the blind man in another instance of Jesus helping someone to lose their blindness. “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see.”