30th Sunday of the Year Reflection
Lord, let me see again!
To see is to have vision; holding the past and future in balance with integrity to the present moment, that Eternal Now. This is the active place in which we listen, to understand, cooperate, and act in the union with God in the ongoing process of creation. Lord, let me see again! Once we have the ability to see, but now we have lost our vision. How do we lose our vision, our ability to listen and understand; consequently our ability to continue the work of procreation?
There is a religious order with a long history of saints spanning the globe across many centuries. Recently this group of men had a meeting here in South Africa to discuss property ownership of the order. This is in line with a dialogue currently going on in the country with regard to land ownership. The meeting resolved that it had to take full occupancy of a certain parish property in order to avoid “this falling into the hands of whites”.
Besides the hurt that this caused to some members of the order, this is an example of losing vision. We are frail wounded beings, carrying within our collective consciousness our prejudices, fearfulness, uncertainties, illusions, phobias; the inability to love in an unselfish way. We fear not being able to see. We fear the dark, the unknown. Blindness and darkness, just like suddenly losing our mind or losing our memory leads to loss of control; loss of identity; loss of certainty.
What is Original Sin?
St Augustine termed this Original Sin while some translate it as original woundedness; an inherited dysfunction that clouds our vision; a tendency towards doing things we would rather not do, saying things that should be left unsaid, judging others and all the other power games that I referred to last week. St Paul termed this “seeing darkly, as in a glass“; distorted images, the very face of fear.
In the face of such fear, many may turn to fundamentalism. This is an unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs, and often appears as an attractive way to deal with the many uncertainties of our lives. This is why so many people failed to see and to understand the message that Jesus taught. That is why we can read and listen to the Gospel every Sunday, or even every day and yet have a total disassociation of the call to holiness with our daily lives.
Just as then, many of us today live in fear, and fundamentalism promises deliverance from fear by hammering home a view of God, the Bible, the world, and of people that engenders the illusion of “certainty” in a world. This becomes a world of certainty controlled by a God we can neatly categorise and label in an otherwise unpredictable world; what Prof Ruiz refers to as the “The Terror of History”.
We Can Be Set Free of Fear
We are fearful people. Fear has become home, an obvious dwelling place, and an acceptable foundation on which to make our decisions and to plan our lives. Those whom we fear have a great power over us. Those who can make us afraid can also make us do what they want us to do. Fear and power walk hand in hand.
Power is wielded by instilling fear in people and keeping by them afraid. As long as we are kept in fear we can be made to act, speak, and even think as slaves. That is why Jesus tells us that the Truth, metanoia, as opposed to our illusions, paranoia, will set us free.
The agenda of our world – the issues and items that fill newspapers and newscasts – is an agenda of fear and power. It is astonishing and frightening, to see how easily that agenda becomes our own.
Terms such as “weapons of mass destruction, financial meltdown, expropriation without compensation, land grabs and global terrorism”, fill us with dread so that the agendas of the powerful find resonance within our own minds.
Desperate to Live in Certainty
The need, sometimes the desperate need, to live in “certainty” drives many to distort logic, and deny even the most basic expressions of rationality. Fear breeds fear. Fear cannot ever give birth to love. A careful examination of the gospels shows that Jesus seldom accepted the questions posed to him, exposing them as coming from that foundation of fear.
‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? How often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever? What authority do you have for acting like this? Are you the king of the Jews? Lord, has the hour come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
To none of these questions did Jesus give a direct answer. He gently put them aside as questions that emerge from false worries; from our illusions and paranoia. These questions arose out of fear, concern for the loss of prestige, influence, power, and control. They do not belong to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus Transforms the Question With His Answer
Therefore Jesus always transforms the question by his answer. He made the question new – and only then fit for his response.” Jesus tells us the He is Truth. In Jesus we see what it means to hold together humanity and divinity. In and through Jesus we have our only identity as followers of the Way of Jesus the Christ who is the archetypal True Self offered to history, where matter and spirit finally operate as one, where divine and human are held in one container’. The Truth will set us free.
Jesus’ life and his risen body point to that discovery of our own divine DNA as the only, full, and final meaning of being human. The True Self is neither God nor human. The True Self is both at the same time, and both are a total gift.
Most of us want safe places, safe havens, in which to rest, even if it means having our complex and existential problems addressed by a simple Bible verse, or by a rather trite remark such as, “God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle.” This illusion of certainty, although it serves a needed psychological and social purpose for many of those who seek out fundamentalism, has another, much more dangerous, downside.
Fundamentalism, by its very nature, requires that there be scapegoats! In the fundamentalist frame of mind, there has to be an “us,” and for there to be an “us” there has to be a “them.” And the current “them,” the enemy of the day.
The psychological need for certainty changes over to the social need for bonding with like-minded believers. Therefore, it’s “us” against “them!” Anyone who is viewed as not seeing God, the Bible, or the world as that person does is seen as the outsider, the enemy.
Those that Know Who They Are
These are the very outsiders and enemies that Jesus associated Himself with; that are associated with God…the poor, the exiles, the sinners. These do not have the luxury of illusions because they know themselves for who they are; they know it in the eyes of those who despise them, ignore them; judge them.
Lord, let me see again! The blind man’s journey of our gospel is significant. Sitting at the side of the road, he is the model of all those who are marginalised, on the outside, rejected and forced to beg for mercy while the great ones of the world pass by. Just like him, we are often silenced by the powerful, by the institution.
But the faith which saves him is shown by his unconquerable spirit, his refusal to accept that he is destined to remain there for the rest of his life. Freed by Jesus from his blindness, Bartimaeus follows Jesus along the road. If we would see our lives, see those around us, and see our world, we also must cry out: “Master, let me see.” Then in the face of our need of forgiveness, we have to cry out: “Master, let me see again.”
We want the Lord’s gift of sight and enlightenment and this is our prayer every Sunday. We also desire to follow the Master along the road; we are a pilgrim people on a journey with God.