It’s amazing how much our life perspective can be transformed when we are given the ability to see ourselves honestly. What’s more is that, to those of us who have one or more children with unique challenges and special needs, our comprehension of what constitutes true beauty and goodness changes drastically. I myself can attest to that, having one daughter whose challenges are invisible to the world but are felt very deeply in her mind and heart, while the other daughter is noticeably different due to her physical anomalies.
When I read this Gospel, my heart is flooded with compassion for the blind man; though it is not pity, it is a sorrow for the way in which he was shunned and ostracized because of his disability. At the time, it was believed that any sort of affliction like this was a punishment for lack of faith and that one had somehow “deserved” this bad omen of sorts. Though this belief isn’t widely adopted in our modern culture, it does still linger in places of fundamentalism and even in the subtle cues we all pick up in our societal standards of beauty.
I love how Jesus embraces this man and heals his blindness with clay and spit. Isn’t this truly a symbol to all of us? I consider how we all emulate the blind man, yes, in our sinful nature and the ways in which we remain darkened to truth at times. But we are also the bystanders, the onlookers who jeered and whispered and conjectured about this outcast. We contribute to the world’s understanding of human perfection – or rather, to the false ideology that human perfection is, indeed, possible to obtain in this life.
Look at our commercials and advertisements. They all center around exterior beauty; after not having cable television for over a year, I am amazed each time I go to a family member’s or friend’s house and see some of the ads on TV these days. I think it jolts me in a particular way, because I have been so far removed from it for so long. What I see are plentiful ads depicting teeth whitening, hair silkening, makeup galore, magic pills for all sorts of issues, etc. Beyond that, the conversation I overhear so often at parties or social gatherings often revolves around the many accomplishments one has achieved or the successes of one’s progeny.
My heart often sinks when I hear these things, because, while I used to buy into the social mindset that intelligence and academic excellence is crucial to a child’s worldly success, I don’t understand that reality anymore. I have two children who are like that blind man in today’s Gospel; one is physically attractive and yet suffers deeply within. Therefore, the world is blinded to her afflictions. The other daughter may never reach a superlative IQ, and yet she is such an incredible gift and testimony to the world – a world that is largely anti-life and finds any sort of “malfunction” in a human being to be worthless and tossed aside. To many, she is considered “blind,” because she was given this particular and very visible cross to carry.
Both perspectives are erroneous, and to be truthful, they are pitiful to me. I have never subscribed to the belief that Jesus came into this world in order to save only those who are powerful, wealthy, highly esteemed, lauded, of genius intelligence, or aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Nearly all of the stories of Jesus tell of Him going out of His way to reach out and heal the oppressed, the outcasts, the deeply sinful and scorned of society. My daughters are categorized by those who judge; on the one hand, people think Felicity only has a difficult disposition and, therefore, they don’t see her daily struggles with anxieties of many types, as well as her inability to master very ordinary tasks. People may also (in time) judge Sarah due to her physical appearance; I have heard of awful tales from other parents who have children with Apert Syndrome, stories of bullying and taunting and mocking or brazen and rude comments. But these are the people whom Jesus came to teach the world about love.
I have come to believe that affliction necessitates humility, and because of that, when one has been humiliated by societal standards, one can then be fully embraced by Eternal Love. People who suffer, be it through a physical disability or mental illness or myriad other maladies, are God’s way of teaching the rest of the world about His mercy and love. How can God’s greatness be proclaimed if no one needs a remedy or healing for their ailments? But when we are broken, downcast and otherwise in the depths of despair, that is when God chooses to uplift us and grant us the grace of peace and interior healing. And I believe (call me crazy if you wish) that, yes, God still works miracles in this modern world. I believe that He does choose to grant complete reversals of cancers and diseases of all sorts, to still make the lame walk and the blind see. I believe He can – and does – heal addictions, psychological disorders, and all sorts of infirmities.
The truth is, we all need a healer. And fortunately, we were given one in the flesh of Jesus, who touches us still today in the same loving manner that He touched the blind man’s eyes. No matter what burdens us (because, let’s face it, we are all burdened to some degree or another), we can offer it to Jesus in faith and humility. But only in humility and faith can this offering be accepted and we transformed. Let us present all of our sins, our broken hearts, our burdened hearts, to Jesus this day.
Ponder: In what ways do I resemble the blind man? Am I blinded spiritually, perhaps through pride? How am I like the bystanders who jeered and judged the blind man? Do I judge others who are different, perhaps including my own family members? Do I pride myself in some sort of gift or talent, perhaps my career or intelligence or school grades or looks? How can I – today – decide to make an offering of humility so that Jesus can heal me?
Pray: Dear Jesus, I am blind at times due to my own pride that darkens my ability to see myself – and others – honestly. I am also hardened by pride when I hurt other people who are different, either by ignoring them or perhaps even by outwardly excluding them or making them feel unloved. Please heal my wounded heart so that I may be changed into a person who loves. Amen.