Here we are at the fourth Sunday of Lent. At this stage in the liturgical year, the intensity is ramping up. Those going through the process of Christian initiation are being “scrutinized.” The gospel readings are getting longer and more poignant. The symbols we reflect on begin to foreshadow the Easter mysteries — light overcoming darkness, blindness giving way to sight, life triumphing over death. We’re getting close to the heart of our Christian faith and our liturgical life pumps with emotion and profundity.
This week we are asked to reflect on the blind spots that plague our human experience. Blind spots are pernicious things. They sneak up on us. They are natural consequences of our limited human capacity to perceive the whole of reality. Our blind spots can wreak havoc on many of our human relationships. The readings this week challenge us to attend to our blind spots and seek ways to come to a deeper understanding of the world around us.
In the first reading we see Samuel commissioned to anoint a new king from among the sons of Jesse. He comes to this task with his own set of blind spots. He assumes that a king will be one of the older sons, one of the more established and stronger men. In his preconceived notions of what a king looks like he misses the young David whom the Lord has anointed. Because of his preconceived notions of leadership, Samuel at first overlooks David’s promise and potential. He needs to be reminded that God does not see as humans see, but that God looks on the heart. Herein lies the lesson for us today. How do we allow our own preconceived notions of others prevent us from seeing their full promise and potential? Who do we see as insignificant and, in the process, deny them the opportunity to share their gifts to the fullness of their capacity?
I am writing this column on International Women’s Day. It would seem to me that women throughout history have suffered from what I’ll call the “Samuel effect.” The fact that women have been seen as insignificant, as less than full persons, has denied us the opportunity to live to our full promise and potential. In many parts of the world, and in the structures of our own church and society, our preconceived notions around the role of women still serve to place our light under a bushel. That’s why this year’s Share Lent theme put forward by Development and Peace — “Women at the Heart of Change” — is so prophetic. It reminds us of the promise and potential of women to transform the worlds in which they live. The work of Development and Peace gives them the tools and resources they need so they can be anointed as leaders within their communities. Celebrating women at the heart of change is one way we can overcome our blind spots, just as Samuel did so long ago.
The gospel also asks us to reflect on our blind spots. In this wonderful account of the blind man’s miraculous cure, we see just how blind we can be to the work of God. Even as the blind man rejoiced in the gift of sight, those around him sought to corral him in their preconceived notions of who they thought he should be. He should be the blind beggar bearing this punishment for his own sins or that of his family. He should stay in his familiar, dependent role. Even his own family didn’t want to stand by him in his new reality for fear of the authorities. Everyone wanted to keep him in his place, the box set out for him by society because of his disability.
Again, we are asked to think about who we keep in boxes. Whose growth is stifled because we fail to imagine them as anyone different from who they have been before? Whose new sight is questioned because we are too afraid to let go of the status quo? The answers may differ for each one of us. It may be the troublesome child who continually gets labelled as the black sheep of the family. It may be the person who has been in prison struggling to reintegrate into society. Our blind spots don’t allow us to consider that people can grow and change. The gospel asks us to challenge those assumptions.
We are coming upon our greatest celebration of the year. As we prepare to contemplate the joy of the resurrection, we are called to reflect on the blind spots that can block our vision of God’s glory. May these last few weeks of Lent allow us to go beyond our preconceived notions of who others should be so that we can see them for who they truly are, full of promise and potential, and examples of God’s grace at work in our lives.
Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.