Eyes Wide Open
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, May 24, 2020 at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA
All of us carry things that weigh us down: including beliefs and opinions, little “t” traditions that are unnecessary and burdensome, desires, sins, fears. I could name many others. We saw it in the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman last week. She held tightly to her Samaritan traditions as the Jews did to theirs. Worship here not there, there and not here. She let go and unmasked herself before the Lord and he opened her eyes.
Today’s Gospel finds the apostles in a bit of a bind. They were holding on to the false belief that disease was God’s punishment for sin. The Pharisees demonstrated this in the last part of the reading saying to the formerly blind man, “You were born in utter sin!”
“And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus had none of this remarking that, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” We must remember here that “blindness” in scripture is a metaphor for the soul that has fallen asleep.
Jesus did not make a comment about the past origin of his blindness. It simply did not matter to him. He focused instead on the present moment in which this poor man’s illness was about to become a vehicle for the revelation of God’s glory. We can look at all things, good and bad, in this way. It doesn’t depend on the circumstances, but on the perception.
Here’s a story for you from DeMello’s little book THE SONG OF THE BIRD.
“A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. Because he believed that he would be tortured in the morning, he could not sleep. Then he remembered the words of his teacher, ‘Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.’ So, when he brought his mind into the present, he fell to sleep.”
Then DeMello adds this explanation. “The person over whom the future has lost its grip. How like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. No anxieties for tomorrow. Total presence in the now. Holiness.” The same is true of the past.
Even this frightening moment turned into something beautiful when he stopped dreaming of the perilous future and opened his eyes to the truth, turning away from fear, the very thing that blinded him to the reality that lay before him. The present. When our eyes have shed the scales of past and future, then we see things as they are, filled with promise, full of divine energy, the very place where God dwells.
This is a good example of why we should practice being present in the moment in which we live, rather than the past or the future, because every moment, great and small, provides an opportunity for the Glory of God to be revealed. Why is this? Because everything happens in God. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Not sometimes. All the time.
How can we see God everywhere if our eyes and minds are welded shut by the glories and regrets of the past and the dreams and fears about the future?
Paying close attention to each moment may seem an insignificant thing. It is not. If our eyes are not opened to the tree in front of us, or the person, or the place, the water, the sky, the flowers, the animals, what makes us think will be able to see God who is in them all? This is a little thing, yes, but hardly insignificant. Remember what our Lord taught, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10)
Every journey begins with one small step. It is a very practical thing.
A young seminarian told me that he had a wandering eye for beautiful women. We all know that young, single seminarians are always on the lookout for a wife. “When I see an attractive woman, my eye follows her.” I replied, “When she passes by beyond your sight, what replaces her?”
“What do you mean?” he replied. “When you no longer see her, then what do you see? A tree, a building, the sky? The next time we are together, I want to know what you see when she passes by. Then I will know you are making progress in your spiritual life. Stop living in the past.”
With the help of God we can awaken from our slumber and begin to live abundantly. The Lord did not sleep-walk through life as we do. His eyes were wide open. Consciousness and awareness are the main power of the soul and when the eye of the soul opens, we become more and more like Him “who”, as the scripture says, “neither slumbers nor sleeps.”