To See or Not to See
Sermon preached on Sunday, July 24, 2022 by Fr. Antony Hughes
I want to speak about the Gospel reading from last Sunday especially the first verse, "The Lord said to his disciples, 'You are the light of the world."
Light is a major theme in the Gospels as we know. Another theme connected to it is the ability or inability to see the light. It is true that not everyone can see it. In Mt. 6 Jesus develops this theme for us.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep is that darkness!"
We would do well to learn this: it is not so much what we see, but how we see. Perception is everything. If our perception is over-shadowed by our opinions, ideologies, and beliefs, then we are seeing things the way we want them to be rather than how they really are. The truth then morphs into an epiphany of ego rather than an epiphany of God. Then the light that we think is in us reveals itself to be darkness. As you surely must know we human beings are infinitely capable of self-delusion.
A good example is the story of the man born blind that Jesus heals in John 9. Dragged before the religious authorities (who claimed to be enlightened) the man tries to convince them that he really was born blind and now can see. To no avail. Even the testimony of his parents cannot sway them. It is so ironic. Those who claimed to be able to see show themselves to be blind. It is so often the case.
John 9:39 reads: "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who claim to see may become blind."
And in the 41st verse Jesus rouses the ire of the Pharisees by intimating that they are the blind ones and says to them, "If you really were blind, you would not be guilty, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." Of what were they guilty? Among other things, pride, willful ignorance, the manufacture of "fake news," and abuse.
We must learn how to see. We need to put on a new pair of glasses with clean, clear lenses so that we can see the world in a different light. We must long to be able to see as God sees. If we don't get our seeing right, then no matter what or how truth presents itself we will distort it. How many Christian denominations are there now? Over 45,000! Doesn't that tell you something?
The path of redemption is to become "increasingly able to leave our own point of view in order to find a new vantage point different from our own narrow vista, once learned and now fixed." (Richard Rohr) The goal is purity of mind and heart for it is the pure in heart that shall see God. And where do they see him? Everywhere and in everyone. Purity of heart is so much more than moral strictness. It means dying to self and coming alive to God.
There is a beautiful quote from the poet Dante that speaks about transformation and enlightenment, "The love of God, unutterable and perfect, flows into a pure soul the way light rushes into a transparent object. The more love that it finds, the more it gives itself; so that, as we grow clear and open, the more complete the joy of heaven is. And the more souls who resonate together, the greater the intensity of their love, and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other."
Do we desire to be light-filled vessels, clear, transparent, and open, through which the love of God can freely flow? Then we must let go of self and cleanse the lens of perception, polishing the mirror of the soul to reflect not ourselves, but the Lord. The Christian mind is utterly different than what we are used to in this world. If we are willing to let go, then as our vision clears we will begin to see heaven all around us.
Now, in this time of insecurity and trouble, when the very foundations of our country are being shaken, when a novel I read in high school, The Handmaid's Tale, is perilously close to becoming reality, when the earth is burning and the ice is melting, and fascism is rising we must cling to our Saviour all the more and be ready to give our lives for one another and for the sake of the Gospel. On that note let me leave you with a quote from the great Dorothy Day.
"Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may at any moment become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself “What else is the world interested in?” What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships. God is Love."
No matter what happens, that is, always has been, and ever will be the message.