What part of your body… what organ… do you use to see? Most of us would respond by saying ‘our eyes’. And we would be right. But not entirely right.
I was at a meeting with health care professionals this past week and the speaker noted that there are patients whose eyes are intact and perfectly healthy, yet who suffer a brain injury and become completely blind. They cannot see at all. So, we could say that we need our eyes and our brain to be able to see. And we would be right. But not entirely right.
I’d like to suggest that we also need perspective, knowledge, experience and faith. We need these to be able to truly see.
For example, what do you see here?
If you saw this for the very first time, your eyes and your brain would tell you that this is someone who is sad, forlorn. And when you learn that she was orphaned and left to live with a mean stepmother and two mean stepsisters, you would understand why she was so sad. But of course, we know the rest of the story. We know that this young woman is hopeful, optimistic, positive despite her hardships. She sees the good in everyone, even her mean stepmother and stepsisters. She has a certain kind of inner beauty that leads to a magical night at the grand ball and eventually, Cinderella will become a princess.
What do you see here?
If you saw this for the first time, your eyes and your brain would tell you that this is a young man who looks lonely, who lives in a desolate place with little hope. That’s what your eyes and your brain would tell you. But we know that this young man is filled with a sense of wonder, of adventure, and that his faith would one day lead him to save the galaxy. More than once. And this December in the next installment of Star Wars, we will most likely see that this Jedi Knight, now an older man, will once again have an opportunity to be a great hero.
And finally, what do you see here?
This was meant to be a terrifying visual, a warning not to do anything wrong or against those in power during that time. This was meant to scare off anyone who would considering doing whatever the person was doing who earned this fate. According to our eyes and our brain, this is scary. But we know the rest of the story. We know that we cannot step into a church or Catholic school without seeing this symbol. But it is not a symbol of despair, it is our constant reminder of triumph. Because we don’t see pain and death; instead we are reminded of resurrection, eternal life and the deep love of the one who hung upon it for us.
We can see with our eyes and our brain.
Or we can learn to really see. Through perspective, knowledge, experience and faith.
Today’s Gospel is all about learning to see. And the teacher is Jesus himself.
Our eyes and our brain see the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who are hungry and thirsty. And we are told that we ourselves are lifted up… not by wealth or comfort. Not by power or position. Not by the rewards of success in this life… but rather by the very opposite of those things.
Jesus came to teach us to see.
To love those who are unloved.
To give shelter to those who seek it.
To give voice to those who do not have one.
And to remember that those without this faith, who don’t see things this way, will always try to convince us that we are wrong. But we know better… because we know the rest of the story.
I myself think back upon some of the most important influences in my own life and right up near the top of that list is the fact that I spent 16 years in Catholic School environments. Twenty, if you include the time I spent preparing to become a deacon. So, with the exception of Peter Pan Nursery School and Boston University grad school, I have always been guided in my own process of learning to see through faith.
To the faculty and administrators at Blessed Sacrament School, thank you for your excellence. For guiding our children forward and helping them to understand and appreciate this gift of faith.
To the parents who have decided to send their children to Catholic school, I applaud your commitment and sacrifice. You are taking the long view for your children.
And to the children who are at Blessed Sacrament School, please remember two things: first, that it’s incredibly important to be guided by faith, to really and truly see. To remember that what looks like a little baby born in a barnyard is actually the savior of the world and that the apostles and friends of Jesus, who were sometimes doubters, sometimes arrogant and short of temper, and oftentimes not necessarily the smartest people around… could get together and through faith, build a church and change the world forever.
And that second thing to remember? Remember that… it’s a great day to be alive!