Not to get all SAT Testy on you, but this Sunday’s readings made me think of an analogy:
Prejudice is to blindness as bigotry is to darkness.
All three of the readings make some comment about humanity’s limited perceptions. We tend to only understand what we can see—what’s on the surface. Knowing or understanding what’s beyond our perception takes exploration. Who has time for that?
In our first reading, God sends Samuel to find a king among Jesse’s sons. Samuel sees big, strapping Eliab and thinks “he’s the guy.” But the Lord rejects Samuel’s judgment:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
Little David was off everyone’s radar screen—hence his keeping company with the sheep while this important selection process was taking place. Who would select a kid to be a leader? Samuel, Jesse and David’s brothers were all blind to David’s potential.
But in light of today’s readings, being blind isn’t as bad as being dark. Dark is not just a lack of light, it’s opposition to light. That’s plain in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” Paul writes. “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
If you are physically blind, you yearn for light. If you are mentally blind, you look for enlightenment. Both kinds of blindness hinder judgment—you tend to prejudge. Nevertheless, there’s still hope you’ll see the light. But if you are a person of darkness, you not only lack vision, but you envelope others in your darkness. It’s all you know, and, in your judgment, all there is. What’s on the surface is all there is. What is written is all that’s true. Take this kind of person, add power, and you have the Pharisees.
Jesus worked a miracle in curing the blind man in our gospel reading from John. But he did it on the Sabbath. Working on the Sabbath was against Jewish law. Jesus broke the law, therefore, he was a criminal. Therefore he couldn’t be from God, as he claimed. Therefore, we have the right to kill this lawbreaker. Even Jesus couldn’t save the Pharisees from their darkness.
But he brought enlightenment to the blind man—so much so that even HE tried to pull the Pharisees out of their darkness with his new-found insight:
“This is what is so amazing,” the man proclaims, “that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”
The Pharisees were not only blind, but deaf. Those handicaps, plus their power, made them Princes of Darkness who imposed death on Jesus—and ironically, eternal light on those who celebrate Jesus’ victory over death.