Catholic Conference

Seeing Old Things with New Eyes

by Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Before the pandemic completely seized the world, a Sunday gospel reading detailed the healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). In it, Jesus grasped the man’s hand and led him outside of the village. Then, after applying spittle on the affected eyes, Jesus asked the man if he could see. Indeed the man could see; however, his sight was still not completely restored as he replied that he could, “see men, but they look like trees, walking.” So, Jesus continued His restorative action by touching the man’s eyes again and finally the man was fully healed.

I have to admit that I wasn’t altogether cognizant of the meaning of this parable. Why, I wondered, had Jesus not simply healed the blind man’s eyesight all at once? Certainly, He could have.

Then, on a morning a few days later, as I was standing beside my bathroom vanity, it was all a little clearer to me.

The Picture That Healed My Blindness

Standing there, having just laid my toothbrush back into the drawer, I glanced to my right and noticed a picture. The reality is that my eyes caught sight of an old photocopy of a drawing. The original source is long forgotten, but years ago one of my now adult sons stuck the black and white copy into a clear, plastic frame and set it on his dresser. It sat there until that son grew up and I re-homed the picture to a corner of my bathroom vanity. It’s held that position ever since.

On Saturdays, when I clean the bathrooms I always lift the little frame and wipe the surfaces beneath it. Occasionally, I’ll swipe my cloth over the smooth sides of the frame to wash away any settled dust and invisible germs. But, like so many other familiar things, I rarely take notice of the image inside of the old frame.

So, on this particular day, the picture caught me by surprise. On this morning, I looked right and detected the characters sketched in it. Specifically, I saw the gaze of a child looking at Jesus. My attention was drawn, like a magnet, into contemplation as I focused on the eyes of the two figures, the child and Jesus.

Seeing Through Old Eyes

The expression on the little child’s face was one of loving adoration. The innocence of child-like wonder and unrestrained admiration penetrated through his soft penciled eyes. The child’s tender, upward gaze seemed not to notice the horror of the crown of thorns atop Christ’s head or the Cross crushing His right shoulder. In contrast, Jesus’s eyes peered down between heavy lids and shadowed creases. The artist’s skill veiled the depth of pain behind those eyes.

My mind’s eye entered the scene in that frame and led me to recall a memory from my motherhood. In it, I was big with baby number three. In the last days of pregnancy, I was attempting to sooth my aching body with a warm bath. Then, in bounded my two young sons. They were full of energy and chatter as they moved around the perimeter of the tub and peppered me with questions. My privacy and physical discomfort were of no consequence to their boyish minds.

I remembered the tear that rolled down my face as I tried, in vain, to get my sons to understand that I was hurting and in need of some space. But, they were simply little children who saw me as their ever-present mama, the one who kissed away boo-boos and stood always at the ready to hear their stories and meet their needs. They lacked understanding of the physical sacrifices that child-bearing demands. And I was too familiar to be seen by them as someone other than their strong, steadfast mother.

Veil of Mercy

Laying my memory over the image sitting on my bathroom vanity, I considered the parallels. Like my little boys, the pictured child saw Our Lord through his individual, human lens of experiences. The fair-faced child saw through his familiar understanding of Jesus. He saw a loving Teacher, a faithful Friend, a steadfast Guide.

For Jesus’s part, the intensity of His Passion was obscured. Out of mercy, Christ met the child’s gaze with tenderness and compassion. The Lord knew that the child was not ready to see the full measure of suffering his salvation had cost.

Reconsidering that parable of gradual healing, perhaps the blind man was not ready to see old things with new eyes immediately. Perhaps, his pupils needed time to adjust to the light, like our vision when we step outside of our dim houses on a bright sunny day.

Being Blind to Reality

Our familiarity with things, people and situations can make us blind to reality. Rather than look through wide, clear lenses, we more often see through the clouded tunnel of old experiences and expectations.

With so much stimuli competing for our attention, it is reasonable that we filter the world around us. But, like the child in the picture and my own little ones, we tend to see what we want to see and ignore what does not correspond with our perspectives.

Today, as I stand on the border of Holy Week, while living through a pandemic, I believe that Jesus is healing our blindness in just the same way that He healed this sightless believer so long ago. Like the blind man, most of us are not ready to see old things with new eyes immediately. We’ve become too accustomed to the darkness of sin, too attached to our self-reliance, too complacent in our worship, too proud of our human endeavors.

Maturing in Holiness

The price paid for our salvation on Calvary was horrifying and difficult. It was sacrificial. Yet, like the impish child in the picture on my vanity, we focus on Jesus’s tenderness and mercy only. And for His part, because He is merciful, Jesus allows us to come to a gradual maturity of faith.

However, our current culture no longer esteems maturity, in faith or in any area of life. The idols of comfort, entertainment and instant gratification are so enticing and pervasive that we no longer see anything higher than the purgative way (if we even see that!)

And while child-like dependence on God is the goal, immature holiness is not. Christ did not give His life so that we might remain in a perpetual state of blind immaturity. He gave His life so that we might have new life, a life fully healed and matured.

New Eyes to See

As we make ready to journey through a Holy Week like no other before, Christ is opening our eyes little by little. He is removing our idols one by one. He is stripping away the familiar in our lives, so we might begin to see the old blessings of worship, family, and holiness with new eyes of deep, abiding faith.

For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light

Psalm 36:10

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