Human beings seem to have an inbuilt attraction for secrets. We love to keep secrets and then reveal them to those we love, and we like the idea that there is something only we and a few chosen others know, but which most people haven’t got a clue about. Some people take this to an extreme by indulging in conspiracy theories about what is really going on behind the news headlines – a secret plot, perhaps, to kidnap the Pope and put someone else in his place, or who was really responsible for the 9/11 atrocities.
God himself, we are told in the Bible, also has secrets. From all eternity he has had a secret plan to redeem the world from the slavery of sin by sending his own Son as a human being, a plan only revealed when Jesus came into the world. And in today’s first reading we are told that God sees things differently from human beings: he looks at people’s hearts whereas we tend to judge by appearances.
I often think this applies especially to the way the media report things in the world and es-pecially in the Church. Often people apply political categories to the Church, as if we are in a tug of war between conservatives and liberals, or between those who like Pope Francis and those who don’t. It sometimes occurs to me that God must see these things in a very different light and a completely different way which I must make more of an effort to grasp.
When you get to the end of a good mystery or detective story, if it’s really well-written, you realise you have totally failed to understand the true situation up to that point. When that happens in real life, say when we have misjudged someone and come to realise why they were acting the way they did, we feel ashamed and foolish. And in a way, the Church wants us to feel like that about our whole life during this season of Lent, which is why we are given this powerful story today of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus.
It is not just a miracle story, but also a symbol of ourselves in so many ways: how blind we often are – to the beauty of the world, to the graces God gives us each day, to the goodness in other people let alone their true motives for doing what they do, and blind above all to the glorious destiny to which we are called when we share in the power of Christ’s resurrection.
God doesn’t condemn us for this. The disciples wanted to know whose fault it was that the man was born blind: himself or his parents, but Jesus does not think that way. He sees the man’s blindness, and ours, as an opportunity for God’s power and goodness to be revealed. He wants to open our eyes a bit more every day to the beauty of his world and the people in it, and to his mercy which surrounds us in many ways we never dream of, urging us on to go beyond ourselves in love, to go that little bit further, & protecting us from all kinds of harm.
It’s only the Pharisees whom he condemns and that is because they refuse to admit even the remote possibility that they might be wrong and need his help. This is called the sin of pride, not the good pride we take in our own and our children’s achievements, but the pride that cuts us off from him and others because we think we are better than they. Not without reason does the Church teach us that this is the deadliest of all the deadly sins.