This is the question Jesus asked his disciples. Perhaps it's one we ponder as well. Lent is a perfect time to reflect on who we are, especially as we get close to the end.
Generally on our Lenten journey we search more intimately for God, especially through our spiritual exercises of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. And we may begin to realize that the search is also for our truest self.
We may be as blind about ourselves as we are about God.
Who are we? The bible tells us: every person is the image of God. Thus, we are who we image God to be.
To most fully know God and ourselves, we need to look within ourselves.
Now, the search may begin within the depth of our heart, but it doesn't end there.
Years ago, an artist friend painted a portrait of me – as an unfinished puzzle…to indicate that I am still a work in progress…and that I have been and continue to be shaped by those around me. We’re all like that. We are all a masterpiece in the making...shaped, in part, by those around us...and by God.
Today's gospel about the man born blind is a graced opportunity to open our eyes and see more clearly who we are, perhaps to affirm our blindness to the unfinished masterpiece we are meant to be, to discover the role others may play in shaping us, and most especially to see the hand of God at work in us.
Just as Jesus gives the blind man the gift of sight, we, too, might sigh, Lord, I want to see. I want to see myself for who I really am. I want to see you.
After today's noon Mass, we will have a rehearsal by those who will dramatize the Live Stations of the Cross on Good Friday: Were You There? Some of our parishioners will take the role of 14 characters who were there. I have asked them to not memorize their roles but to get into the shoes of the person they portray and then bring that role to life.
The live stations are very moving and inspiring, but even more, it is amazing how much we learn about ourselves from the testimonies of those who were there.
Imagine you are invited to play a direct role in a stage performance of The Miracle at the Pool of Siloam. The cast of characters in today’s story gives us a range of choices as to whose shoes we want to put ourselves into. Actually, we should get into the shoes of each of them and see what we can learn about ourselves.
First there is the blind man himself. We can easily put ourselves in his shoes. He’s a natural, because his experience resembles our baptism. He was “anointed” by Jesus (with mud instead of oil), and then sent to a pool of water where his eyes were opened.
At our baptism we were washed with the gift of faith, which enabled us to see the Light. But the man born blind had more to learn, and so do we. He gradually moved from a superficial relationship with Jesus to one that was much more profound. I need to ask if I am moving in that direction. Am I moving closer and closer to Jesus, or just sitting still?
Next there are the Pharisees. We really don’t want to put ourselves in their shoes, but to be honest with ourselves, we have to do it. They think they see it all, and they’re ready to go after anyone who doesn’t see it their way. Not that we’re always like them, but sometimes we are. It doesn’t matter whether we see ourselves as liberal, moderate, or conservative. We’ve all got our blind spots.
There are also the parents of the man born blind. They’re afraid, and they don’t want to get involved. For them it’s simply: Don’t ask us. Ask him. He can speak for himself.
We do some of that too – we don’t want to get involved if it means we might have to pay a price.
Then we have the friends and acquaintances of the man born blind. In a way, they come off best of all. They ask him what happened, and they simply listen. They’re open, willing to learn.
I invite you to take some time now and this week, and put yourself in the shoes of each of these persons: the blind man, the Pharisees, the parents, and the friends. Don’t put somebody else there – we’d all be tempted to do that. Put yourself in the shoes of each, talk it over honestly with the Lord, and see how they help or block you from being your truest self.
Speaking of our Lord, let's not forget that Jesus, of course, is also in the scene. I don't think you really need me to remind you that you, too, are a beloved daughter or son of God. Yet while we believe it, we may have our reservations. Are we really like Jesus? Is there a part of him in us?
Lest you have any doubt about that, I'd like you repeat after me:
I am the unique, unrepeatable manifestation of God.
So as you take time to put yourself in the shoes of those other four characters mentioned above, put yourself also in the shoes of Jesus. And talk that over with our Lord as well.
And may it lead you to say, I was blind but now I see!