Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you ever heard of inattention blindness? Inattention, or selective blindness, happens when someone is so focused on one aspect of their environment, they fail to see other things that are happening right in front of them. This is more than not paying attention. It is as if nothing else exists but the thing being focused on. Scientists conducted an experiment to test this kind of temporary blindness. They filmed two teams passing a basketball back and forth, and showed the video to several groups of people. They asked them to keep track of the passes each team made. At the end of the video, the scientists asked the viewers if they had seen anything unusual. Over 50% said, “No.” What these folks failed to see was a large man in a gorilla suit who walked on to the basketball court during the video, waving and carrying an umbrella! Over half the people didn’t even see him. That’s inattention blindness!
In today’s Gospel reading, the people and religious leaders are concentrating so hard on trying to find fault with what Jesus has done, they don’t even see the miracle right in front of them. Many people are having vision problems in today’s reading. It starts with the disciples. They see a man who has been blind from birth and immediately start looking for an explanation for his blindness. “Someone must have sinned for this man to be so afflicted. Was it his parents?” Or maybe it was some sin he committed before he was born! Jesus tells the disciples to stop looking for sin and see God’s grace in action. Jesus approaches the man, spreads some mud on his eyes, tells him to go wash, and the man is healed. The healing is just two verses of today’s reading. The rest of the story is about the inability of others to see this healing
As word spreads of this man being given his sight, people who knew him, even some in his own family, don’t recognize him. They argue over whether it is really him. The man finally says, “It’s me! I'm the guy who begged here for years. Don’t you know me? It’s me! I can see now!!” Are the people happy for him? Nope. They are so busy concentrating on how this could have happened, instead of having celebrating this miracle, they drag him before the religious leaders to demand an explanation. As soon as they find out that Jesus has again broken the law by healing the man on the Sabbath, the religious leaders focus on criticizing Jesus and anyone who follows him. Does no one in this story see that this man has been healed? They are so focused on Jesus’s breach of the Sabbath law, they are unable to see the miracle that has happened right in front of their eyes.
They are not even willing to believe the man was really born blind. The Pharisees call his parents to testify, to prove that this is really the blind beggar. When they question his parents, we might expect them to be filled with joy that their son is healed. Here is their blind son seeing!! What a miracle! Is that their reaction? No, it is not! Mom and dad admit that this guy is their son and that he was blind form birth. But they don’t sound too happy about his healing, though do they? “We don’t know how it is that he sees. He is an adult, ask him!” In fact, as John tells us, they are afraid if they acknowledge the miracle, they will be banned from the synagogue. So they abandon their own child, leaving him to be driven out of the synagogue, alone.
Rather than focusing on the possibility that God’s love may be bigger than any law, everyone seems so focused on following the rules they can’t see what is going on right in front of them. The problem is, if they acknowledged the power of Jesus’s healing, the leaders and the crowd would have to see beyond the law—to the grace of God. And this is something they are unable to do. This is not to say the law has no place. Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.” Just as the Ten Commandments are a guide to our lives in harmony. But these people have made the law more important than God, and that is what is making them blind.
Are there things and people in our lives that we are blind to today? Are we concentrating so hard on the law or the rules we can’t see the grace of God? How do we see the teen in our family who has piercings and blue hair? Do we see them as someone just like us, in need of God’s grace and love? Or as someone who must learn to toe the line, someone who needs to follow the rules in a way more acceptable to the world? When we see someone down on their luck, do we see them as a child of God, in need of care and compassion. Or someone who must have done something to deserve their fate? And what about the people who are different from us - Black, brown, people from Asia, the foreigners in our midst? The ones who dress differently, or worship differently, or speak a foreign language? Can we see past all that and look at them as fellow members of the family of God?
The blind man was able to see God’s action in his healing, even if others were not. He said, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” When Jesus heard that the formerly blind man had been driven out of the synagogue, Jesus sought him out. This man did not know who Jesus was, but when Jesus revealed himself, the man worshiped him.
As we enter the time of Lent this week, we begin a time of reflection and prayer. We will travel with Jesus to the cross, and behold Christ Resurrected on Easter Sunday, God’s ultimate sign of Love for all people. God loves us and accepts us. God seeks us as Jesus sought the blind man. And our response, just as the blind man, is to worship and share the Good News of God’s grace with the world. Amen.