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Thursday, March 14, 2013

"How were your eyes opened?"

It strikes me that scripture is full of questions. Off the top of my head, here are a few, in no particular order, though to think about them I’m starting with Genesis: 
"Question mark," by Marco Bellucci

•Who told you you were naked?

•Where is your brother?
•Am I my brother’s keeper?
•Would you destroy the city for the sake of the five?
•Who shall I say (to the Pharaoh) sent me?
•Is the Lord in our midst, or not?
•How long, O Lord?
•Why have you abandoned me?
•Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?
•Where were you when I founded the earth?
•How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?
•Are you the one, or shall we wait for another?
•Who is my neighbor?
•What is the greatest commandment?
•Who do people say that I am?
•Who do you say that I am?
•Where do you expect to get this flowing water?
•Has no one condemned you?
•Whose face is this on the coin?
•We don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?
•When did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you to drink?
•Truth? What does that mean?
Well, you get the idea. If you are so inclined, you can certainly leave your favorites in a comment!

For some of us, one of those questions was in Sunday's (scrutiny) gospel. “How were your eyes opened?” is the question the Pharisees ask the blind man. He tells them as much as he knows, but 
it struck me today that he’s taking their word for it that it was Jesus, because he couldn’t see the guy who put the mud paste on his eyes. He had to go wash it off in the water of the Siloam pool. He keeps reverting back to what happened to him, and his experience - going from blindness to sight - is what he will not abandon. While the opponents of Jesus threaten him and his family, he is unshakeable in simply holding on to what he has experienced. “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner or not. I do know one thing: I was blind before, but now I can see.” As the harassment gets more and more intense, for the once-blind man, the answers don’t change much. He can’t believe that the Pharisees don’t believe what is right in front of their eyes: a blind man who can now see. 

"How were your eyes opened?" I think I’ve been guilty a lot in my life of criticizing the religious experience of other people by comparing it to my own, or to what I have been led to believe genuine religious experience is. We’re told “by their fruits you will know them,” and yet our knowledge of the “fruits” is limited to our own experience. Would you eat an ugli? How about a guinep or kówósól? I’m OK with adding an apple, a banana, or an orange to my lunch, but I’m more circumspect about a rambutan or feijoa. This is not to say that new knowledge and mentoring can’t change the way we eat: fried plantains and carambola (starfruit) never crossed my lips until I was an adult. “By the fruits you will know them” only really works if your heart is as big as a world market. 

"How were your eyes opened?" I resist, for instance, people whose attachment to their faith is too emotional, too devotional (sounds like I’m starting a rap song), too rubrical, too old-fashioned, too EWTN, too new-agey, too paternalistic, too feminist, too hierarchical, too, too, too. But who am I to say? I mean, a person’s experience of God is their experience, and it’s part of the truth of their life. I know that, in the context of the church, the community can and should help discern genuine experience of God from counterfeits of that experience for the protection of the community, but this is really a big Church we’re talking about, and shutting out the experience of anyone or any part of the human family runs the risk of limiting our vision. Since the reality of God exceeds the sum of our abilities to conceive of God’s true self, all of our experience is an approximation, a conjecture, a shadow. If we’re lucky, there’s some truth in it. The closer it is to some aspect of Jesus as we can come to know him in the gospel, to some aspect of the One who is the “image of the invisible God,” the better chance we have that the truth of our experience is a true reflection of the light, rather than, say, a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. 

"How were your eyes opened?" I can point backwards through my life and see all kinds of people whose personal witness or teaching or way of life changed me a little bit, turning me toward the divine. But in the last several years, I think I’ve learned as much from my “adversaries,” and strangely enough, I mean people who believe in the same things that I do but in a different way, as I have from anyone. One thing I know is that I don’t want to be like people who seem to be intolerant of other points of view. So even if a person’s point of view is repulsive or unknowable to me, I really try not to write them completely off. I can be the Pharisee if I end up trying to protect my “truth” from someone else’s experience. It just may be that person’s experience that is closer to the light than mine. To them, at least, it’s real, and I have to learn to be able to reverence that without necessarily assimilating it; love the person and discern the truth without judgment, maybe taking a bite of that “ugli.” I have to work to remain open to the divine working in others, since God is always making everything new in Christ. 

"How were your eyes opened?" Trying to learn to see as God sees. Learning that God is a God who doesn’t necessarily wait for the Sabbath to be over to heal. The exorcism of the false religion that places human rite and religious practice above the actual service of other people. Browsing outside the “fruit” (and nut?) market of those who think like we do in the small confines part of one pocket of Christendom. Maybe that is the second scrutiny doing its work?

(Other posts on Lent 3/4/5 Year A and the scrutinies here.)

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