“Let’s pray for those who have eyes but can’t see,” requested a worshiper during the Prayers of the People. It was an appropriate petition in light of the Gospel reading from John 9, when Jesus healed a marginalized blind beggar and exposed the blindness of the respected religious leaders.
What makes the petition especially noteworthy, however, is that the petitioner is a man who lost his sight as a child. Additionally, he has lost much of his memory and ability to reason. He now lives in the memory care facility at the Heritage at Lowman.
He, like the man in the Scripture, is doubly marginalized. He is locked in a world of darkness and his ability to remember and reason has been severely limited by a form of dementia. Yet, it was this sightless man with cognitive confusion who grasped the insight and expressed the wisdom in the Jesus story.
He wasn’t the only one! During the “homily,” I asked, “What are some things that blind us, even though we have eyes to see?”
“We are too busy with other things,” responded a woman who periodically battles frightening hallucinations.
“Prejudices,” called out an African American whose mental confusion has not blinded her to the experience of discrimination.
“Privilege” was another identified form of blindness, being blinded by the bubbles in which we live.
Then came the most pointed declaration: “We are blind when we don’t see people for who they are, children of God!” And the people said, “Amen!”
We talked about and sang the hymn “Blessed Assurance” having been written by a blind woman, Fanny Crosby whose insight was deepened by physical blindness.
We shared that John Newton had been freed from spiritual blindness though he had sight. He declared, “I once was blind but now I see,” a verse in perhaps the best known and most sung hymn in our society, “Amazing Grace.” We joined Newton’s praise of Grace that opens blind eyes by singing the hymn,
We paused to pray, using the hymn “Open My Eyes, That I May See.”
Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Chorus: Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, Illumine me, Spirit divine!
The service concluded with “Be Thou My Vision,” accompanied on the flute:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art Thou my best thought, by day or night waking or sleeping , thy presence my light.
As I greeted each worshiper, I paused to look into their eyes. Some were unfocused. A few were now closed in sleep. Others had that stare as though seeing into another world. I saw sad eyes, lonely eyes, longing eyes, smiling eyes, tear-filled eyes. Most of all, I saw loving eyes, eyes yearning for love and eyes filled with love.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the petition by the sightless and cognitively confused resident at Bethany, “Let’s pray for those who have eyes but cannot see.”
God grant that the blindness created in us by our preoccupation, prejudice, and privilege be healed by the One who entered the world of the blind and ostracized, opened their eyes, and welcomed them into community.