Monday, March 10, 2008

Can't see the forest for the trees.

March 2, 2008
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Mass Readings:
1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

I remember being told by a teacher once that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I was trying to figure a math problem and I was failing miserably. My teacher was trying to tell me that I was making it too hard. I was so caught up in trying to force the equation to do what I wanted it to do that I wasn't letting the equation do its job. I wasn't letting the equation show me what it needed for me to do. That has stuck with me. The answer was staring me right in the face but I was working so hard at trying to see it that I missed it completely. There stood the forest but I missed it because I was staring at a clump of trees!

I find the phrase my teacher gave me in today's readings. Samuel is sent by God to find the future king of Israel. King Saul was a pretty vicious man and God was going to raise up a new king. So Samuel follows God's direction and goes to select God's anointed one. However, Samuel is letting his eyes be the deciding factor. In many ways we are like Samuel in that we think that if it looks good it must be so. God corrects Samuel with these words:

But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”

Samuel went out looking for a forest but couldn't get past all of the trees. God needed Samuel to be open to His Spirit and set aside his personal agenda and likes and dislikes. Samuel couldn't let his eyes make the decision. Just because Samuel thought one of Jesse's sons looked the part didn't mean he was the right man for the job. Samuel had to follow his heart as it was influenced by God. Samuel had to open his ears to hear God's voice. In other words, Samuel had to let God be in control. Samuel had to let God reveal to him what it was that God could see. What Samuel got was what he least expected. Samuel was presented with what we might call "the runt of the litter". David was a kid and not as impressive looking as his brothers. Samuel would have looked right past him if it weren't for his being open to see what God can see.

Our gospel text has Jesus doing what he always did, healing some poor person and then being railed at by the religious leaders of the day. Jesus heals a man who has been blind from birth. It is a very intimate scene with Jesus actually using his spit to make clay to rub on the man's eyes. It is an earthy and raw scene. Today we cringe at the unsanitary nature of the healing but Jesus actually gave of himself to heal this man.

The man is healed and of course it ticks off the religious leaders! Go figure. A blind person receives sight and all they can do is gripe and complain! On top of that they try to negate this miracle by declaring Jesus is a sinner. Talk about the pot calling the kettle. The pharisees are all in a tizzy because Jesus did all of this on the Sabbath. Jesus performed "work" and this was of course forbidden on the Sabbath. Amazing how they couldn't see the good because they were so caught up in legalism. There's that whole forest for the trees business again.

What I love is the former blind man's response to the Pharisees:

“This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.

This guy had guts! He stands up the Pharisees and actually gives them the crowbar they needed to pry open their eyes! The problem? They chose to remain blind. The Pharisees chose to miss the forest for the trees.

I think Paul sums everything up nicely in our reading from Ephesians:

"Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth."

To know Jesus is to live. Once the light has been turned on we can see what God wants us to see. To switch off the light and wander aimlessly in the dark is a horrible loss. Once we have been given sight, it is sad to chose to be blind. Now is the time for us to open our eyes, leave the dark behind us and see all the goodness of God!

A tree is beautiful and a forest even more so. Lets try to see it all.