Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J., had an accident as a child that left him blind. In 1982 I had the opportunity to accompany him to South Korea where we directed retreats. I served as his physical eyes and he served as my spiritual eyes. I led him around for daily walks and he walked me through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. He served as my mentor and supervisor as I helped direct people in the Exercises.
I thought of Fr. Gillick today because the Mass readings are about blindness, both physical and spiritual.
In the First Book of Samuel 16, God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel judges the sons by their physical appearance and none of the ones he thinks he is sent to anoint turns out to be God’s choice. God does not judge by appearance but “looks into the heart.” Thus the youngest (perhaps smallest)—David—is anointed and “the spirit of the Lord rushed upon” him.
We tend to judge people by their appearance—how they look and act. God looks into the heart. I’ve often thought that if we knew just 1/8 of what a person has gone through in his or her life—the pains and sorrows, the challenges and rejections—we would be much more compassionate toward them.
We often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. It’s been said, “compare and despair.” Why? One reason is because we compare how we feel on the inside to how they look on the outside. They look happy and attractive; they seem to “have it all together.” We think: “if I had what they have, I’d be happy too!” We get jealous. Such comparisons are unfair and end up in negativity.
Or, we build ourselves up at others’ expense. Like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel (John 9: 1-41), we see others as sinners and think, “well, at least I’m not like so-and-so.”
Sin darkens our spiritual sight. It blinds us. Because of sin we focus on the negative in ourselves, in others, in our world. If I were to tell people ten things about themselves, nine of them very positive and complimentary, and one of them critical, what would they go away remembering and obsessing over? The negative. Because of sin we tend to see the glass as half empty rather than half full and so we end up complaining rather than giving thanks.
We need to have our blindness healed. We need better spiritual sight. In the Eucharist Jesus gives us his Body and Blood to transform our hearts so that we might see ourselves and others as God sees us. Because we are anointed in Baptism with sacred chrism, the Holy Spirit “rushes” upon us, giving us wisdom and insight, warmth and light.
So how does God see us and how should we see ourselves and others? As beloved. Precious enough to die for. Pope Francis put it this way in his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2013: “For God we are not numbers, we are important. Indeed we are the most important thing to him. Even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.”
Draw near to that heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and see yourself and others embraced by it.