Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will, with God's help. (BCP, p. 305)Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in this life, among so many, is that we are effectively sealed up inside ourselves. We live, feel, think, experience, perceive and know from a particular point of view. That view is unique to each one of us. We might be able to share things, but in order to do so we must either communicate them-or transmit-them somehow. So, for us to be able to function, and let the world know what is going on inside us, we have to be willing and able to transmit. As well, we have to rely on others' ability and will to transmit to us. All of that is necessary for us to be in relationship with each other...and indeed reality itself. Daunting? Yes. But wait, there is more! Turns out, according to neurologists, that we, in our brains are also living on a sort of "tape delay" of several small fractions of a second. in other words, our reactions to what is going on around us is not only filtered, but delayed. It takes time for stimuli to reach our brains, to process them and then to form responses.
In light of all that, you might now be realizing that perception-our senses-are things we have to rely on in order to function in the world and with the people and things in the world. It is no mistake that the largest organ in our body, our skin, is alive with nerve receptors that continually transmit the experience of being in the world to our brains. We have two eyes and ear with which to hear and to see. We have scent receptors and taste buds that let us know that something is good or bad to breathe or eat. We are processing information at this very moment at a remarkable pace. Small wonder as well that when one sense is dulled or even lost (or never develops) that others should become enhanced as the body seeks to preserve itself in life and health.
So, two things are assured here.. We need to be in relationship to the world around us and all the people living in it. Otherwise is simply not an option. And, we need to be able to process the sensuous experiences that those relationship offer. If we cannot, then we are cut off from each other, as fast as the East is from the West...or Up from Down.
So, small wonder that at the top of the agenda of the Christ is to build up the things in us that bridge the gulf of perception that is, perforce, fixed between us. When Jesus heals the body of a person, particularly when someone who is blind is given sight (as in Sunday's Gospel) then a relationship is restored. At least, the potential for the restoration of relationship is posited and offered up. Now, the one who is blind-and in this case is one who has NEVER seen-can now see. He can participate, fully, in the life of community with his fellow human beings. He can see for the first time the faces of his parents, of those whom he has known by touch or voice.
If only that were enough, the restoration of sight to the blind. But Jesus himself opens up a new avenue of work for us to do as he offers the man, blind from birth and now sighted, to us as neighbor in this world.
Are we ready to receive him, as he now is? Are we willing to embrace what God is doing through him in his life; and to admit God into our lives as our perceptions change with his healing?
You see (both literally and figuratively now), that when we admit that God is actually at work in the world about us, in us and around us, we are challenged to step past concrete certainty that what we see, is; that what we know, must be; that how we judge others, is how and who they are. God is challenging that certainty in us, that judgment and is calling it out. If we are willing to embrace how God might be at work in the world about us, then not only are we renewed in our ability to see and perceive God at work in the world about us; we are also given the opportunity to see Christ present in the others around us.
Imagine a personal practice of seeing Christ in others! Knowing Christ is at work in them and in their lives, can we do any less than to wonder how we might be active partners in their expression/perception of Christ, active? Where the community fell down around the man who received his sight was being certain that NO work, good or otherwise, should be done on the Sabbath. Yet Jesus, in healing the man born blind, performs a mitzvah that is arguably a righteous (and thus justified) act.
Blindness is not just an organic state, when that refusal or inability to see infects our ability to perceive God in Christ at work in the world and people around us. Embracing this practice of seeking and serving Christ in all persons really does lead to loving our neighbors as ourselves....for if we have sight as God gives it...how are we able to ever turn away from seeing everything and everyone connected and formed by and ultimately to God's redemptive love for creation?