Is Seeing Really Believing?
By Father John Slampak, STL

Patricia Houck Sprinkle tells a story which first appeared in 1978 and tells of a plain, old shoemaker’s awl that is on prominent display in the French Academy of Science.

What makes this awl so special? It was the awl that fell one day from the shoemaker’s table and put out the eye of his 9-year-old son. Soon, the child became blind in both eyes and was forced to attend school for the blind. At this school, the child learned to read by handling large, carved, wooden blocks.

When the shoemaker’s son grew up, he thought of a new way for the blind to read. It involved punching dots on paper, and Louis Braille devised this new method by using the same awl that had blinded him to create a whole new reading system for the blind.

There will be a “falling awl” in each one of our lives. It is our choice how it will affect us. In Sprinkle’s words,“When it strikes, some of us ask, ‘Why did God allow this to happen?’ Others ask, ‘How will God use it?’ ”

It is the nature of humans that they not only see, they interpret.

Different humans interpret the same event differently. In the Gospel there is Jesus, the man born blind, the blind man’s parents, his neighbors, the pharisees, and, I suppose, us. You and me, each of us as we listen to this event, this curative miracle.

While the event is complicated, the miracle is simply described. It is almost like reading a police report, just the facts. The remainder of the description is about what happens as a result of the miracle.

The man born blind. He presents himself to those who knew him well, but now they have some difficulty recognizing him ... isn’t this ... no, it can’t be!

The change is significant. He must be seen in a new and different way.

He was, first of all, willing to change. Light has come into his life so he can see, but he must also learn how to see. He learns to see because he is willing to learn.

The Pharisees. They cannot believe in the change in the man. They don’t want to believe. They can’t accept it because change is not an option for them. The law and its interpretation is fixed. Period.

The blind man works from stating the facts to interpreting the facts.

The pharisees work from their interpretation to fact. If the facts don’t fit, they doubt them, something has been fixed ... was he really blind? They interpret the fact that he can see as evidence to them that he couldn’t have been born blind, because such a thing never happened before. They interpret that Jesus is a sinner because he broke their law. “We know this man is a sinner.” They know, so they will not be taught.

Frustrated with the man born blind but now able to see, “Then they threw him out.”

“When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” Now he teaches the man to really see, to understand.

Are you blinded by fear or prejudice or ignorance or hard-hearted anger or hate or close-mindedness?

Do you have hardened social perceptions toward those with illness, AIDS? Women? Respecting life? Other races? Other religious beliefs? The world-wide issue of immigration?

The final words of Jesus are not all sweetness and light. The light of the truth will blind some people who will not accept it. Jesus calls the pharisees blind, and although they refuse to believe that they are blind, it is clear to us Jesus is right.

What about you? Looking at your life, the things you do or don’t do, the positive and the negative. 

Would Jesus say that you do not see? And, if he says that you do not see, what is wrong in your heart?

Are you willing to let Him teach you how to see?

With what you see with Jesus, what do you need to change in your heart?

Are you able to see your blind spots, whenever they come?