Photograph Courtesy of Dr Les (Leszek – Leslie) Sachs
Seeing is Believing
Almost three years ago, I went for a routine eye exam. When asked to cover my left eye and read the chart only with the right, I was stunned to find that I couldn’t see the giant E at the top. I was almost blind in my right eye. I didn’t realize because my left eye did a great job compensating for the deficit.
Isn’t that what happens with our faith journey sometimes? We think that we are seeing clearly, but fail to recognize spiritual blind spots. We are “blind guides” when we are legalistic and lack compassion. We can’t see because wooden beam in our eyes, yet we criticize someone with only a splinter. Matthew 7:3
Throughout the gospels, our Lord uses sight as a metaphor for faith. In Mark 10:52, after curing a blind man, Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.
Simply put, faith is seeing the truth of Jesus, and acting on it by following him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1814: Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.”
I left the Catholic Church for more 30 years. Relativism and sin distorted my vision of the truth. As a poorly catechized product of the 1960s and 70s, the Church seemed out of step with modern times. I never had real faith; just a sentimental loyalty to cultural Catholicism to please my mother.
Mom’s death planted seeds that led to my unlikely reversion to Catholicism, less than a year later. She collapsed at her 75th birthday party following a lovely dinner in an upscale restaurant with the whole family. Doctors brought her body back, but her brain had died. The next day, my dad and sisters surrounded her deathbed, where we prayed and watched for hours as the monitors slowed and finally stopped.
I was angry at God for taking my mother so suddenly and in such a traumatic way. In the months that followed, I gradually came to see mercy in the details although I still couldn’t see God’s providence at work.
- After dinner, my brother-in-law took the children outside for a walk. They didn’t see how scared she was or our panic and helplessness.
- Mom regained consciousness just long enough to tell her oldest granddaughter, “I love you.” Those were her last words.
- Being on life support gave us time to make sure that Mom received Anointing of the Sick. She did not die alone.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Blind, but now I See
I returned to church to sing in the choir with my dad. I was there in body, but my spirit was far from God. Good Friday services included veneration of the crucifix. I had never seen that ritual before, and all I could think about was the spread of germs as the congregation lined up to kiss the cross. I was appalled.
We sang O Sacred Head which was always one of my favorite hymns. Our parish’s small amateur choir was singing, but I heard the voices of angels. It was indescribably beautiful. I felt chills. Throughout that weekend, I thought about the crucifixion, and specifically, “Why did Jesus have to die?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. Then I realized that sacrificing absolutely everything was love in its most perfect expression.
I remember standing in front of my mailbox on that sunny Easter afternoon when God’s unmistakable message was delivered. My gift of faith came through a sense of infused knowledge. I embraced certainty that dispelled all doubt. “It is ALL true. It is ALL true.” My eyes had been opened. Like St. Paul, I felt that I “could see again” and was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17
Apparent contradictions– “the mysteries of faith”– were the most intriguing to me. Only in God can death lead to life, sorrow to joy and poverty to wealth. One could study forever and still only see a tiny portion of God’s wisdom.
Catechism 729: The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ. He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Lord, I Want To See
True conversion leads to sorrow for sin, a desire for repentance and trust in God’s mercy. Faith shone a bright light on my past and all of my poor choices, but I didn’t feel shame.
I knew that forgiveness was mine for the asking. Even when I walked in darkness, God was with me and drawing me toward him while giving me the freedom to turn away. I wanted to talk with a priest. I wanted to confess everything and bury decades my sins. I wanted to hear someone say out loud, “Your sins are forgiven.”
It took the skillful hands of a surgeon to restore the sight in my right eye. It took the death of my mother, and her prayers from beyond, to open my eyes to true faith. It took a priest in the person of Christ to show me God’s mercy and welcome me home.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7
Questions for Prayer and Reflection
Have you ever been spiritually blind? If so, what made you realize it? Did someone else point this out, or did you discover it on your own? Were you surprised by your lack of sight?
Have there been times in your life where God made his presence known by making all things work for good? Recall one of these and thank God for his fatherly care.
Have you ever experienced a sudden deepening of faith? What happened to make you see God’s truth more clearly?
Jesus asks you as he asked blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?” Pray with this question. Ask Jesus to reveal more of himself to you.