Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus responds, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus continually asks us this question and we respond in turn.
Bartimaeus wanted something very concrete, to be able to see. Although it seems like being able to see is a simple, yet generous gift, it is also something very difficult to accept.
If you have ever left a movie theater to walk outside on a sunny day, or have had your pupils dilated during an eye exam, you realize that the darkness is much easier to take than being able to really see. The light in itself is blinding.
When we ask Jesus to see, are we ready for the response?
Can we behold the beauty and the tragedy that surrounds us? Is it like an eclipse, where life can only be viewed through special lenses? Do we need to wear sunglasses, which protect us from fully seeing? Or, do we need corrective lenses in our glasses, which puts everything in perspective?
Seeing is a difficult gift. Once we see, we can’t unsee.
Images of sunsets, beautiful lakes, art in famous galleries, the joy in someone’s eyes... The image may not be complete, but the memory still remains. We go back to those memories and tell the stories that are associated with them.
The same is true of immense poverty or violence, of the sadness in someone’s eyes, of loss and grief, or ecological devastation. Those images are also not able to be unseen. Unlike the beautiful things we see, we often don’t want to tell the stories of the difficult things we see. However, this is the responsibility of being given sight. As women and men who are able to see, we can illuminate what others are still blind to and help them to see. We will probably have people with different or better lenses help us to see more clearly as well... if our eyes are truly open.
Having the sex abuse crisis brought into the light has been a challenge for the vision of the Church. We see the abuses of the past. We see other options for leadership and accountability. We can’t unsee the darkness of our past. We can’t go back into the dark. The same is true of other injustices that we have our eyes opened enough to see. Even with that, we still say, “I want to see,” because it allows us to follow Jesus more closely.
This week, as we pray with Bartimaeus, “I want to see,” may we be open to our own blindness and the responses that vision requires of us.
Open my eyes.
I want to see more clearly.
I am willing to see both the beauty and the tragedy in our world.
Help me to turn tragedy into beauty wherever I can.
Oh, God, open my eyes, so that I may see as you do.
Sister Jennifer Schaaf, O.P.