Two blind men were given their sight by Jesus, says Matthew’s gospel read on the Friday of the 1st Week of Advent. They’re healed together. (Matthew 9: 27-31) Do they represent the blind whom the Prophet Isaiah says in our first reading will see when the Messiah comes? “And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” (Isaiah 29: 17-34)
Notice there are two blind men, not one. Could the two together represent a whole people blinded about certain issues and common prejudices?
When John Newton, captain of an 18th century African slave ship, wrote the famous hymn “Amazing grace,” he said he “was blind, but now I see.” It wasn’t physical blindness he described. The tough seaman was converted after reading Thomas a Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ” on a voyage. Gradually he came to see the horrific evil of slavery and other vices he had fallen into.
In 1788 after years of debate over the issue in England, Prime Minister William Pitt called a committee to investigate the slave trade. Until then, slavery was accepted by England and other countries as necessary for the country’s economic welfare.
England, like other nations, was blind to the evil. A star witnesses during the investigation was John Newton, whose detailed descriptions of the slave trade made people see what a horrendous practice it was.
This advent may Jesus help our world, our nation and our church to see. There are always things we don’t see. The blindness we’re considering is not a thing of the past.
Pope Francis has spoken of our society’s blind acceptance of the “tyranny of the financial markets.” We pay attention to a 2% drop in the stock market and ignore the death of a homeless man who dies in the cold. We’re a throw-away society, we waste so much. Not only do we discard things, we discard people. We exploit immigrants and then throw them away. We’re blind to the plight of the economically unproductive, who have lost their jobs or don’t have the skills for work today.
Lord, help us to see.
You may want to add to your online Advent resources the Advent calendar of paintings and commentary from the Victoria Albert Museum in London, England. A wonderful way to reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation. You can get a daily painting and commentary in your email: https://thevcs.org