Well, in just a couple of months from now, in December, I have a birthday coming up. And I can't believe it, but I'm going to be 57. Now, my 50s have been great so far. And I really mean this, my 50s have been the best decade of my life. And so much of that has to do with the fact that I am the pastor of this wonderful church, which I love so much. But you know, the 50s have also brought about some gray hairs, and some wrinkles and some extra pounds. And just recently, this happened (puts on his glasses)...
Now, you see, I think these make me look smarter. But my husband Greg said they make me look like Mr. Magoo.
No, that's not true.
The truth is, I have been wearing these for quite some time. But when I first put them on, I was amazed at how clearly I could see. Honestly, it really was like seeing with new eyes. And I thought that I'd share that with you today. Because obviously, our gospel reading for today is all about the blind man Bartimaeus, being able to see with new eyes.
Now in the Bible, whenever we hear about sight, it's not just indicating physical seeing, it's talking about spiritual seeing, spiritual understanding and vision. So for example, in Mark 8, Jesus says to the apostles, “You have eyes, but you do not see.” He obviously was acknowledging that they had physical sight. But he was telling them you lack spiritual sight -- spiritual vision. And of course, so many of us love that song “Amazing Grace,” where we sing, “I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see.”
Of course, when we sing that line, we're not saying we were once physically blind, and now we can physically see. No, we're singing about how we didn't have spiritual understanding, then, but we do now.
And that is what happens in today's Gospel. Bartimaeus not only experiences physical healing of his eyes, but he also undergoes a transformation in his spiritual vision.
Now, whenever we have a healing story in the Bible, I'm often asked by people, did that miracle really happen? And I always say, I don't know. I don't know if it really happened that way. But what I do know is that I believe in miracles. And the reason I believe in them is because I've experienced them in my own life. And I also know that all things are possible with God.
Now, of course, I also know in my study of the Bible, that the stories in the Bible aren't meant to be understood just at a literal level. If we just read the Bible at a literal level, it's the lowest level of understanding, we are supposed to lift up our our eyes, our understanding, and to see things from a higher perspective, a spiritual perspective.
But you know, it doesn't really matter with this story whether you read it at a literal level or a higher, spiritual level, because it points to the same truth. The same spiritual principle is that we have within us through the power and working of the Christ, we have the power to heal our vision, to see with new eyes.
Now, in our E-Pistle newsletter this week, I shared a quote from the Talmud. The Talmud is the ancient Jewish scripture. And Jesus of course, being Jewish, a devout Jew, he would have studied the Talmud. The quote from the Talmud that I shared said this, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
So let me give you an example. If I shared with you a picture this morning of a little boy with his father out hunting, and the picture shows them posing with a dead deer, and the caption reads, “Little Bobby's first kill.” Some of you would look at that, and you'd find it so heartwarming. You would say what a beautiful father-son bonding moment! How charming! Others of you would look at that same photograph, and you would be sickened. and disgusted. So how can we look at the same photograph, and have completely different reactions?
Because we don't see things as they are. We see things as we are.
Another example, we could all be watching the same TV news program. And we could see a caravan of refugees trying to get into our country. Some of us would watch those images and say, “What bad people! Murderers and rapists are coming into our country, they're going to steal our jobs! And those images might bring up fear and anger. Others of you would be watching those same images and you'd be brought tears, because you have such great compassion for young families and mothers and little children who have walked for thousands of miles to flee persecution in their own country to seek refuge here.
So how can that be?
How can we both look at the same video, and have completely different reactions and feelings? Because we don't see things as they are. We see things as we are. But today's Gospel reading tells us that we can see things more clearly. We can have new eyes. So how do we do that?
Well, you know, our ancient Native ancestors, they would send their young people on what they called a “Vision quest,” they would send them out into the wilderness by themselves. And the whole idea was that they would come back as a new person, that through their experience alone in the wilderness, they would emerge with new sight, new understanding.
And of course, the same thing happened with Jesus. Jesus went out into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. And out there alone, He wrestled with those demons of fear and separation. And He was able to cast them from His sight. And when He emerged, it was only then that He began His ministry of teaching and healing.
Now, the good news for us is we don't have to go out into the wilderness in order to do this. We have within us the wilderness, through the power of prayer and meditation. We can go within, and in the silence, we can close our physical eyes. And we can lift up our eyes to see people in situations in our life, the way God sees them, through God's sight, God's perspective.
You know, our Buddhist and Hindu friends, they speak of what's called the third eye, which is the spiritual eye. You may have seen pictures of, or statues of Buddha, where he has a dot right here. You may have seen that our Hindu friends often decorate that spot, they call it a Bindu.
That's known as the spiritual eye. We close our physical eyes, the eyes that see things the way the world does, through the lens of fear and separation. And we in prayer lift up our spiritual eye, which sees the way God does. I believe it's what Jesus meant, in Matthew 6, when He said, “If thine eye be single, thy entire body will be filled with light.” That's what Jesus said. Now, Jesus and Buddha and all the mystics, they're often referred to as Seers, meaning they saw things differently from most people, because they weren't looking through human eyes.
Through the Eyes of fear and separation.
They were looking through God's eyes, the divine eyes, the eyes of love and oneness. The good news is that you too, can become a seer. You can, but the healing of your sight is up to you. You're in charge of it.
As we heard in our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning, Jesus never wants credit for anybody's healing. If you don't believe me, you can go back and read the entire Gospel. And you'll see that every time there's a healing in the Bible, Jesus always says, “Go your faith has made you well. Your belief has made you whole,” that it's up to your belief.
So yes, if you believe that the world is a scary place, if you believe that people can't be trusted, that every area of the world is bad. Then yes, that's what you're going to see.
If you believe you're not worthy of love, if you believe that you live in lack, then yes, that is what you're going to see. That's what you're going to experience. But through the power of prayer and meditation, you can learn to kind of clean those dirty lenses, and begin to see through the eyes of love and oneness, to see the world's people in situations the way God sees them. Because regardless of what's going on in your life, God is present. God is with you. So that's what I'd like to invite you to do this week. I'd like you to find time each and every day to go into the wilderness, into the darkness, alone, close your physical eyes, go within to the power and presence of God.
Begin to see things more clearly. Love more dearly, and follow more nearly. May you learn to see the world through new eyes, to see the unseen in the scene. The unseen is the power and presence of God. That power and presence is in every person in every situation.
Because God is with us and within us. Always. And in all ways. Namaste.
Reverend Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
by Richard Mekdeci
Jesus never took credit for his healing miracles. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment was healed without his intervention. He told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” The man at the pool of Bethesda was asked, “Do you want to be made well?”- indicating that the man had to take part in his own healing. Similarly, the centurion who asked for his daughter to be healed was told, “Let it be done to you according to your faith.” And, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the blind man, “Go, for your faith has made you well.” In our current understanding of the nature of God, our relationship with God, and our own nature, we see that healing is not given to us by any outside power or entity. Healing is brought forth or “revealed” according to one’s faith. How does one acquire faith powerful enough to heal oneself? For healing to occur, we need only have the same faith in our own divine nature that we would have placed in Jesus himself. Jesus said, “These and greater things YOU can do.” He knew his job was not to heal but to inspire healing by his example. The healing miracles in the Bible are possible to anyone who has the same faith in themselves to heal as those in the Bible stories had in Jesus to heal them. We are not made whole by some mystical outside power, but by our own faith.
What did you think?