Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
With Open Eyes
Readings: 1 Corinthians 8:1b-7, 11-13; Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 23-24; Luke 6:27-38
Pictures: CC KM (Benny)
Aiyah, close one eye, lah! This is a phrase familiar to many Singaporeans. It’s used typically in situations wherein someone is perceived to be doing something that’s against the rules, or at least something inappropriate. Maybe the person in question is new to a particular organization and hasn’t learnt the way things are done. Trying to be kind and understanding, the longer-serving colleagues might, at least initially, overlook his/her mistakes. They will close one eye. It’s such an apt phrase, isn’t it? It captures quite accurately what is going on. Although fully aware that the rules are being infringed, one chooses to excuse the mistake, at least in this particular instance.
Even so, it may perhaps be necessary to reflect a little more upon how our use of this phrase might affect the way in which we approach mercy and forgiveness. For we may well think that to forgive others – let alone to love our enemies, as Jesus exhorts us to in today’s gospel – entails closing one or both our eyes to their faults, ignoring the hurt that they may have caused us. Consciously or not, we may tend to distinguish between knowledge and love in a less than helpful way. For it may seem, very often, that when we allow ourselves to dwell more deeply upon the extent of the wrong that has been done to us, we find it that much more difficult to forgive. Messy feelings get in the way. Wouldn’t we be better able to forgive, and even to love our enemies, if we closed our eyes? At least in such situations, knowledge does often seem to defeat love. Indeed – albeit referring to a different situation – in today’s first reading, doesn’t Paul say that knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up?
Still, we also realize all too quickly that such self-imposed ignorance is far from easy to achieve. Try as we might, the painful memories linger far longer than we wish. The difficult feelings continue to ebb and flow in ways beyond our control. Worse, those who somehow succeed in bottling these up, often do so only at great cost to their own mental and emotional health. In seeking to close their eyes, they end up imprisoning their hearts. Could this be a sign that we need to re-evaluate our understanding of the process of forgiveness? Could it be that love and compassion involve more than closing one’s eyes?
Two considerations might be helpful. The first is the need to examine what the phrase to close one eye refers to and what it leaves out. One closes an eye not to one’s own spontaneous reactions – one’s thoughts and feelings – but to the other’s mistake. And one does this without denying the wrong that has been done. After all, one only closes one eye. More than that – and this is the crucial aspect that the phrase leaves unexpressed – we are able to close one eye, we are able to excuse the wrong, only to the extent that we are first willing and able to open all our eyes – those in our heads as well as in our hearts – to the whole situation. In the example given earlier, the colleagues are willing to overlook the newcomer’s mistakes precisely because they allow themselves to know and to appreciate, what it’s like to be a newbie.
And there is more. The fullness of knowledge that underlies and aids the process of loving to the point of forgiveness, of loving even one’s enemies, is underscored by Paul in the first reading: If one loves God, one is known by him. It is also beautifully expressed in the words of Psalm 139: O Lord, you have probed me and you know me… God knows each and all of us - the wrongdoers and the wronged - to our very depths. God sees both the light and the shadow, the good and the bad. And in that fullness of knowledge, God continues to cherish and to delight in us. Isn’t this the keenness of sight for which we need to pray? Isn’t this the love that alone is able to fuel our attempts at forgiveness?
How are we being invited to open our eyes today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 2:04 am