Now let me see. I can have hair transplants to cover my baldness, and dental veneers to make my teeth white and straight. Liposuction can take care of the spare tire tummy and botox can whisk away the wrinkles. Ah yes. But will I be a different person? We live in an age of appearances when an enormous amount of thought goes into making a good impression. How little thought we give to our soul, to that place where we are present to ourselves and present to God.
As we are reminded in the first reading today, the people of the world look on outward appearances, but God looks inwardly at the heart (1 Sam. 16.7). And doesn’t this influence our outward appearance, the face we present to the world? We have all had the experience of meeting people of great prayerfulness or wisdom or compassion, and noticing a loveliness in them which transcends physical beauty.
The obsession with the outward and external is seen in the responses to the man born blind. If he is blind, so they said, it must have been his fault – or that of his parents. And so the poor man has an added burden to carry, namely public judgement of him. Jesus, however, does not judge on externals. He refuses to allocate blame.
It is tempting for us at this point to allocate blame ourselves, to point the finger at those who had seen the blind man healed and yet could not accept that here was a work of God. It points, perhaps, to their hard-heartedness. And yet, I have a kind of sympathy with them. Everything they were seeing confounded their experience. It was literally beyond their ken. It just did not fit into what they knew about the world, about reality.
It makes me think how difficult it is to convince people of the reality of God. Here was a miracle performed before their eyes and yet even then they could not believe in Christ. This attitude is still among us today. No doubt God still performs miracles, but there are those who will explain it all away. No doubt God sends saints, but more and more the world judges them harshly. I suspect that there is no way to ‘convince’ people to believe if they do not want to believe. Faith involves trust, trust in God. You will never be able to ‘prove’ God like a mathematical proof or a scientific demonstration. Reason will take us only so far. We have to step out in trust for faith to grow.