Collecting loose change isn’t always a good thing; in fact, one college professor recognized it as a sign that he was getting overly tired or depressed. If he found a lot of change in parking lots or while walking on campus, that made him realize he was walking with his head down, not paying attention to the people or scenery around him. This tunnel vision made him depressed, and so he’d make a conscious effort to notice a nearby bird or flower, or see someone waving to him, or appreciate a beautiful day—and this effort would immediately lift his spirits (Emphasis, March-April 1993, p. 61).
How many times do we fail to notice things? Such a failure might involve something serious, as when a driver thinks it’s safe to pull out into traffic, only to have another vehicle suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere. Quite often our inattention or carelessness involves a relatively small matter. I remember being in 4th grade English class when a new concept was introduced; I don’t recall what it was, but I do remember very clearly that it was on page 38 of our textbook. I simply didn’t understand it, and several attempts by the teacher to explain it to me didn’t help. Afterwards I glanced at page 38 again, and this time I actually saw the words and read them, and then the explanation of the concept was as clear as day; it made perfect sense, and I thought to myself, “Wait—were those words there all the time? Why didn’t I see them before?”
The human mind can be a tricky thing; oftentimes we only see what we expect to see, or what want to see. Of course, the more we’re tuned in to something, or someone, the more we can be blessed by what we observe. An older gentleman named Al said, “Whenever my granddaughter tosses her hair back from her forehead, my heart skips a beat. When she does that, all I can see is my wife—even though she’s been dead for ten years” (Homily Helps, May 6, 1984). Love really does make a difference that way—especially our love of God. St. Clare of Assisi loved Jesus so much that she often cried when she prayed: tears of sorrow over her sins, and tears of gratitude over Christ’s gift of redemption and over the Lord’s many blessings. One day as she was praying, the devil tried to confuse and upset her by shouting, “Don’t cry so much—if you do, you’ll go blind!” To this, the saint responded, “We are never truly blind, if we see God!” (Real Models for Real People, p. 25). This is indeed true; as long as we are trying to focus on Jesus and discover His plan for our lives, everything else fades into insignificance; the Lord promises to show the way to Heaven to all who sincerely seek to follow Him.
Cleopas and his unnamed fellow disciple clearly were good men; otherwise, they would not have been distressed over the crucifixion and death of Jesus. However, their eyes were prevented from recognizing the Risen Lord on the afternoon of Easter Sunday; moreover, as Jesus said, they were slow to believe all that the prophets had foretold about the sufferings the Messiah would have to endure. Nevertheless, their hearts were burning within them as Jesus explained the Scriptures to them, and their eyes were completely opened when He celebrated the Eucharist for them. The Lord calls us from spiritual blindness to sight. In Acts (2:14, 22-33), St. Peter addressed the people of Jerusalem, giving them hope that despite the sinful blindness they had shown in rejecting Jesus and calling for His death, God would gladly forgive them, welcome them into the Church, and grant them the gift of eternal life. In 1 Peter (1:17-21), he elaborates on this idea, stating that Jesus was revealed at the proper time in history so that all who believe in Him might be saved; furthermore, if we see, understand, and accept Jesus as our Savior, we will show this by living in a spirit of faith, reverence, and gratitude.
Are there ways in which we are spiritually blind, overlooking valuable or important truths, and failing to take advantage of the blessings God is offering us? The simple answer is “Yes, of course—after all, we’re weak, sinful human beings.” That being the case, what should we do—how can we allow God’s grace to help us overcome our blindness? The Gospel of Luke (24:13-35) offers three very basic and useful suggestions.
First of all, we must open our hearts to the Bible, and to other written sources of the truth, such as the teachings of the Church and good spiritual reading. The instruction Jesus gave to the two disciples journeying to Emmaus was rooted in the Scriptures. God’s Word must also play a definite role in our lives; setting aside time to read the Bible will make it easier for us to recognize the truth when we hear it, make good decisions, and discover the Lord’s will for us. Secondly, we must practice spiritual hospitality, as the two disciples did when they invited Jesus to stay with them. Our Lord was not going to force Himself upon them; it was necessary for them to take the initiative in welcoming Him. In the same way, we never know when Jesus is coming to us in disguise, so we must be willing to welcome everyone in His Name—including the people who irritate or annoy us, or whom we tend to underestimate or take for granted. Loving and accepting others often allows God to bless and enlighten us in unexpected ways. Lastly, the disciples finally recognized Jesus when He blessed bread, broke it, and gave it to them—the same ritual He used at the Last Supper. Regularly and actively participating in the Mass is the most important thing we can do to be nourished, guided, and molded by and in God’s saving truth. The more we worship Jesus, and receive Him, here in church, the more we will be able to see with His eyes, hear with His ears, and love with His heart.
When we die and review our lives with the Lord, we are going to be amazed at how many things were happening all around us of which we were unaware, how many opportunities passed us by unrecognized, and how many spiritually important moments occurred without us realizing it. None of that will be held against us, however, as long as we are least honestly desiring and trying to discover and live by God’s truth. The eyes of the disciples were opened, and they recognized Jesus as the Risen Lord—and our Savior is willing and eager to bestow this same life-changing blessing upon us.