the penultimate WORD
Series 2005 -
The Irvine Tartan • My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican
Then the doctor’s wife understood that there was no sense, if there ever had been any, in going on pretending to be blind, it is clear that here no one can be saved, blindness is also this, to live in a world where all hope is gone. – José Saramago in Blindness page 209
Reprisals are telecast daily. The effort to win hearts and minds has fallen short of its goal. Our sympathies accommodate allies and the distinctions that separate become more pronounced. As fear germinates, confirming scriptures are sought in Daniel and Revelation. The assurance of catastrophe somehow gives small but measured satisfaction of the events that occur. You’d hardly think we were people of the resurrection – an Easter people!
As west and east confronted truth on Golgotha, hemispheres still collide on land made holy by God’s presence. Righteousness then, as now, is argued and for our blindness the tomb found empty the day after the Sabbath might just as well have remained occupied.
Those darkened days record disciples’ fear and dread. Oddly missing is the account of their reprisals in the Gospel accounts. The victory of the early dawn of Sunday did not see disciples march on Pilate or Ciaphas. Disciples were not blinded by rage or anger. Indignation sought neither Roman nor Jew.
Apparently the Easter epiphany enabled them to see beyond the moment – and they were significantly changed for that.
I recently came across a book written by Nobel laureate José Saramago. Blindness is a remarkable parable of sightedness. The sudden loss of sight by a growing number of people quickly devolves to their segregation. Fear on the part of a sighted citizenry facing an epidemic of blindness easily draws a line denying compassion to all sorts and conditions that are now expelled by their being different.
Blinded by fear, characters are incapable of seeing beyond themselves. The ophthalmologist’s wife, feigning blindness to be with her afflicted husband, observes, “Blindness is also this, to live in a world where all hope is gone.”
Where all hope is gone there is little will to accommodate the other, particularly where difference is seen. That difference threatens our safety; we are blinded by our anger to recognize what disciples saw achieved in the resurrection of the Messiah.
Pilate didn’t lose, and Jesus didn’t win. Jesus’ exodus from a borrowed tomb did not place him beside the righteous staring down the misdirected authority that sentenced him to death. Jesus did not enter a new covenant to defy the authority of Rome and the Temple.
He sought to redeem a creation that had drawn apart… from both itself and from God.
What is the criteria of this redemption? It’s not so difficult to understand.
First, each of us bears the image of God.
And secondly, each of us lives with a brokenness which can only be healed by Jesus.
We will argue perhaps on what might constitute this brokenness, but our attempt to justify ourselves over those different from us is a blind vanity. The mind of humanity will see natural distinctions that will outrage both Liberals and Conservatives alike; but militants enjoy outrage, that is their art form. As a new humanity, it seems clear to me that we begin to see things differently. Our new birth… our new life… inexorably linked with Jesus’ death and resurrection, bears witness that in Jesus the Messiah there is no longer male or female; neither is there Jew or Greek. Accepted distinctions are supplanted with a vision of hope.
In the other we begin to see the germ of Jesus risen, while in ourselves we discover a healing, a salvation that under the traditional order had been impossible.
Easter proclaims that we don’t need to run to Jesus’ rescue. None of us is a better champion than the disciples who shared a Cup with him at supper. Jesus is not pleading for us to rescue him in the stumbling days of our age any more than he did when he stood in Pilate’s Hall in silence.
Our preoccupation with others… Arab or Muslim or Jew or Gay or unemployed or immigrant or Francophone or Protestant or Catholic or American or Communist… only serves to perpetuate our blindness to our own brokenness. The beam remains in our own eye. And whatever else that beam might do, it distorts how we see another and it distorts how we measure another’s brokenness.
I have ministered to the bereaved recognizing that only hope enlightens the darkest days of grief and fear. Our prayer then is that when we have served the One who has heard us – our strength may be found in a reasonable, religious, and holy hope – in favour with God, and in perfect charity with all men.
This blessing of favour and charity we beseech him to grant, and in the blessing, have scales fall from our eyes.
Copyright © 2005 James T. Irvine