2 December
Mt 9:27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you." And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, "See that no one knows of this." But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

“Seeing is believing,” we say; in other words, we believe something because we can see it.  But Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315-367) said about today’s gospel passage: “The blind men did not believe because they saw; they saw because they believed.”

But isn’t this delusion and make-believe and the rejection of evidence – and therefore of all rationality?

We worship sight.  Sight is detachment, observation, verification; and the English language has an absurd bias in its favour: we even go so far as to say, "I see what you’re saying!"  But we are not alone, nor were we the first to have this bias.  “Sight is our principal source of knowledge,” said Aristotle, almost two and a half thousand years ago, long before English existed.  And western culture has followed him particularly in this; it has a marked preference for sight over the other senses.  St Augustine in the 5th century could play language to the full, using all five senses, like a vast instrument with multiple keyboards and innumerable stops; but we tend to play it with one or two fingers, narrowing everything down to what we can see. 

Try it the other way around: believing is seeing.  We know very well that there are crazy people who imagine they can see all sorts of things.  But that doesn't discredit all belief – any more than sickness discredits health.  There is a sound sense in which I can see certain things only if I believe in them.  Leave scientific matters aside: it is there that independent verification comes into its own; and no one wants to belittle that.  But when it comes to matters of the spirit – or even subtle psychological states, and personal relationships – it is true that I see nothing until I have in some sense committed myself.  “According to your faith let it be done to you,” Jesus said to the blind men.  Then they saw – because they believed. 

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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