Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve heard that many times in our lives, I’m sure. My mother’s brother, Tony, was a robust man. He grew up in my hometown of Hornell and was an excellent baseball player. He worked at the old Erie Lackawanna Railroad shops in Hornell. One day at work, his left hand got caught in a piece of equipment and was crushed. As a result, he lost his left hand at an early age. Because of that, I’m sure many saw him as disabled, limited, unable to fully function. Book cover mentality.
He left the Hornell area and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. He married and raised his two children there. And, he even became a golfer! Who would ever guess that??? And, he became a great one-handed golfer! So good, that he won many tournaments! Hmmm. The inside of that book reads differently now. My Uncle Tony was a wonderful golfer and man. His lesson to me is: books may have covers, but it is what’s inside that really matters. He had good stuff on the inside. He had tenacity, strength, determination, compassion, and an Italian spirit that shined quite a bright light in my life. What looked like disability on the outside was actually fire, spirit, life and love on the inside. One hand wasn’t going to hold him back.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus heals the man born blind. A man who was judged by his cover. People who were not healthy were judged to be out of favor with God. Someone must have sinned for him to be born blind. The guy never even had a chance from what the community saw. But Jesus tells them that he is to become someone who the works of God can be seen through! In other words, let’s go beyond his inability to see and see the real human being before us!
I wonder if our fast paced lifestyle can make us seers of book covers only. In a moment or two, we assess and categorize. He’s a blind man. She’s an alcoholic. He’s bound to a wheelchair. She is short. He is fat. She is just a __________. He is just a _________. This is reductionistic thinking and pigeon holing. And just think. What you and I can do to others is being done to us! Someone else is seeing us as “just a _________.”
Each morning in the shower, I clean my eyes with baby shampoo. I have eyelids that can collect a lot of “stuff” on them throughout the day and night. My eye doctor suggested I wash them with baby shampoo each day. Like the man born blind, I am encouraged to wash my eyes (everyday), but not with mud! However, in light of this reading, and desiring to have a life that is more meaningful, that morning ritual might take on a greater significance. What would it be like to pray each time I wash my eyes, and to ask for greater sight and vision?? After all, a deeper and more fulfilling life involves me being open to seeing more of what is before me.
Maybe seeing the inside of the book beyond the cover is not only for us to see others in a new way, but also for us to see ourselves in a new way. If you and I were to pick up the “book” of ourselves today, and open to its pages, what might we see? And what might our higher power show to us that we’ve never seen before? Maybe it might be a one handed man showing you how to golf.