|What Do We See?
I am drawn by a detail in today’s gospel. It has to do with eyes, with what the main characters are seeing. It is striking that the Pharisee sees the tax collector. His eyes are roving about as he prays in the temple. By contrast, the tax collector sees nothing, certainly not the Pharisee, since we are told that the tax collector “would not even raise his eyes to heaven.”
This detail raises the of question what one sees, how one sees, and reminds us of the haunting phrase spoken by the Lord in 1 Samuel 16, 7. As the sons of Jesse are presented before him, he is sure that the number one son is the Lord’s choice. But here the Lord trains and corrects Samuel’s sight: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”
How do we acquire such sight, eyes that see as the Lord sees? One only begins to see with God’s eyes when the heart has been humbled. Knowing our own sinfulness, our identity as loved sinners, gives us new eyes so that we look out on the world and, especially on other people, the way God does. When we see others from such a heart, we see brothers and sisters who are “like me,” in contrast with the eyes of the Pharisee, who does not see from the heart and can only observe that “I am not like the rest of humanity.”
Such a humble heart is the key to everything: “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” (St. Augustine).
Lord, humble our hearts. Give us your eyes!