Monday in the Week of Easter 3, St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized…” (Acts 9:18).

Our Collect of the Day asks God to “open the eyes of our faith” that we may behold our Lord Jesus Christ in all his redeeming work. This is a good day for us to have our eyes wide open: a beautiful spring day when we can see God’s glory manifested so clearly in the world around us. This is a good day for us to have our eyes wide open: not yet exam week, but almost; a day to pay attention to the words being addressed to us and to what’s happening around us.

When I was in school my teachers liked to tell me to “pay attention, John.” I think it was easy for me to be thinking of other things, especially when the details of spelling or math or what not was being discussed. Later I learned to focus, and that was key for me. The eye of the mind can be diverted, and we end up not seeing what we need to see.

In the life of faith, seeing is a metaphor for spiritual attention. Here, opening our eyes is a way of paying attention to what needs attention. Most of us are good at paying attention to what’s in front of us; though even here it’s easy to be diverted, just as I was as a student. But in the world of spiritual attention, having eyes opened means not just paying attention to what’s obvious, but also what’s not so obvious. It means paying attention to what lies at another level, under the surface. It means seeing further than other folk. It means being focused on the subtlety of the situation, on the reality rather than on the appearance.

Our first reading gives us a story of blindness, which ends with the restoration of sight when Saul recognizes Jesus. Spiritual blindness has an outward and visible sign that is cured when he understands who Jesus is. The eyes of Saul’s faith are opened, and he sees what lies beneath the surface. It’s a moment of conversion for him, where his life changes and he becomes a disciple of Jesus. He’s baptized, and he becomes a follower of Jesus. He even takes a new name, becoming Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

In order to take on a new identity as Jesus’ disciple, he had to see further on and deeper in. He had to pay attention and to focus. As the story goes, the process is not quick or easy. He’s afflicted with blindness, but the physical inability to see is only indicative of years of spiritual inattention and refusal to look beyond the obvious. He’s used to missing things because he’s used to seeing only the obvious things. It takes a while to recover the eyes of faith, to see (strangely enough) what’s right in front of him.

Today we celebrate baptism and confirmation, new life given by God through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a good day to have our eyes wide open, to see what God is doing. It’s a good day to glimpse the power and the presence of God, revealed in human life. We don’t want scales on our eyes on this important day, when the eyes of faith can see so much. Friends and fellow students are taking important steps, and God is guiding them in the path. He’s allowing us all to see things that are not so obvious, things that lie deeper, things that are further ahead. We’re focusing and paying attention because we don’t want to miss what’s happening all around us.

May God give us the eyes of faith so that we may see him in all his redeeming work.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee