We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Learning to See

Acts 3:1-10 tells the story of Peter, John, and a crippled beggar.  The two apostles were going into the Temple in Jerusalem to pray when they came across the beggar sitting at one of the temple gates.  He saw them and hoped for some spare change.  They saw him and saw the possibility of a miracle.  The axial moment in the story is in verses 4 and 5 (NRSV): "Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us.' And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them."

Peter and John looked at the beggar closely.  Before Jesus and before the resurrection, what they likely would have been was a pitiful excuse for a human being that God was punishing for his sins.  They would not have seen the person but instead a category, "sinner".  After Jesus and after the resurrection, they saw the person.  It did not matter that this person saw in them a potential source of gain, a "mark" as it were.  In fact, that is a key point of the story.  Peter and John could see things that the beggar did not see, and when they healed him they gave him back more than a new set of feet and legs to walk on. They also gave him a new set of eyes to see with.

That is one of the things that the gracious gift of faith in our Christian tradition gives to the the faithful.  It instills in them a new way of seeing.  In the U.S., then, the person of faith sees a person of color and sees the person.  She sees a Muslim and sees the person.  He sees a woman and sees the person.  We see individuals who practice "alternative life styles" and see the individual.  In the eyes of his society, the beggar was not worthy of healing, forgiveness, or anything more than the passing glance needed to put a coin in his hand.  Peter and John, however, saw him in the light of Jesus and the resurrection.  They saw him.  Amen.