One of the most fascinating things, for me, about writing service reflections is how you don’t know which part of the service will resonate most strongly. One week you might be struck by the sermon, another by the happiness on congregants’ faces when they hear a piece of news.
This week, it was The Collect. When Mother Ann read “Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever,” it was as if multimedia artist Jenny Holzer had placed the phrase “and for our blindness we cannot ask” in blazing LED lights running around the lowest beams of our nave.
A bit of background: A few weeks ago I was working on my laptop when I realized I’d lost the vision in the middle of my right eye. Being a good cyberchondriac, I immediately thought “It’s macular degeneration.” Fortunately, a few minutes later the green zigzags at my peripheral vision alerted me to what was actually happening, a good old-fashioned whopper of a migraine, brought on by a whopper of a storm.
That brief experience of blindness, however, was shocking. We sighted people take so much for granted. We can navigate any space, read any text, enjoy any vista, and gaze at the faces of loved ones. We can look at the St. Mary’s altar, follow the Book of Common Prayer, and focus on the wooden cross of Christ.
When you have a hole in your vision, a literal blind spot, it means you cannot see things clearly. You may have to make guesses about how things appear, or imagine an object’s outline. Another Scripture verse, from Matthew, reminds us that we all have motes in our eyes. We all have blindness. What Mother Ann read to us is known as a “Collect,” and its words therefore apply to everyone.
We are all weak. We are all unworthy. We are all blind. The blindness in this week’s Collect refers directly to spiritual blindness, to “the things we cannot ask” because we do not see that we need them.
In her sermon, Mother Ann considered the week’s Gospel verses from Luke in which Jesus sees that His Disciples need rest and refreshment after hard work, and guides them to a place of refuge. Of course, there they are besieged by the needy and by believers, and they wind up working harder than ever, but the point she wanted to make is that the compassion Jesus shows for the human needs of his Disciples should be understood (seen?) as flowing directly from His human side. Why? Because then we can strive to emulate it. If the human Jesus Christ could understand human frailty, then it remains possible for us to follow His example.
That doesn’t mean we’ll immediately be strong instead of weak, anointed instead of unworthy, and sighted instead of blind. It means that we can count on His compassion and mercy to assist us. It means He gets it, down to the smallest muscle ache, heel blister, and even migraine headache.
It’s such a powerful idea it’s difficult to take in: Christ knows what it’s like to be human. He knows that we may get tired after a long day and need to ask for strength to remain kind to our loved ones. But in our blindness, we forget to ask for that strength. Fortunately, in Christ’s vision, we are seen, and even when we forget to ask, we receive.
- What stayed with you from this past weeks service?
- When was a time when God or another person was able to point out one of your blind spots?
- How does knowing you are blind to some things change the way you live?