Monday, March 14, 2016

When staring at the Son heals our inner blindness.

Some phrases tend to stick in our heads after we encounter them.  One such phrase has haunted me for close to three weeks now, and it is that nagging one from G K Chesterton about seeing familiar things over and over again until they are unfamiliar.  I have used it in my scripture reflection at Mass, I wrote about it in last week’s blog, and just this week, something happened in the heavens that immediately brought up this phrase without even trying.

Over the skies in this part of the world (Singapore and parts of Indonesia) last week was a very rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse. Singapore only saw a partial eclipse, so there was a period of a few minutes in the morning where the skies were significantly dimmed. 

The age of the Internet showed that the response and reaction to this phenomenon has changed through the years.  In the era before the Internet, we would only most likely read about such stories a day or a few days after the event.  If at all there was filmed footage of the event, it would be a delayed broadcast, and most probably a feature on the evening news.

The opening of the cyber world with its technology makes the reporting of such events almost simultaneous.  The Internet had live footage of how different cities reacted to the shadow of the moon cast upon the earth.  Chat rooms and groups on message apps like Whatsapp were rife with people asking each other whether they were looking at what was happening in the skies.  Many remarks and comments were made, and some of the more memorable ones were those that remarked that God is indeed awesome, and that an event like this shows the splendor of God in nature. 

I couldn’t help but make that immediate connection with Chesterton’s astute aphorism.  I do not for a moment disagree that when one sees with one’s own eyes the blocking out of the sun’s light in broad daylight, that one is brought to realise anew God’s grand display of his work in nature and the cosmos.  But what is more striking is that it takes a literal blocking out of what is there to re-appreciate its beauty, wonder and effect in our lives. 

The sun has always been shining in the sky, almost 150 million kilometers from the earth.  Its necessity and radiant beauty giving us life has always been there and sadly, taken very much for granted.  This fireball in the sky was and will always be God’s gift to us, but we hardly take notice of it.  But the moment it becomes significantly blocked from view, when another heavenly body comes between it and ourselves, we have a new awareness of its presence.  Ironically, its absence causes its presence to be re-appreciated, and we make a big deal out of it.

We see this happen in our lives where our health is concerned, don’t we?  Our perfectly working bodies with its incredible system of interconnected network of veins, nerve endings, muscles, skeletal system and all its organs synchronized with a precision that boggles the mind is also taken very much for granted.  Until an eclipse happens, often in the form of some debilitating illness.  It is only then that we begin to look with new appreciative eyes at what we had been endowed with all our lives hitherto the arrival of the eclipse. 

Readers of this blog who live in Singapore will readily see this happen in the very air that we breathe.  For so many years now, every year for a few months, we face the inconvenience and hazardous haze that plagues our island when our neighbouring countrymen clear their forests in irresponsible ways through fires that are not controlled.  And it is only when we are literally in the thick of the haze that we appreciate what having clear skies and breathing in unpolluted air is like.  So we take it for granted – till we need the masks.  Yet, while we have clear skies, we hardly give God thanks for the very air we breathe because it is just something that is so normal and ordinary, and yes, even familiar.

This has to be what Jesus himself was referring to in Mark 4:12 and Matthew 13:15.  It was in reference to Isaiah’s prophecy from Is. 6:9-10 which has as its central teaching that it is the heart that needs to understand before true conversion takes place. 

Conversion, or metanoia (a new seeing, or a seeing again) is never an activity of the head.  It is that of the heart, or the whole person.  It is never knowledge-based, and the proof of this is the remarkable number of people who may have sat through the entire RCIA journey only contented with learning of facts about Jesus and the faith, but without engaging the heart in forming a necessary relationship with the Lord. 

But those who have made that very difficult and challenging move to get out of their heads and have used their hearts to truly see again, will know that this experience has given them much more reason to believe than logic and cerebral sense.  A relationship that comes from a result of a new seeing is that much more stable and faithful (full of faith) than one that is attained with the head alone.  Though in truth, I will have to say that for a truly holistic conversion, but head and heart are required for a new seeing.

In areas that stand in the path of the shadow of the moon in an eclipse, there are strong warnings to remind people about the dangers of staring directly at the sun.  Retina burns caused by this (solar retinopathy) can cause severe damage or even blindness. 

What is prayer but looking intently at the heart of God.  Looking directly at the Son (of God) removes the blindness of our hearts and gives clarity to the soul.  And it is for this reason that indeed, we should, as Chesterton observes, look at this Son over and over again, until he becomes fresh and unfamiliar, and our love for him is renewed.



  1. Dear Fr Luke,

    Your blog reminded me of how I have taken God for granted. He is always there for me, just like the sun. And it takes bad situations (when I experience the eclipse, the moments of darkness) that I become more aware of God's light, His presence.


  2. Dearest Fr Luke,

    Thank you for all your inspiring posts, allowing us to see mundane things in many different Godly perspectives.

    Indeed, the solar eclipse on the 9th March was truly hyped; my phone was filled with many pretty images of the eclipses forwarded by well-meaning friends and me joining in the fwding... And so it was with self-deprecating amusement to listen to your sermon from a perspective of how we only notice the sun’s glory when it’s not there…

    What also struck me from your post this week is as you reflected –
    But what is more striking is that it takes a literal blocking out of what is there to re-appreciate its beauty, wonder and effect in our lives.

    And how timely this reflection is, as we approach Holy Week, where God’s Presence will also be “physically removed” & covered.
    A couple of years back, I remembered attending the Maundy Thursday Mass, and towards the end of the service, where the Eucharist were taken out from the sanctuary after Holy Communion... I felt such a strong sense of loss and tears welled up as my eyes followed the Eucharist out of church…
    I had such a graced moment of “re-appreciating” God’s presence at Easter that year… ;}

    We may make the same route each year but if we open our hearts, God will let our mind’s eye appreciate different things each time, revealing more of Himself to us in truly graced moments.

    Thank You Fr. Luke.
    Praying for you as always.

  3. At this evening’s mass, it was intriguing when the homilist picked this phrase from the Gospel text “.....the far side of the Jordan....” and asked why did Jesus go back there again? He said, probably it was to reminisce – to remember once more his baptism where the Father affirmed His great love for the Son and thus strengthening the Son for his ordeal, his mission – his reason for coming. I felt that this is a beautiful and also a very human response.....for whenever one is in need of affirmation and solace, one tends to fly back to times of the ‘source’ region where there is a shared intimacy, a loving tenderness...............a knowing that defies logic because it is heart-work. It makes Jesus very vulnerable!

    We were invited to go to ‘the far side’ –come Holy Week – to soften and open our be en-lightened. And I thought of what you wrote this week about staring at the Son to heal our inner blindness. Reflecting on this, I felt that though we often think we are walking in the light because we have been graced with faith, yet sometimes, we have moments of inner darkness when we don’t want to see the truth- such as when we have been selfish, self-centred and even oblivious to the concerns of others – definitely not ‘children of the Light’. Thus, going to the far side and basking in the radiance of the Son (the source) may help us to see better and prevent a ‘smirking’ complacency (very akin to that of the Pharisees) that we are truly God-fearing.

    God bless u, Fr.