Let us pray.
Open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen.
That prayer was written in the early twentieth century by the one-time prison warden, turned writer and anti-apartheid, South African activist, Alan Paton. In his striving for justice, he saw the value – and even the necessity – of opening our eyes, particularly when we’re blind to the roles we play in harming others.
Earlier this week, I read a short blog post that a preacher wrote while preparing for this gospel lesson today where he declared this to be the most dangerous prayer. Not this prayer, in particular, but the first few words of it: “Open my eyes…”
It is a pretty dangerous prayer. When our eyes are opened, we can see all the pitfalls around us. When our eyes are opened, we can see all of our shortcomings. When our eyes are opened, we can see ourselves.
But yet, sight can be among the greatest gifts. It can protect us. It can guide us. It can open us to the beauty of creation.
This morning we hear the story of Jesus giving sight to the blind man. But in doing so, he helps to open the eyes of many others. And when God intervenes to open our eyes, it can be a dangerous and profound thing. We can see things we’d rather not see. We can see things that the princes and powers of the world would rather us not see.
When Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man, he also opened the eyes of his heart. And he opened the eyes of the hearts of his disciples. He showed them glimpses of truth that they had all previously been blind to.
But not everyone had that reaction. There were those among them who would, instead, cling to their blindness. It felt safer. They could only see what fit into their worldview, and anything else could not have possibly been from God.
We often talk about looking for evidence of God in the world. We believe that we can see God in the natural order. We believe that we can see Christ in the faces of the people we meet (and sometimes ignore) every day. But we can only do that if we’re willing to pray that most dangerous of prayers: to invite God to open our eyes.
Throughout this season of penitence and reflection, this season of preparation for the coming reality of Christ rising beyond and conquering death – this prayer could guide us. This prayer could be a path to seeing the coming reality as never before.
But only if we’re willing. Only if we stop clinging to our blindness.
I’d like to share with you a hymn that was among my favorites when I was growing up. It’s about inviting God to open our eyes. Feel free to sing along, or at least just follow along. But I hope you’ll hear this hymn as a prayer. A prayer to see God more fully. A prayer to be more fully present to the reality of God in our lives and all around us.
If we do that, we’ll be more ready for Easter than we ever have been before.
Let us pray.
Open our eyes, O Lord.
Open our eyes to our prejudice.
Open our eyes to our complicity with oppression.
Open our eyes when our short-sighted desires constrict our willingness to answer your calling.
Open our eyes to see Christ in every face around us.
Open our eyes to see Christ in ourselves.
Open our eyes so that we can see our sin.
Open our eyes so that we can see your grace.
Open our eyes. Amen.