Last weekend, my parents would have celebrated their seventy-third wedding anniversary. For numerous reasons, I find myself anxious to celebrate on their behalf. After all, my life is what it is as a result of my parents’ influence…
My mom worked at the Sears catalog warehouse when I was a little girl. This began as an annual part-time arrangement several weeks before Christmas and a few weeks afterward. My mom did this to ensure her family a “nice” Christmas. My dad worked as an assistant railroad yardmaster year-round. He did so to provide his wife and children a “nice” life. Both of these efforts tested my parents’ stamina and creativity. While they met this challenge admirably, creating a loving home for my siblings and me was the best part of what they did together.
Our home was actually a modest three-bedroom flat which housed my uncle and grandfather as well. In spite of our cramped quarters, the door remained open to family and friends. When our household shrank due to our grandfather’s and then our uncle’s passing, Daddy consoled us with talk of heaven and their renewed health. We had no choice except to be happy about the newfound joy both men experienced. When Daddy passed away, our mom repeated his message with deep conviction. Though she went to work full-time and our tight family budget tightened a bit more, my mother preserved the love in our home in full earnest.
My life would be very different if my parents’ positive perspective had been the opposite. A few years into my own marriage, I wondered what inspired the great faith which empowered my parents to smile and to remain optimistic through even the greatest tragedies. I asked my mom what she and my dad did when they discovered his illness and his prognosis of only a year more to live. Without hesitation, Mom answered, “We lived it to the full!” My dad continued to work for as long as possible and my mom did everything else. She helped my dad to conserve his energy so he could enjoy as many of that year-full of days as possible. It was a few days into his last hospital stay when we almost lost him during the night. When our mom arrived the next morning, Daddy told her what had happened. In a gesture of generosity which I may never be able to repeat, my mom reminded my dad of the consolation he offered when our grandfather and uncle passed away. She went on to ask him why he worried. God would take care of us in his absence. Though the ache in her heart intensified with every word, Mom went on to give her thirty-nine-year-old husband permission to let go. During the night that followed, he did.
As I read today’s gospel (Mark 10:46-52), the perceptiveness of the blind man overwhelmed me. Though his eyes could not see, the man knew that Jesus was near. The blind man’s uncanny perspective reminds me of my parents’ vision. Though his physical vision was non-existent, this man saw more clearly than the rest of Jesus’ followers. This man who was blind clearly saw what Jesus offered. Mark wrote, “…he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’” Hearing him, Jesus rewarded the blind man’s faith by asking him what he wanted. The blind man responded, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus sent the man off with his wish fulfilled. Yet, rather than leaving, the man followed Jesus. His choice to do so touches my heart. The blind man’s life had been terribly difficult. He could have allowed his circumstances to destroy his hope and to turn his heart to anger and self-pity. Man of hope that he was, he didn’t allow this to happen. Though unable to see the physical world around him, this man saw that life is worth living. When Jesus arrived, this man saw Jesus’ message unfold before him. The blind man saw Jesus so clearly that he was convinced Jesus would take care of everything. It was this hopeful vision and not his newfound sight which caused this man to follow his Lord.
My parents’ vision allowed them to be happy in spite of the many tragedies which touched their lives. Like the blind man in today’s gospel, they chose to see things as God sees them. As I worked through my worry over our little grandson’s premature birth, I came to understand and to appreciate my parents’ vision and that of the blind man more fully. Today, you and I are invited to do as my parents did: To see God’s gifts as the man born blind saw them; to seize every opportunity to embrace this life; to look beyond the fear, the sadness and the sorrow that threaten. Today, God invites us to adjust our vision in order to see the joy that is the center of everything. Today, we open our eyes to God’s persistent and unconditional love.
©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved