Friday, April 1, 2011

Two Born Blind Stories

If you do not know Zatoichi by now, chances are you are not closely following this blog or you are not into old martial art movies. He is the blind swordsman and one of our childhood screen heroes. Zatoichi, a blind masseur and a master swordsman, is a fictional character featured in one of Japan's longest running series of films and a television series set in the Edo period. And to know how avid I was as his fan, you my revisit my entry called “Swordsmen in My Memory” two years ago.

In ancient Japan (and even today here in the Philippines) giving massages was a traditional occupation for the blind, since blind persons and masseurs were on the lowest social level, no better than beggars because in said country, I read somewhere, it was common to think of the blind as also being retarded or perverted. They are society’s discards. Just like in Jesus’ time.

This Sunday’s gospel is about a blind man who was healed (John 9:1-41) by Jesus. As we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Lent it would be helpful to think of those things that made us hopeless and the miracles we did not notice. This is where we find the blind man in John’s narrative. The guy was born sightless way and, as far as he knows, no one had ever been healed of being born that way and so he resigned himself to his situation to the point that when Jesus came by, he didn’t even ask for healing.

“How does it really feel to be blind?” I often asked my self when I was young every time I watch my sword-wielding hero on silver screen. “I prefer to be blind if I am that brave and invincible,” I often tell my self, feeding my childish fantasy. It is only when I grew up, raised a family of my own that I realized that in a way, I was also born blind.

Most of us have blind spots, presumptions, ideas and perceptions that we don’t even think about changing. These blind spots are major thorns in our lives. They can cause untold harm not only to others but to inner us. Even a quick reading of today’s Gospel shows us in a graphic way how blind the Pharisee’s were to Jesus and to his work. These religious leaders were leading people into the darkness, not into the light. Their interior lives had become hardened, like platinum bars. They had become so smug and sure of themselves that they were not able to recognize Goodness itself as it was shown to them in the person of Jesus. They were as blind as a person could be.

By the way, in the many Zatoichi films that I’ve watched, little of my swordsman’s past revealed especially how he became blind and how he developed his incredible swordsmanship. I am not concerned with those things anymore, then and now. All I enjoyed was how that blind wanderer played dice, sing and dance, aside from killing the bad guys with his mighty cane sword. How he is helping the people in need unlike the disciples in the gospel who are more concerned on the intellectual problem on why the man is blind than helping him. And Jesus told them that not all pain and suffering is because of sin, some of it is so that God can be glorified.

May this Sunday’s gospel and the Zatoichi story from my childhood days remind us of this lesson: Discovering and accepting our blindness is the foundation for receiving sight from the Lord.

Including our fictitious movie characters and idols...

(Photo : Google Images)

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