Every year all the 3rd grade students in the Turlock Unified School District take the G.A.T.E. test. The test has no words to read. It is only a pattern-matching test. No words, no directions, no writing. Of a thousand 3rd graders in the district, only a handful of students qualify. Students who just see the world a little differently. It’s not about wealth, education, language fluency, black, white, rich, poor. It’s just about seeing the pattern. None of the usual test criteria apply (reading, math, writing, etc.), so many of the usual high achieving students, to the surprise of many parents, do not qualify. Even I’m sometimes like, “Whaaat!?”
Similar to the GATE test for 3rd graders, so also it is with God’s call to people in each generation to follow him, and among those people who follow him, to be called to servant-leadership as deacons, priests, and bishops, or as religious, catechists, and lay evangelists.
When God called Samuel to anoint young David to be King of Israel, the people, David’s brothers–and even his own dad were like, “Whaaat!?” They left David in the field! Why bother to bring him?! Young, skinny, unskilled in combat, and no leadership experience. But the Lord reminds Samuel, “Man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
The most unlikely of people, people the world and sometimes even the Church had rejected, were called by God and became great Saints. Not all of them smart. Not all of them wealthy. Not all of them powerful. Not all them courageous. Not all of them short, bald, funny, and shockingly handsome. But all of them called, and all of them faithful to that call. God sees what man is not able to see. God looks into the heart and calls men and women to himself.
That’s the irony of the Gospel today. The blind man, born totally in sin, is able to see, and the Pharisees who should be able to see the power of God in their midst, were blind. It was the blind sinner who was able to see, and religious people who had become blind. We should be mindful of our biases too, our prejudices, our tendencies to judge by appearance. For lots of good reasons we evaluate and make judgements, but when we stop reflecting, when we fail to do the hard work of getting into the heart, when we don’t seek God’s guidance, then we run the risk of blindly discounting others, rejecting others, even condemning others–not because of what they’ve done, but because of our own blindedness.
Today we call upon the RCIA candidates to reflect on their blindedness. We ask them to search their motivations, biases, prejudices, generalizations, and judgements. We don’t have a 48 question picture test, and we don’t ask them to be perfect, but we do ask them to answer one question with their whole heart, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” To which they respond in the affirmative, “I do believe.” And then they worship.
And so it is with us each Sunday. We begin the Mass with a search for our motivations, biases, prejudice and sin. We confess that we have sinned and we seek forgiveness. We learn about the Lord in Scripture where our eyes are opened, and we respond in the affirmative to the Lord when we profess the Creed. Isn’t that beautiful? We repent, seek forgiveness, hear God’s Word, gain sight and as family say, “I believe.”
I want to hear you say, “I believe” with the fullness of faith today, that we might worship His presence in the Eucharist and be filled with God’s life. Amen? I’ll be listening. As we said in the Marines, “Sound off!”