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  • Kelly Sankowski

Who have we discounted?

In the readings for today, we see stories of people who have been discounted. In the first reading, Samuel is sent by God to the house of Jesse to find God’s chosen king. When he arrives, Samuel assumes the king must be the largest of Jesse’s sons. It is only after God rejects seven sons that Samuel thinks to ask if there could be anyone else. Jesse, his own father, had completely discounted David and failed to bring him before Samuel as an option. But sure enough, it is the youngest son whom God had chosen to be the leader.

In the Gospel, we learn of a blind man who had been set aside by society, by his family, by his neighbors, and even by Jesus’s disciples, who assume he or his family must have sinned to cause his ailment. After his healing, the man’s neighbors continue to discount his agency, talking about his healing in front of him but not addressing him directly. The pharisees throw out the formerly-blind man in outrage that a man “born totally in sin” could be trying to teach them, the powerful religious authorities. When the man’s parents are asked to confirm the story of the healing, they sense the threat of isolation from their community and ask the Jews to talk to their son about it – not out of a true display of respect for his agency, but rather out of a desire to save their own reputation.

How many of us have been in positions like these? Being talked about but not to. Having our potential disregarded, perhaps by our own parents or faith communities. And how many of us have been on the other side, doing the disregarding?

More and more, I have come to see that this is the way we often treat the youth in our Church. I have sat in meetings where the adults talk about what we should do for the younger members of the parish while one of them sits at the table saying that they do not find those ideas interesting. We laugh it off, shake our heads, and assume they aren’t wise enough yet. They don’t know what is good for them.

In some cases, this may be true. But more often than not, I think we are like the parents of the blind man: afraid for ourselves. We are afraid that we don’t know best; that the Church is losing the next generation because we aren’t living the Gospel in a compelling way; that we need to think creatively and change our own lives if we want to move forward well. We discount the youngest members of our communities as lazy or not experienced enough, when really they are prophets. It takes a multi-million dollar ad in the Super Bowl to remind us that Jesus told us we are supposed to be more like children – not more like adults.

We, like the Pharisees, may ask God, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” not realizing that this state of blindness is actually to be desired. For it is only when we recognize that we cannot see the Truth clearly on our own that we begin to rely on God and to listen even (or especially) to those considered most weak and marginalized. Only then will we discover who God’s chosen ones truly are and what they have to teach us.

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