When his children see / the work of my hands in his midst, / They shall keep my name holy; / they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, / and be in awe of the God of Israel. / Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, / and those who find fault shall receive instruction.
Isaiah 29: 23-4
In today’s gospel, Jesus heals the two blind men telling them that it is done “according to their faith.” As we declare in Psalm 126:3: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.” The loving and creative works of the Lord are always occurring, but we must come to be able to see them, to live in awe and wonder at the “miracles” that surround us. It is only in faith that we can see the works of God, and it is only, as Isaiah tells us, in recognizing the earth and everything in it as the Lord’s that we keep the Lord’s name holy and “reverence the Holy One of Jacob.” How we see pretty much determines how we live and how we tend to the earth and to all its peoples.
On Wednesday evening we saw an interview with Yo-Yo Ma on PBS. He was asked by the interviewer what, now that he’s reached 60 years of age, did he hope to do in his next decade of life. He responded by saying that he had now reached an age when he more enjoyed seeing what others do. This very simple comment struck home immediately. There is significant faith and wisdom in the perspective that allows us to deeply enjoy what we see others do.
For much of life our response to seeing the deeds and accomplishments of others is tinged with envy and competitiveness. The immediate reaction we have is a mix of what’s wrong with what they are doing on the negative side, and what is it that we want or need to do on the more positive. It is our self-preoccupation and self-doubt that interposes itself between the action of the other and our enjoyment of their action. Yo-Yo Ma, however, speaks out of an experience that recognizes his place as a member and participant of the human community. He has done, and continues to do, his part, but the great work, that is the work of the Lord, goes on in and through all others, including the generations before and those to come after. He is not only a doer of God’s work but also witness of it.
Especially as we age, it is not easy to come to the place where we increasingly become witnesses rather than doers. In the words of the Tao Te Ching, we have largely done our work, and now it is time to step back. Faith, however, allows us to step back without regret and resentment but rather with awe and enjoyment. Having made our little contribution, we can now enjoy the greatness and the beauty, the accomplishment and the grace of the work of others. When, in faith, we see the work of God’s hand in the work of others, especially those who will continue the work after us, we can truly experience the reverence for them and God’s work through them that is the source of true enjoyment.
Hardly a day passes in our lives without our experience of inner or outer fears, anxieties, apprehensions, and preoccupations. These dark powers have pervaded every part of our world to such a degree that we can never fully escape them. Still it is possible not to belong to these powers, not to build our dwelling place among them, but to choose the house of love as our home. This choice is made not just once and for all but by living a spiritual life, praying at all times and thus breathing God’s breath. Through the spiritual life we gradually move from the house of fear to the house of love.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord, p. 31