Recognize the Spirit’s presence

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | January 19, 2022

A friend of mine had cataract surgery on his left eye a few months ago and was so delighted with the outcome that he immediately asked the doctor to do the other eye as well. He was like a kid with a new toy, seeing colors he hadn’t been able to see, reading road signs that had previously been only a blur until he was practically on top of them. Without even realizing it, his eyesight had been slowly deteriorating. He had forgotten how red a stop sign was or how many shades of green there are. Driving became fun again (and a lot safer for the rest of us!) and each ornament on his Christmas tree, no matter how old, looked shiny and new.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … to bring glad tidings to the poor … and recovery of sight to the blind.” I doubt very much that the ophthalmologist would ever claim that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, but I have seldom heard gladder tidings than the pronouncement that the surgery had gone well and my friend would indeed recover his sight.

And it’s not just my friend. This doctor does hundreds of these surgeries every year — hundreds of minor miracles; hundreds of lives lifted from the poverty of lost vision to the glad tidings of color and light; hundreds of people oppressed by restrictions on driving and reading now set free to travel and enjoy their morning newspaper or a good mystery.

Why is it so hard for us to believe that God can use our gifts? What does it take for us to recognize the Spirit of the Lord upon us? What miracles do we require? How many successful cataract surgeries? How many people liberated from blindness?

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in (our) hearing.” God invites us to use our gifts to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty, to free the oppressed. How do we respond? Do we use the gifts the Spirit pours out on us? Or do we remain blind to the Spirit’s presence in the work we do?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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