Seeing is believing, it is said. We tend naturally to trust and value more what we can perceive personally with our own five senses. Rather than rely on someone else’s perception, on mere hearsay, we want to be the judge of what is or is not real.

I thought I could rely on what I saw with my own eyes until my recent cataract surgery. Suddenly, in one day, I learned that I was seeing the world through a lens that coated everything beige. I thought my kitchen curtains were light blue and pale yellow. Now I know that the yellow is white.

At this writing I am awaiting surgery on my left eye. The cataract in the right eye has been replaced with an artificial intraocular lens through which I see everything brighter, whiter and clearer, even at night. People must be wondering when they see me blinking, one lid at a time, first the right, then the left eye, comparing my new sight with my old dimmer vision.

It is true that ocular vision, like attitudes and convictions, can deteriorate so slowly that one hardly notices any change. Doctors have been telling me the cataracts were developing but that surgery was not yet needed. I knew it was time, however, the last time I drove at night in a rainstorm. I consulted my ophthalmologist. She agreed. Fortunately, I was able to schedule the procedure within a week of my consultation.

I am now seeing colors and hues that just a week ago I hardly knew existed. They were there, I just did not appreciate them. Now I look at trees and plants, admiring them in a way I never have before. I know they do not know that I am enjoying them so much, but I am. I am sure, too, that God and the saints and angels are often looking upon us with the vision that eternal beings share that we do not yet have the ability to see. For, as Scripture says, we see through a glass, darkly (1 Cor 13:12). They are there, nonetheless, urging us on. We sometimes get hints of their presence in the many graces and consolations they send our way. I will be less quick to doubt these whispers of providence just because I do not see their source. Even plants and trees bend to a sun and soak up the fallen rain that they have no idea is nourishing them.

Yes, the scales that blurred and darkened my vision are being removed and I thank God for the gift of being alive at this time when such possibilities even exist. To think I was judging the world as dimmer than it actually is because my eyes were themselves clouded. Could it be that I also judge weightier matters — world affairs, cultures, even people themselves — through the distorted lenses of my own past experiences, prejudices, personal sins and failures, projecting on to the world around me, the people in it — even God! — what are “scales of value” and “perceptions” honed by cumulative years of misinformation and flawed thinking?

For, whether we realize it or not, we make judgments based on what we think we see, and think that we remember, as if our vision and memory is as clear as the day is long, which may not be so after all. Seeing things in the light of day, most of us realize, is much different from what they look like at night. Sometimes we may even wish that we could keep the lights dimmer because we fear seeing things as they are. This does not alter THEIR reality, but only confounds them with MY “reality” — what I want to see or wish reality to be.

One woman, one of the nurses told me, asked the doctor, jokingly, after her surgery, whether she could have her cataracts back. Now, when looking in the mirror, she could see wrinkles she never thought she had! I must admit that I am seeing stains on my kitchen counters and dust on my bookshelves that I thought I had eliminated. I am sure that others must see uncomely things in my life and my behaviors of which I am totally oblivious. I must ask forgiveness for these sins and shortcomings often, every day. That is one reason I like to take a little time at the beginning of Mass when “we call to mind our sins,” so that I can actually be aware of what I need to ask forgiveness for from God and from my sisters and brothers.

I remember one time, while a priest was giving me absolution, he said to me that God was forgiving me all the sins I confessed but all those sins that I did not confess and may not even be aware of. It was an extraordinarily healing moment of grace but also a sober realization that I may well have forgotten what I may have done to offend God and hurt myself and others. This did not make me feel terrible, however. In fact, it only deepened my appreciation of the mercy of God and the immense generosity of others who graciously put up with my sins and weaknesses, who do not judge me by the darkness I may have brought into the world, but by the light of God’s love and their love for me, a sinner.

We know that God sees and loves in us what he sees and loves in his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, God also sees you and me as we truly are, for God is not deceived by illusions as we are so prone to be. God never loses sight, however, of what we truly are, which is much more than what we or anyone else has ever told us we are. This is good news! Nothing that has ever happened to you or me, no trauma that we have ever suffered, bad name we have been called, or even sin we have committed can define what we truly are a child of God.

Over the years, indeed we do develop spiritual cataracts that we may hardly be aware of that dim our vision of the world, of others and even of ourselves and our true potential. We may feel increasingly unworthy and even lose hope in our ability to grow, change and be transformed. We get stuck in a rut, a habit or attitude, and may even wonder whether it is worth trying again. The most diabolical of all temptations is the temptation to discouragement.

I suspect that one of the main reasons that hold some of us back from seeking out a good confession or even going more often to Mass and to receive our Lord into our hearts and souls, is an intense feeling of unworthiness, that somehow we are hypocritical — as churchgoers are often accused of being — just by presuming to ask for God’s mercy on us as sinners. Yet nothing delights God more, who never tires of forgiving us and showering mercy upon us, than to hear, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” In a word, God’s vision is much more reliable than ours. It is not weighed down by the scales of time and scars of old wounds. In God’s light we see light. May God open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us and the promise our lives are created for, a vision that leaps beyond any horizon we may see into an eternal Love, an eternal patience, that burns with unquenchable thirst for our hearts and souls.

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