ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church


What do we see when we think we saw what we saw?

Animals do it.
Educated people do it.
Spouses do it.
Priests and bishops do it.
Politicians do it.

What do they do? When they look they see what they want to see – what they hope to see – what they fear to see – what they think they see – what they expect to see.

My dog has a sweet disposition. She rarely barks, except when she sees someone with a cane, a stick or an umbrella. Then she gets very nervous and defensive. Someone probably hit her with a stick when she was a small puppy. Now, whenever she sees someone with a stick-like object, she sees a threat.

A friend of mine has several children. For her, one of the kids is always wrong – he’s rebellious, he’s moody, he’s uncooperative, he’s lazy. He’s not a kid anymore; he’s a successful young man. But his mother still persists in seeing him as he once may have been.

Have you ever met a pathological liar? I have. I remember one friend. He’s a genial, friendly person – all smiles, quick to respond, kind and helpful. He’s the kind of person who seems reliable and trustworthy. And, allowing for the fact that he hardly ever can tell the truth, he may well be.

Remember those optical illusions that always intrigued us when we first saw them as kids? For instance, look at the outline of a box; see it one way and you saw a box from below; look at it another way and you saw a box from above. Which was the right way to see it? Was there a right way?

Magic tricks beat optical illusions hands down. Did you ever see a good magician perform? We all know that part of the secret of her success is distraction and sleight of hand, but even so we’re usually sure that we saw exactly what she did – even though we were wrong!

When the Israelis withdrew from south Lebanon, many of the Lebanese militia collaborating with them left too. Israelis saw them as Christian allies in danger of death from Lebanese Muslims; Lebanese saw them as misguided traitors who needed some punishment, but most of whom would be pardoned and accepted back into Lebanon. How different things look depending on whether you stand north or south of the border.

Read the papers. Watch the news. How do we see public figures? He’s a conservative; she’s a liberal; he’s a hawk; she’s a dove. Remember what he did 10 years ago? You can’t trust him.

It even works like that when we look to God. Do we see whom we want to see? whom we hope to see? whom we fear to see? Jesus told us that God is our good father, that God is love. Alas, often we see the judge and dread the sentence or think that we are lost to his sight.

When Jesus asked the blind man in Jericho, “What do you want me to do for you?” He responded, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight.”

Me, too, Lord.

Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA

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