Is there a difference between seeing and looking? I ask this question because, once again, our worship theme interacts nicely with Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Last weekend we preached from John 1:35-51 where Jesus invites the disciples to “come and see” where he abides. We also learned that Jesus “saw” Nathanael under the fig tree and, somehow, this revelation allowed Nathanael to see that Jesus is the Messiah.
What is the difference, then, between seeing and looking. When we look at something, we use our rational mind and physically gaze upon the surface of the object. There is this thing that sits in time and space and we observe its physical characteristics. That is a man, that is a woman, that is bread, that is fermented grape juice, that is a hot ball of burning gas a billion miles away, etc. Seeing, according to Rohr, requires contemplation. He says,
Contemplation allows us to see the truth of things in their wholeness. It is a mental discipline and gift that detaches us—neurologically and spiritually—from our addiction to our habitual way of thinking, usually in our left brain which likes to be in control. Through contemplative practice we stop identifying solely with our small binary, dualistic mind which strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with only one of them. Gradually we begin to recognize the inadequacy and superficiality of that limited way of knowing reality. Only the contemplative, or the deeply intuitive, can start venturing out into much more open-ended horizons. The rational, dualistic mind does not have the capacity to hold the big questions of life like love, death, suffering, sexuality, God, or anything infinite.
Our journey through the Gospel of John will invite us to practice seeing in this way. The text for this coming weekend is found in John 2:1-11. The host of a wedding party runs out of wine on the third day of the party. What everyone looks at is the shame and scarcity of this situation. The fool either didn’t plan well or is too poor to provide enough wine for his guest.
Jesus’ mother sees something very different. She sees an opportunity for Jesus to transform the situation. She sees an opportunity for the abundance of God’s grace to be poured out on this host and the guests of the wedding. Jesus doesn’t see water, he sees the best wine in the land. This is the first sign that points to the deeper life of the Kingdom of God.
My prayer is that we can learn to see the connectedness of all things and live in God’s abundant grace with all people.