Reading Lessons


Learning to read is a great gift. Yet, by itself, reading is a fairly simple skill. It is taught easily to children whose minds are still forming. They learn to associate sounds with symbols and group them to decode a message. Considered for what it is, the act of reading is unremarkable, perhaps little better than a parlor trick. But the potential of reading — the access through time, place, thought and imagination — is breathtaking. Its depths are unfathomable. That elementary link of letter and sound opens the world to us. Once we know how to read, we can never exhaust its treasures. It is the same with Christ.

This Sunday’s gospel presents a young man’s conversion. Born blind, he recovers his sight by the miraculous power of our Lord. But, like all disciples, his conversion is gradual. Consider the various titles he uses when speaking of Jesus. When first asked about his healing, he responds “the man called Jesus...anointed my eyes.” He initially considers Jesus a man among others. But when pressed by Pharisees, who call Jesus a sinner, the young man protests, “He is a prophet.” Finally, Jesus comes to him again, asking if he believes in the “Son of Man.” Now, receiving a spiritual vision, he responds “‘I do believe Lord,’ and he worshipped him.” Acknowledging first a man, then a prophet, then the Lord to be worshiped, his is a gradual conversion. He is a bit like a child learning to read, sounding out the letters, putting it all together, until with a confident and jubilant certainty he pronounces the facts in front of him: “Jesus is Lord.”

When we learn to read, it is just the beginning. The potential is infinite. Coming to know Christ is the same. St. John of the Cross exhorts us, “Dig deep into Christ...[for] he is like an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures,...however deep individuals may go they never reach the end or bottom.” With Jesus, there is always more to discover, and, like reading, the more we explore, the more we ourselves are enriched. We are changed by what we learn.

Sadly, we know many neglect the gift of reading. They considerate it a chore. They read what they have to, and only as much as they have to, missing the great opportunities contained in the written word. Many have the same relationship with Christ. They associate with him when they have to, and only as much as they have to. They miss out on him, the Word made flesh, “in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Christ is never a chore, at least not for those who dig deep.