Thinking Anew – Learning from success and failure

Published date18 March 2023
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
I imagine I will not be alone in hoping to be on the winning side again for todays' rugby match between Ireland and England. We cannot, however, always be winners, something the author Neville Ward was aware of when he wrote: "Failure is as much a part of life as success and by no means something in front of which one sits down and howls as though it is a scandal and a shame."

Tomorrow's reading from First Samuel tells how David came to be leader of his people. He would go on to capture Jerusalem circa 1,000 BC – an event that has consequences to this day. But the reading also records the failure of Saul, his predecessor, first king of Israel and described as "a man of personal courage … generous to his foes." The day David won, Saul was the loser.

The gospel reading introduces another loser, a blind man, living in poverty and depending on charity to survive. His disability is judged to be the result of sin and therefore grounds for exclusion according to those who thought they knew better. (Mother and Baby Homes come to mind.) This poor man, disabled from birth, is doomed to be a loser, until he meets Jesus.

This is not just a story about one man's blindness but rather about society and what it chooses to see and not see. Some scholars say that the Greek translated "a man born blind" could also mean "humanity, blind from birth". The people judging the man did not see him even though they regularly passed by him. This is an unsettling message for anyone travelling the streets of our towns and cities, streets that are home to so many "losers", unwanted and therefore unseen. Jesus left us in no doubt as to where he stood: "For I was hungry, and you...

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