Seeing Beyond My Nose

by | Feb 24, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change

Seeing Beyond Our Noses

“Thinking about yourself so much that you do not notice what is happening around you.” That’s the dictionary definition of not seeing beyond one’s nose. I don’t like to think of myself as not seeing beyond my nose. But the more read and reread Pope Francis’ latest book (er, I mean, encyclical) Fratelli Tutti, the more I realize how near-sighted I am.

My first hint about not seeing beyond my nose came when I read his chapter “A Stranger on the Road.” Now I have always loved that story. Yet when I reread Pope Francis’ second chapter “A Stranger on the Road,” I realized there were so many different ways of reading it.

For example, I had never thought of Jesus using that story to tell us of the Kingdom… God’s dream for us. Imagine a “kingdom” characterized by people who instinctively saw even a wounded enemy as a neighbor. Also, the ‘hated Samaritan” saw him not just conceptually but practically, to the point of interrupting his own life to care for him. In this chapter, Francis goes further. He shows us the contemporary dress of each of the characters in the story. Now I recognize I am each of them.


Going beyond…

I am now re-reading Chapter 3 – Envisaging and Engendering an Open World. The word and the concept that keeps popping up there is “beyond,” another way of saying one is actually seeing beyond one’s nose.

All this got me thinking about going “beyond” my usual way of reading. Too often I read Scripture with my head. When I read from a safe distance. When I read with my heart I realize how dangerous this reading is. It becomes about me. This kind of dangerous reading sees something more than a story from the past. I hear the challenges to translate what I am reading… not to another spoken language but to a “lived language” that the Saint and Pope Francis’ know so well. “Preach always… and if you must use words”

As I read about envisaging an open world, I realize Pope Francis is telling me to look beyond the ways of the world today that obviously don’t work. His first chapter “Dark Clouds” lays out very honestly what doesn’t work. Francis is calling the church as a community of individuals to grow beyond the limitations of our horizons as Jesus did. I am just starting to read “Envisaging and Engendering an Open World.”

I did not realize how timely Lent is with its call to “repent” or “change our way of thinking. Fratelli Tutti challenges me to see beyond the “Original Sin of our self-centeredness.”

As Pope Francis said in his Ash Wednesday homily:

“Lent is a time to reconsider the path we are taking. Lent is a journey that involves our whole life… a humble descent both inwards and towards others.”

To be continued…

Pope Francis concludes with “A Prayer to the Creator”

Lord, Father of our human family, you created all human beings equal in dignity: pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace. Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war. May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth. May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us, and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams. Amen.