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“You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice.” – Isaiah 66.14

Sometimes we do look at things, and people, and what we see does make our hearts rejoice – but not always.

The recent re-emergence into the news of Jon Venables,  one of Jamie Bulger’s killers, from all those years ago, also brought out again those eerie photographs of both of the killers, aged 10.  Eerie, because to look at those photographs again, knowing what we know now, is really quite disturbing, and certainly not something that would make our hearts rejoice.

And yet they are two human beings, created by God, two human beings who have committed a terrible act – but is there anything left there to make our hearts rejoice?

It is one of the great clichés of the Christian faith, that “We should hate the sin, but love the sinner!”, but can we do that with Thompson and Venables?  Or, indeed, with Peter Sutcliffe or Myra Hindley or Harold Shipman?

Sin obscures our vision of the person of the sinner, so that when we see them, we see not the person, but the sin.  The sin ‘clothes’ them with a new identity, disguises them.

This is obvious (and understandable) in the case of Thompson and Venables (and Sutcliffe/Hindley/Shipman), but it’s also true of all people.  We all carry our own sins and shortcomings with us, our own loads.  And these ‘loads’ become part of our own ‘self-image’, and of our image of other people.  We become ‘clothed’ what we have done, the good as well as the bad, but especially the bad!  We see the sin, in ourselves and in others, and that obscures our vision of the person beneath.

But God sees all!

This is, more often than not, seen in negative terms:  “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires know,
and from whom no secrets are hidden…” – God seeing all our innermost faults, all our ignoble thoughts and words and deeds.

But God is not fooled by what he sees!  He sees the sin, but he does not let that obscure his vision of the sinner.  He sees through our ‘clothing’, our mantle of sin, to the person beneath.

And he sees in that person infinite possibilities – possibilities for growth and renewal and life.

And seeing, he loves.

And loving, he gives substance to those possibilities.

It is that clear-sighted love, made real, and given substance in the person of Jesus,  and through the mystery of the cross – it is that unobscured love of God that rids us of our outer garment of sin and allows us to stand before him as his beloved people.

He sees and his heart rejoices – even though it is that heart that also knows the pain of the cross.

Our vision of what is real and what is not real, of what is true and what is not true, both in ourselves and in others, makes us what we are.

Increasing clarity in our vision, our awareness, draws us further along the path to God.  It changes us.  “We shall be like him [God]”, writes St John, “because we shall see him as he really is.”

Our vision is clouded by sin, so clouded that we find it hard indeed to see through that cloud in order to love what we see.

But we give thanks that God is not so blinded:
 – that he sees clearly…
 – that he knows completely…
 – that he loves totally…

grant us your vision,
that we may see,
and our hearts rejoice.

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