24. Feb, 2019

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Can the blind lead the blind?

“Can a blind person guide a blind person? Surely both will fall into a pit? In Matthew these words are addressed to “scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 15:14) but Luke addresses not false teachers but the disciples who are blind until they have their eyes opened by Jesus’ teaching – in other words, us!

I think we are all prone to see other people’s faults and shortcomings and blind to our own. As Jesus says we observe a splinter but miss the plank in our own eye. So, it’s very easy to criticise others and then offer advice based on our flawed way of seeing things. In other words most of us are to some degree hypocrites.

When our Lord spoke these words His intention was not to condemn his hearers, but rather to open their minds and their hearts to their individual shortcomings so they would learn to live with their neighbour’s faults and, most importantly, to try to correct their own.

This Gospel reminds me of a helpful teaching from Teresa of Avila. She declared “Let us look at our own faults and leave aside those of others, for it is very characteristic of persons with such well-ordered lives to be shocked by everything. Perhaps we could truly learn from the one who shocks us what is most important.” 

Another spiritual reading from the colloquies of St Dorotheus speculates on why we get so upset with others. He poses the question, “What if a brother vex me and after examining myself I find that I have given him no cause, how then can I blame myself?” He continues. “But surely if a person were to examine himself carefully in the light of the fear of God, he will never find that he is blameless. He will see that he has provided an occasion by some action or word or attitude. Even if a one finds himself guiltless in all these ways at the present time, it is quite likely that at some other time he has vexed his brother …Hence he deservedly suffers for that sin or for many other sins that he has committed elsewhere.”

Another may ask why he should accuse himself when a brother has come up and upset him with some hurtful or insulting word. Since he is not going to put up with that he feels it is reasonable for him to be annoyed and upset. For, if the intruder had not spoken and made trouble he would not have sinned. This is indeed ridiculous and it is bad logic. Surely that brother did not inject the passion of anger into him by saying what he did? Rather he revealed the passion already within him, so that if he so wishes he may repent of it.”

Just a few short teachings. The point of them is that we never see fault in ourselves. Rather let’s do as Teresa of Avila says, “look at our own faults and leave aside those of others.” Otherwise we are all too capable of being the blind man insistant on leading others.