Spiritual Cataracts

23 Jun

three blind miceToday’s Gospel is the familiar passage from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, in which He advises us to remove the large beams from our own eyes before trying to remove the tiny specks from our neighbor’s eye. This lesson has long been a source of fruitful meditation for me.

On one occasion well over a decade ago, after hearing this Gospel at Mass, I decided to illustrate the point of the lesson to my children. What I did was blindfold two of my daughters after dinner, and they took turns trying to lead the other around the basement. Quite predictably, there were many humorous collisions and wrong turns. It was truly a case of the blind leading the blind–or in the case of my fair-haired daughters, the blonde leading the blonde! But when one of them was able to remove her blindfold, she was easily able to lead her sister from point A to point B.

The children learned that while it’s a very good thing to help others in need, we have to allow the Lord to help us first.

I used another analogy with them. I told them to imagine that there’s a mishap on an airplane and the craft begins losing cabin pressure. In the face of such a disaster, most of us would want to be courageous and help as many of our fellow passengers as possible. Yet, if we don’t use our own air mask first, in a manner of seconds we’ll be of no use to anybody. We would be among the first casualties.

This is a lesson for all of us. There are many people around us with impaired spiritual vision. Yet, as evil as some activities are, such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, homosexual acts, and other such grave sins, they’re not the worst sins. And as bad as some individual criminals, dictators, and thugs may be, from Hitler to Bin Laden, their sins are not the worst sins, either.

Rather, the worst sins are our own sins. Why? Because they are the only ones that can separate us from the love of God and our eternal inheritance as His children. We have to learn to hate our sins absolutely, and to hate them even more than anybody else’s sins. We might not commit the horrid sins alluded to above, but we surely have pet sins, including sins we might even enjoy on some level. Job one when it comes to Christian discipleship is to turn away from our own sin.

“Convert” literally means “to turn with,” and so we turn with and toward Christ. Through prayer, Scripture reading, sacramental living, penance, and virtuous conduct we continually have to recommit ourselves to this orientation toward Christ. But when we turn “to” Christ we have to turn “away” from something, and so we must be utterly resolute when it comes to turning away from any and all sin in our lives. Otherwise, our own spiritual cataracts will make us instruments of darkness, not of the light of Christ.

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