Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? (Lk: 6:42)
We begin our reflection on this Sunday’s gospel reading with a rhetorical question. In it Jesus is being obvious that one who cannot see certainly cannot guide another who needs guiding. In order to comprehend the full sense of this scriptural passage, we must always recall that the parables of Jesus have a deeper spiritual meaning.
On a few occasions Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides” chastising them for neglecting major virtues and institutions while being preoccupied with lesser religious traditions. Jesus chides them for placing too heavy an emphasis on external piety while giving insufficient attention to interior devotion (Mt 15:14 & Mt 23:24, 26).
For Jesus, the kingdom of heaven is within (Lk 17:21). This does not mean that Jesus spoke against liturgy; quite the opposite! He wanted to elevate the temple (Mt 23:17), revere the altar (Mt 23:18), and honor the sacrifice on the altar (Mt 5:24) by inspiring a proper disposition toward all three. Yet, he rightly regarded as serious the temptation toward pride in the outward practice of religion and the self-satisfaction of personal piety (Mt 23:5-7). Instead, the true practice of religion – imitation of Christ in both charity and worship – is its own reward; it should never result in special privilege for any Christian.
Jesus teaches that the eye is either the window to purity or to sinfulness (Mt 6:22-23) and there are many reasons a person may suffer spiritual blindness. There is also what some call the “mind’s eye” or the imagination where one can fall under the practice of idolatry by raising up something or some person to a greater place than it or that person rightly deserves. Pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice & sloth, the Seven Deadly Sins, are no less deadly today for infecting the eye or intellect of the human soul.
In order to assist us in our reflection for this 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time , we place on our bulletin cover a work by 17th century Flemish Baroque artist Sebastian Vrancx, entitled The Parable of the Blind. Vrancx was the primary innovator of military battle painting in the Netherlands. His particular ability of filling landscapes with small but very active figures (as with his predecessor, Pieter Bruegel) allowed for his achievement. Vrancx was also contemporary with Peter Paul Rubens and also a Counter Reformation artist. Vrancx once painted a Crossing of the Red Sea in which the pharaoh’s men were Protestants and Turks drowned in their hot pursuit of the Church.
The men depicted in our bulletin image, however, cannot even cross a stream. This somewhat, comic parable has a deeper spiritual meaning in that it shows a major point about human history especially in our own culture: that those without the guidance of God will rely instead upon each other’s worldliness on a journey that leads them ever downward on a diagonal path toward Hell.
Of the figures in our painting: some hold on; some reach out; some leap forward! Yet all our “blind” and will fall down without the guidance of Word and Sacrament.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services