Monday, March 07, 2005

The Importance Of Recognizing And Dealing With Your 'Blind Spots'

(Fourth Sunday of Lent (A): This homily was given on March 6, 2005 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. Read John 9:1-41.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of Lent 2005]

You’re driving in the right lane of Route 95 north, and you decide to pass the car in front of you. So like a good, responsible driver, you check your rear view mirror, and the mirror on the driver’s-side door—and you don’t see any cars. So you put on your turn signal, and begin to move into the high-speed lane. Then, all of a sudden, someone next to you in that lane slams on their horn—and you nearly jump out of your seat as you swerve back into the right lane!

The reason this happened is simple: You forgot to check the “blind spot”! The blind spot is the area to the left rear of your car that you can’t see—even with the help of those 2 mirrors.

The only way to make sure no one’s in that area is to turn your head slightly—and quickly—and use your own two eyes!

Failing to check the “blind spot” when you’re driving your car on Route 95—or any other major highway for that matter!—can lead to a very serious accident (unfortunately, some of us may know this from personal experience!). But the real tragedy is that in certain cases, it can cost you your life!

And so it is in the spiritual dimension. God, in his infinite wisdom, has designed the universe in such a way that what happens in the physical order of things often parallels what happens in the spiritual order of things. And such is the case here.

Spiritually speaking, you see, we all have “blind spots.” Some of us may have more than others, but no one is free of them entirely. (And if you say you don’t have any—that’s another one! Add that to your list!)

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel story from John 9, for example, showed that they had a very big blind spot: they did not “see” Jesus for who he really was. They were blind to his goodness, they were blind to the truth of his message, and they were blind to his identity as the Messiah.

And this blindness was, to a great extent, self-imposed—which is what made it qualitatively different from the blindness of the man Jesus cured. That man had been born physically blind, and his blindness was not the result of anything he was responsible for (Jesus makes that clear at the very beginning of the story). But the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees was different: they refused to see! They stubbornly refused even to consider the possibility that Jesus was who he said he was! That explains our Lord’s final words to them: “If you were blind [i.e., physically blind] you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”

When you’re driving your car on the highway, it’s hard to find the blind spot (that’s why you have to turn your head slightly). It can also be hard for us to come to terms with our spiritual blind spots. It was certainly difficult for the Pharisees. When Jesus confronted them with theirs in this story, they did not respond by saying, “Thanks a lot, Jesus, for pointing this out to us. We’ll be sure to work on it. We’ll be more open-minded from now on when it comes to you and your mission.”

Not at all! If anything, Jesus’ words caused these Pharisees to sink even deeper into their self-imposed blindness!

And so it can be for us.

Think, for example, of the many people in our culture right now who are blind to the simple, scientific truth that human life begins at the moment of conception.

Hence, we have legalized abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and the birth control pill (which sometimes causes spontaneous abortions). And even when you present to these men and women the genetic evidence which clearly shows that life begins at conception, some of them still refuse to see and admit the truth—with a stubbornness that would make the Pharisees proud!

Or how about this one? Until 40 or 50 years ago, it was commonly agreed that the Ten Commandments enshrined certain moral truths that everyone should live by. That’s because most people back then believed in the Natural Law. They might not have used the term itself—“Natural Law”—but they certainly believed in the concept. However, over the last 4 or 5 decades our culture has become increasingly blind to the truth of this Law—and the consequences have been catastrophic. Violations of the 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th commandments, for example, have led to broken families, broken marriages, and have brought us to the point where so-called “gay marriage” is a real legal possibility.

In recent weeks I have been struck by the number of people who seem to be blind to the goodness of God! Not long ago, for example, someone wrote a short letter to a local newspaper contrasting God with the terrorists of September 11, 2001. According to this person, the terrorists killed 3,000 on September 11, but God killed 150,000 by sending the Tsunami!

Along the same lines, think of the Christians you know who blame God for the deaths of their relatives and friends!

Obviously, all these men and women are blind to the Lord’s goodness. They blame God for death—the death that Satan brought into the world; the death that sin brought into the world.

How many of us, I wonder, are blind to God’s love and mercy? We don’t really believe it’s there (at least we don’t believe it’s there for us). That could be one reason why some of us stay away from Confession.

How many of us are blind to the blessings the Lord has given us in this life? (I suppose to one extent or another, we all have that blind spot! It’s so easy to take God’s gifts for granted. I know I do!)

If you don’t recognize your blind spot on Route 95 and overcome it, it could cost you your life.
If you don’t recognize your spiritual blind spots and work at overcoming them, it could also cost you your life (here and in eternity!).

That’s why this is so important!

Let me conclude today by recommending a movie to you. Someone let me borrow it on DVD this past week. It came out in 2002, and it’s called “A Walk to Remember.”

The story-line concerns a high school girl named Jamie Sullivan (played by singer Mandy Moore). Jamie’s the daughter of a Protestant minister, and she has very high moral standards. Her Christian faith is at the center of her life. Consequently, the “cool” kids in school typically make fun of her and have little or nothing to do with her.

One of the most popular boys in the class, Landon Carter, also treats her unkindly, until he’s forced to work with her on a school play as punishment for a prank he was involved in. He ends up falling in love with Jamie, and because of that his friends also begin to ostracize him.

The turning point in the story comes when Jamie reveals to Landon a secret about herself: she has cancer. Now I won’t tell you how the movie ends (I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone who might want to see it), but suffice it to say that Landon’s “cool” ex-friends have a change of heart when they find out his girlfriend is so sick, and they end up seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with him.

I mention this movie today because it’s really all about “blind spots” (although that term is never used even once in the film!). And it illustrates the beautiful things that can happen when people do recognize their blind spots and deal with them.

Before he worked with her on the school play, for example, Landon was blind to Jamie’s goodness; he was blind to the importance of faith; and he was blind to his own need for reconciliation with his natural father (that’s one of the subplots of the film).

As for his “cool” friends, they were blind to their own self-centeredness; they were blind to their vindictiveness and their lack of charity; they were blind to the value of each and every human life!

But all those blind spots were recognized—and, most importantly, they were overcome—by the main characters in the film (which is why I highly recommend it for teenagers and for adults).

“A Walk to Remember.” May it inspire all of us to make the effort we need to make to “see” our own blind spots—and deal with them.