My Dear Parishioners:
“None is so blind as one who will not see.” I pick up old proverbs. It’s true, you know, this proverb on blindness. Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains (John 9.41).” Just as there is a wicked or culpable (irresponsible) ignorance, so there is a wicked, spiritual blindness. It certainly results from the practice of vice. It is, in fact the self-defense of sin. The more thoroughly a person willfully practices a vice (sinning), the more deeply the conscience is silenced, the more spiritually blind and ignorant that person becomes. Just as behind each vice and sin is a cowardly self-protecting fear (“Each man for himself, devil take the hindmost!”), so the consequence of vice is a failure to see the neighbor and one’s own true need to love. Each of the seven deadly sins or vices refuses the light of God and brings its own form of blindness. The vices even mix together to make some deadly “cocktails.”
Every vice spiritually boils down to pride, self-idolatrous vanity. Materially and otherwise quite innocently, the seed bed that goes along with the vice of pride, and that which gives specific shape to the other vices, is fear, ignorance, hunger, injury, pain, loss, and weakness. These latter human conditions are never in and of themselves sinful. They only become so by way of their being infected by self-seeking vanity. God’s grace has accomplished monumental victories of love in the very same contexts of human fear, ignorance (lack of knowledge and error), hunger, injury, pain, loss, and weakness by way of generous self-sacrifice. When these human conditions are shaped by virtue, they are saintly, even heroic. When shaped by vice, they are pathetic, even demonic.
Pride, anger, and sloth in combination warp together to produce self-righteous autocrats and terrorists. Such people are all blind to faith, mercy, hope, divine providence, human solidarity, and self-sacrifice. The rulers in Jerusalem who condemned Jesus were invested in the political compromises of the status quo with Rome. This protected their self-interests and status of authority, their perks. To be perceived as threatening that status and its benefits provoked an anger and defensiveness to a murderous degree. Sloth is the path of least risk and creativity. For one with political power and legitimacy it is easier to destroy an opponent than to risk a new potential for the common good and step aside so that another and better hope may prevail. A terrorist in our day, if a suicide-murderer, ignites anger and pride to destroy, intoxicated by evil, the devil’s own gin. The terrorist leaders fool such agents to do their own cowardly bidding, for sloth draws them back from such fruitless exertion and the exertions of painstakingly spending themselves for building the common good. They are all, nonetheless, cut from the same cloth. Their blindness is lethal.
Pride, covetousness (avarice, “never enough”), gluttony (intemperance), lust (regarding a person or the human body as a object for one’s own pleasure rather than one to be loved and honored for her or his own sake), and envy (resentment of another’s good) grown in a seed bed of human weakness and injury can produce a jungle of viciousness. The variations are almost too many to be counted. Each weed of sin works to mute the interior light of God’s grace. None of them, however, are greater than God’s grace and its light. These will come breaking back through all the self-defended deceptions as long as the human being walks this earth. If one surrenders humbly to the light and mercy of Christ, there is deliverance, conversion, and redemption. If the response is a self-defended fury and an even stronger, vain refusal, the downward spiral may descend into a final self-implosion, an irreversible “NO” to God. If all one sees is one’s own fractured and waning self, the blindness is complete.
The cure is in the crucified and risen hands of Jesus Christ. Place each and every item and element of fear, ignorance, hunger, injury, pain, loss, weakness, and personal sin in the hands of Christ. He calls each of us to come to him and give ourselves this way to his care. Truly give, surrender, each matrix in which vice and sin can grow to the Lord. Give the Lord the story of each of these. From each in turn he will pull out the vice or sin growing there. Let him set the pace and duration of His therapy. Into each gaping hole he will pour his own life and Spirit. As each blinding weed is removed, his Light will shine ever brighter. Listen to him as he teaches how to walk in the dazzling light.
We continue our journey through the season of Lent to the joy of Easter. Our time is moving quickly. Our journey is more than half-way complete. We can look to the last weeks and see where we have kept our resolutions and Lenten promises and also see where we have failed. As we now move through the second half of the Lenten Season, let us put on the life of the virtues that work against the ‘Seven deadly sins’. They thrive in the garden of humility, service and sacrifice for another where no weeds of darkness can dare grow.
Against Pride wear Humility—Against Envy wear Love—Against Wrath / Anger wear Kindness—Against Sloth wear Zeal—Against Avarice / Greed wear Generosity—Against Gluttony wear Faith & Temperance—Against Lust wear Self Control
Lenten Blessings, Fr. John