Blind and Daft to Reality
There was once a foolish old woman who went blind, but refused to believe it. Day and night she called out in her crotchety way, “Open up the windows, you dimwits! It’s too dark in here. Take me somewhere else where people have sense to let in the light!” Seneca the philosopher used to tell this story. He suggested that we all resemble that foolish old woman. We spend our lives blind, daft and cut off from spiritual reality.
Our Gospel reading is also about the danger of having our eyes shut.
‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat” (Matthew 13:24).
Sleep makes us oblivious to our surroundings. When you find someone asleep — a real, deep sleep (young mothers will not know what I am talking about)— a person in this condition has checked out: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Nothing wakes him. Sin is a sleep of this kind. It cuts us off from God.
King David was asleep in this way when he committed adultery and murder. He was probably in a food coma. Gorged on meat, wine, and the luxuries of palace life, he was standing around idle, when he saw Bathsheba. It is astounding the way lust makes us stupid. We have become so desensitized. All the “innocent” glimpses — television, advertisements, pop music — you cannot even watch the weather channel without feeling dirty. People in the past had to sneak off to the brothel to see what the modern man sees a hundred times a day. It is normal. We do not even realize how dull-witted we have become. Eventually, a Christian has to own up. Does it cause you to sin? Cut it off! A real man will join Job in his pact: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1). Our worldliness is drowning us. We are like the blind woman oblivious to her blindness.
The scribes and pharisees were also asleep. They were good doers. They went to church and said their prayers. They tithed and obeyed civil laws. Yet, with all their morality, they were oblivious to the presence of God. So are we today. The psalms diagnose with precision: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Whether we are Christian or agnostic, we all live in this soup of secularism. In this era of materialism, it is increasingly hard to live or think spiritually. In his book, Everywhere Present, Fr. Stephen Freeman makes this observation:
“How tragic it is that so much of the popular version of Christianity preaches a secularized message. It keeps God isolated, but popping in from time to time. It has lost the sense of the permeation of matter by divine Grace, the sacramental vision of reality…It preaches that our salvation is acquired by a simple confession…not a life lived in cooperation with divine grace, a body, mind, and heart sanctified by [God’s] Presence.”
When Seneca told the story about the foolish, blind woman, his students all belly-laughed. He waited and then replied:
“You should be well aware that what we laugh about in her case happens to everyone of us. No one realizes he is grasping or avaricious…[We] say: ‘It’s not that I am ambitious; this is just how one has to live at Rome. It’s not that I overspend; it’s just that city living demands certain expenditures’” “Caeci tamen ducem quaerunt, os sine duce erramus” — “The blind at least request a guide; we wander about without one.”
This is why the tares were sowed in the good field. The Christian souls were sleeping. While sleeping, the devil planted the weeds.
“Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:34).
What does it mean to be gathered into the barn? God invites us to the feast. The good life is the life in God.
“Thou shalt show me the path of life: in thy presence is the fullness of joy, and at thy right hand there is
pleasure forevermore” (Psalm 16:12).
The puritans made the mistake of being overly concerned with sin. They made sin the focus, and so they gave Christianity its dour reputation. Mainstream Christianity has gone to the other extreme. It reacted to the puritans. Not wanting to look prudish, it became worldly. Authentic Christianity needs the best of both worlds.
We have to be pure — long skirts, headscarfs, all those old-fashioned expressions of modesty — well, there is something to them. We have to dare to be countercultural however it looks, creating a separate culture where lust, greed, and consumerism are no longer the drive but are replaced with truth, goodness, and beauty. And in the doing, we have to be nonjudgmental — compassion, love, and kindness as the foundation. The pursuit of purity cannot come from fear or haughtiness. It must come from dedication to God.
We miss a lot, if we live a life sleeping. We really are not that different from the foolish, old woman, blind and oblivious. We let the world numb us. Yet, every small effort to pursue virtue wakes us up. Christ invites us to the good life, if we get up and follow.